Film Review: “Wolf Garden” Has Promise but Overuses Conventions
Written by: Adam Vaughn | February 26th, 2023
Wolf Garden (Wayne David, 2023) 2 out of 4 stars.
As an avid movie monster fan, the concept of first-time feature director Wayne David’s Wolf Garden struck me as innovative and artistic. The film’s subtle, low concept take on the werewolf myth promises a creative exploration, deviating from a special-effects-heavy tone and taking a direction more focused on character progression and editing techniques. Unfortunately, while it may have a clever idea and widely effective compositions, the movie falls short on giving the viewer both suspense and mystery, heading down a predictable trail and trying to impress us with the same-old smash cuts and scare tactics to move the story forward.
In the beginning, we meet William (played by David, himself) and his wife Chantelle (Sian Altman, The Area 51 Incident) as they live in an isolated home environment, seemingly happy. As the plot progresses, we see visuals of a barricaded cabin, housing the very monster the viewer has been looking forward to. I fully appreciate the suspense built around the film’s implications as it builds to its main ideas, as it gives us time to learn about William—what torments him, what visions he sees—as well as gives the viewer more information on Chantelle (leading up to her big reveal). I also found the character of “The Visitor” (Grant Masters, Dark Encounter)—William’s vision of a murdered man—to be a fun addition to the film’s dialogue-heavy moments.
However, David’s cinematic strategy starts to overstay its welcome, as jump-scare conventions grow tiring as we reach the film’s climax. The big reveal for the movie, while interesting, is not all that surprising by the time several allusions have been made. Overall, David uses the same clichés repeatedly and the effect starts to wear over time. The film’s finale does not engage, and while I wholeheartedly respect the initial implication of a werewolf in the film, having very little to no presence of the creature—after several false promises—leaves the movie unfulfilling and dry.
Ultimately, Wolf Garden is a fun, low-budget exercise in the various ways a monster film can use script, editing, and cinematography to say as much as possible without ever showing any true premise. Making a drama with splashes of horror conventions, David gets too often caught up in his artistry, and the result is a rather tedious story with no true payoff at the end. As a final thought, turning a central character into a werewolf (while fun) does not save a movie from its imperfections.