Christophe Gans’s Brotherhood Of The Wolf

What other film out there has martial arts, monster movie lore, Native American mythology, occult mysticism, buckets of gore, aristocratic social satire, full blooded romance, kinky brothel sex, incestuous longings, folk horror, pagan rituals, political intrigue and just a touch of the supernatural? None, because Brotherhood Of The Wolf is probably the most unique, ambitious and jaw dropping, audacious genre film out there. I’ve seen it countless times and reviewed it at least a few before but I keep coming back to it because there’s truly nothing like it out there, and anyone who loves something genuinely creative, stylistically wild and boldly cut from many different cloths owes it to themselves to track it down. In 17th century France a monstrous cryptozoological creature is massacring townsfolk in the rural province of Gevaudan, prompting the arrival of huntsman, philosopher, artist, womanizer and all round renaissance man Gregoire De Fransac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his comrade Mani (Marc Dacascos), a Native American warrior. Together they plan on finding and killing this beast, an endeavour that proves anything but simple and takes them on a journey to some truly weird places. Fransac is mesmerized by the beauty of local princess Marianne (Émilie Dequenne), menaced by her creepy ass brother Jean Francois (a one armed Vincent Cassel) and cultivates an odd relationship with mysterious prostitute Sylvia (Monica Bellucci), and that doesn’t even begin to cover the strange events, dark conspiracies, scheming villains, witchy deeds, ridiculously over the top yet fucking awesome fight sequences, bloody killings, robust sex scenes, haunting visions, epic encounters and atmospheric apparitions packed into this thing’s two and a half hour showstopper of a runtime. Some may say there’s *too* much ambition and spectacle here but in an age where lack of inspiration and genuine creativity runs rampant I miss huge, weird, wild old pieces of unique cinematic art like this. It’s like Sleepy Hollow shot through a hellish prism of opulent danger, creative violence and explosive artistic expression and there is just really nothing else like it out there. Visually it’s a knockout; the pale full moon haunts the harsh, fog shrouded French landscape as wolves run about like spectral harbingers, our two main characters arrive on horseback in the pouring rain in outfits that could be described as ‘17th century Matrix’ and the carefully employed editing (complete with gorgeous slo-mo) observes fearsome fight choreography that showcases stunning stunt work. Candlelit caves hold strange, black magick secrets as savage, barbarian-esque dwellers cavort and practice chilling rituals. The rich red velvet and lush white lace of traditional French garb is ever present in the beautiful costume design, resplendently contracted against the earthy, Wiccan attire of aforementioned occultists. The beast itself (I won’t spoil what it really is) is a gnarly, walking barbed wire behemoth wrought of iron, spikes, claws and elemental black-smithery. So much effort is fuelled into every aspect of this film it’s impossible to not be swept away in its dark fairytale necromancy and get lost in the earthy haunted house enchantment it has to offer. Unfortunately it’s available almost nowhere, absent from all streaming options including iTunes rental. Scoring a DVD is the only way (physical media FTW), via amazon or frenzied rummages at your batch of local thrift stores. It’s a shame that the only Blu Ray our there is some obscure Korean release, as this thing was just fucking *born* to be seen in HD. In any case, it’s worth going to the ends of the earth to seek out, and remains one of my favourite films of all time.

-Nate Hill

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