Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The episode of Revisited covering Brotherhood of the Wolf was Written by Emilie Black, Narrated by Niki Minter, Edited by Ryan Cultrera, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

Have you ever seen a film in theaters that made you go “Holy Bird Poop Batman” I wish I could see that again for the first time? Has there been a film that has made you want to find the biggest possible screen to see it on within a manageable distance? Or a film that has since become one of your “new Blu-ray player test movies”? I have. In fact, there have been a few of these in my lifetime so far, but the one for today is Brotherhood of the Wolf (watch it HERE).

In early 2001, Brotherhood of the Wolf was released in France and its marketing campaign started in Quebec. Soon, there was no where you could go without being surrounded by posters for the film. The main metro station in Montreal, the central hub if you will, was plastered in these posters, some as tall as a full level in the station. Other stations had a lot of smaller posters, bus stops, busses, trailers on television and in front of just about every other movie released, the film had the city covered from end to end, there was no way to avoid it. For a reader of French movie magazines, it was already a bit more than familiar as the marketing there had started months before. Brotherhood of the Wolf was seemingly unavoidable. The trailer was enough to convince this little film nerd that it was not a want, but a need kind of film. So a bit before opening weekend, I tried to convince friends they needed to go with me, but to no avail. Thus, I went on my own, opening weekend, after work, and saw this amazing film. I was mesmerized. I was in love. The film was a solid 10 out of 10 for me right out the gate, but I knew I would love it before even seeing it. Those trailers, the magazine articles, those giant posters I coveted, I knew this was going to be something else.

Now, real quick, I’ve seen the film so many times since, and I still rate it a solid 10 out of 10, so it has staying power. This is a favorite and it’s not even cute how much I love it and how much I annoyed people who haven’t seen it yet. Just like I did in 2001. Back then, I could not convince anyone to go with me on opening weekend, so I went on my own. Then, a friend was annoyed I’d already seen it, so I made a deal with her that if she paid for my ticket, I’d go see it again. And then I did the same thing with another friend. I managed to see it three times in theaters, and I wish I could still see it in theaters. It did get a release in limited theaters in Spring 2023, but it was limited to places I could not possibly get to on a weeknight, so I had to stay home and just put on my DVD. As you see, I still use my DVD from the 3-disc box set that was released in Canada back in the day. I do also have the Shout Factory release, but something about it doesn’t look right visually, some of the colors feel off to me, so I keep using my old DVD. This Blu-ray was gifted to me by my Fairy Goth Parents, and I will keep it, but sometimes I want my movie to look like I’m used to.

So, let’s go back a bit… 2001 was a huge film for this film nerd with Brotherhood of the Wolf being released in June in Canada, Amelie coming out in September, Don’t Die Too Hard seeing it’s local festival premiere that summer, Elvira’s Haunted Hills getting a special screening nearby, and so many others, this film nerd was in heaven. So, to see the same film three times says a lot about how that film hit me. And it still does. Recent rewatches have allowed me to notice small details and pay attention to background characters and just about every element here. How would I review it now? How do I still give it 10 out of 10 when the average from professional critics have it at an average of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and the public has it at an average of 78%? Why do I love it so?

First, let’s get things out of the way, it is not a perfect film, but it is a very well-made film. One of the main gripes others have had with the film is how it mixes all kinds of genres from horror to period piece to historical details to martial arts scenes to monsters to religious conspiracies, the film has a little of everything and, to many people watching it, it makes it lose focus. To this viewer, this ADHD person, this is heaven! There is something happening at almost all times without rushing the story, there are characters of all kinds, bits of action here and there, some amazingly well-choreographed fights, costumes to die for, performances that are on point from some of France’s best actors, practical effects that mix with CGI beautifully well still, etc. So let’s look at the details.

First, the writing of Stéphane Cabel and Christophe Gans with Gans’ directing: The film here is clearly a project that was done with tons of love for it. The script is well-written, the myth of the Beast of Gévaudan gets used in a manner that is both respectful for the original tales and surprising. They use this myth to good effect and turn it on its head in the last third of the film where the reveal happens, and things go in a brand-new direction. This is part of a film that is calculated while also allowing its story to go where it needs to go. Spoiler alert, the beast is not a werewolf as some thought before it came out, it is not a supernatural being, but an animal raised and trained to kill, do to evil on behalf of a disturbed man and a religious leader just a little off his rocker. The way the film brings in the Chevalier de Fronsac in that sequence where his “brother” fights the local militia is just superb. The table discussions that could have been tenuous are done in a way that they entertain while establishing relationships between characters, their positions in their world, and what the two visitors bring the to table, literally and metaphorically. The film makes use of its time period, its setting to really create a world most viewers are not used to while making them comfortable in it. This set-up being done this way helps the viewer really immerse themselves in the film. Of course, there are the maligned many genres supposedly clashing here, but if you watch the film without any expectations of genre and with an open mind, it all works together oddly well.

