Director – William Brent Bell, Screenplay – William Brent Bell & Matthew Peterman, Producers – Matthew Peterman, Morris Paulson & Steven Schneider, Photography – Alejandro Martinez, Music – Brett Detar, Visual Effects/Prosthetic Effects – Almost Human Inc. (Supervisor – Robert Hall), Special Effects Supervisor – Adrian Popescu, Production Design – Tony DeMille. Production Company – Prototype Productions/Room 101, Inc.
A.J. Cook (Kate Moore), Simon Quaterman (Gavin Flemyng), Vik Sahay (Erik Sarin), Sebastian Roche (Captain Klaus Pistor), Brian Scott O’Connor (Talan Gwynek), Camelia Maxim (Mrs Gwynek), Stephanie Lemelin (Claire Porter)
An American family are brutally killed while holidaying in the small French town of Cerdon near Lyon. The hulking, simple-minded Talan Gwynek is arrested by police based on the description given by the surviving wife. Katherine Moore, an American human rights lawyer living in France, comes in to represent Talan, concerned that the case against him is based on slim evidence. She brings two forensics experts who attempt to determine the type of animal they think killed the family. She comes to believe that Talan suffers from porphyria, which would have made him too weak and incapable of conducting the killings. As they investigate and dig into the secrets of the town, it becomes apparent that what they are dealing with is a werewolf.
Wer was the fourth film from director/writer William Brent Bell. Bell had worked around Hollywood as a second unit director and production assistant since the 1990s and then made his debut with the comedy Sparkle and Charm (1997), which does not appear to have been widely seen. Bell then hit genre material with his next film Stay Alive (2006), which came produced by McG and was premised on the absurd notion that Countess Bathory, one of the historical true-life progenitors of the vampire, had been incarnated inside a videogame. Bell’s next film, The Devil Inside (2012), which told the story of an exorcism employing a Found Footage approach, was a surprise box-office hit, even though the film attracted poor reviews. Wer was Bell’s follow-up, although failed to build on the momentum of The Devil Inside and went directly to dvd.
With Wer, William Brent Bell has set out to make a werewolf film. Although it is obvious to every member of the audience that they are watching a werewolf film, the film seems to want to pretend that it might not be a werewolf film. There is the strange oddly truncated title (surely the correct prefix is ‘were– ‘?), while the term ‘werewolf’ is also mentioned only once throughout at the very end. The rest of the script wants to play a game where it first teases us that Brian Scott O’Connor could not have had the strength to conduct the attacks and then that he has a condition known as porphyria (which is medically rather different in symptoms to what the film wants to make it into). Much of the film seems to swing between these alternate explanations as though it is trying to opt for an ambiguously mundane explanation for lycanthropy. This is something that has a great many possibilities as the classic Val Lewton film Cat People (1942) was premised on doing exactly that. On the other hand, William Brent Bell’s direction is far too unsubtle to allow this to work. He wants to also give us scenes with Brian Scott O’Connor transforming and going amok, whereupon all the carefully established alternate explanation is reduced to zip. As a result, all that it seems we have is a werewolf film that takes nearly two-thirds of its running time to ever unleash its werewolf.
William Brent Bell also seems to want to create a Found Footage werewolf film. This is an idea that has intriguing potential. Indeed, we have seen the Found Footage genre resurrect almost every other horror archetype – the ghost story, the possession/exorcism film, the monster movie, the vampire film, the zombie film, the Frankenstein film, the serial killer film, the alien body snatchers theme – but not the werewolf genre. One had hopes that Wer might have emerged along the lines of the quite good Afflicted (2013), a Found footage film that took the point-of-view of watching someone as they transformed into a vampire. This sort of happens with the scenes where Simon Quaterman becomes infected and gradually develops more wolf-like habits throughout the course of the film, although the direction this is going is obvious from the moment we see he has been bitten and holds no surprise.
Moreover, what we have is a Found Footage film that is only pretending to be Found Footage – thus we get lots of handheld camerawork that wanders all over the place, is jumpy, out of focus and unclear, yet is not making the pretence to being filmed by people in the midst of what is happening. Indeed, there are specific scenes, like where A.J. Cook is locked alone in an interview room with Brian Scott O’Connor or where Simon Quaterman is observing his changes, where quite clearly nobody could have been looking on filming what is happening. And so all that we end up getting is an ordinary dramatic film that is to no particular artistic end filled with shoddy, amateur-looking camerawork.
William Brent Bell next made The Boy (2016) about a sinister doll