Brotherhood of the Wolf Revisited

Now, the cast. Here, a few faces were familiar to me at first as I had watched a ton of French films and knew Mark Dacascos from some of his previous movies as I had watched every single action film available to me before then. This meant that to me, only a few people were new faces. That being said, the cast here is fantastic at what they do. They take this crazy script, the characters within, and make it their own while all fitting together. Of course, some came up to the top in their performances. To me, the top performer here is Mark Dacascos as Mani. Yes, he’s a bit of a miscasting if we look at ethnic backgrounds, so you will have to forgive me my fangirling and forgive the filmmakers for using a man who was born in Hawaii and is of Japanese, Filipino, Spanish, Irish, and Chinese background. His mix helps here in that he’s not clearly of any background if we play along. His character is Mohawk, so using a Mohawk actor would have been great, but finding one with the same fighting skills would have been quite the task. His fighting in that introductory scene for his character is epic, the fight with the two clawed ladies amazing, the one in the hideaway something else. He was clearly hired for his skills and the fact that he did Crying Freeman with Christophe Gans before this shows that these two knew each other’s ways and each other’s skills, something that added to this here film. Playing the Chevalier De Fronsac is Samuel Le Bihan who was somewhat known, but it was a bit harder to find his previous films in Quebec, of course, there had been some so he was somewhat a familiar one. His work here is central to the film, he’s the lead, and he does great with the complex part of a man who goes through the ringer on a few fronts here. Playing the lead Bad Guy is Vincent Cassel as Jean-François and well, he does his usual thing, meaning he is great. Cassel is the kind of actor who can do just about anything, someone I first saw in Dobermann which also costars Monica Bellucci who plays Sylvia here, a prostitute with a very big secret. The way she brings her character to life is mesmerizing here. Playing Marianne, the love interest for the De Fronsac and Jean-François’ sister is Émilie Dequenne who won prizes for her acting here and for good reasons. Of course, we could go over the whole cast as this is one massive ensemble cast, but let’s stop here just for practical reasons.

Besides the cast, something that fascinated me at the time was the wardrobe. Those costumes are just stunning. I was a photographer and new film reviewer stuck in fashion school where the only class I truly enjoyed was History of Fashion, so this was right up my alley at the time. It still is now. In fact, in 2005, I made a copy of the teal dress Marianne wears when De Fronsac comes back for her in the village. 180 hours of work, a lot of fabric, a few petticoats, and one whole suitcase to bring it to a horror convention in New Jersey, just to have someone spill their drink on the front of it within one hour of joining the party wearing the dress. I have 1 single photo in it and I unfortunately cannot find it to share it here. Yes, I am still sore about the whole thing. The wardrobe in the film was and still is inspiring. The way it is mostly historically accurate and representative of each character’s social standing with some colors maybe a bit exaggerated here and there, it’s not surprising that it’s still remembered and still hits just right while watching the film now. The settings, the décor, and just about everything else in every single frame was clearly designed or sourced just right to create a universe that is set in a known historical period, but also a fantasy.

Following that, the special effects here are something else, especially considering the year this was released. Most of the effects have aged pretty well, which is a testament to the film using a mix of practical effects and CGI where the CGI is only used to enhance the practical effects. The beast in particular is great. A lot of people did not love it, but the fact that it’s an animal raised and trained to be a beast and not simply a monster from folklore means that it had to have some basis in reality. This beast was created by Jim Henson Creature Shop which goes to show that the people behind this film knew who to go to for spectacular puppet work. This beast is not everyone’s favorite, but it’s on point here. The work by the Jim Henson staff shows they knew what they were doing, and they had a clear direction for the beast. The beast is kept mostly unseen until the last third of the film or so, something that helps its mystique, something that helps create an aura of mystery around it.

The music by Joseph LoDuca pairs beautifully well with the images created by cinematographer Dan Laustsen. The film is crafted so carefully on all levels, and it shows in these images, so the camera work, the lighting, the framing, the editing, it all needed to come together just right to make the film as good as it is now and to help make it a timeless sort of film. I could go on and on and on about all the aspects of this film, but for me, what makes this film amazing is what some hate about it, all the genres mixed together, the horror and fantasy and action and historical drama. The writing, performances, the way characters are introduced, the way they wait as long as possible to show the beast, how the story develops, basically the way the film is entertaining from start to finish and how it was carefully crafted make it a perfect film for me.

Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!