Reviews Short Narrative

The Naked Wolf (2017) – 1.5 stars

Director: Declan Cole-Flynn

Writers: Declan Cole-Flynn

Cast: Vincent Kos, Georgia Walters, George Dimarelos

Running time: 6 mins

Criticism is a hard pill to swallow for many filmmakers, independent or otherwise. While what we say as critics is meant with the best of intentions, it can often fall on deaf ears. We are, after all, reviewing their baby – and everyone wants to be told by a teacher that their first-born has the grades to be a President, rather than a bin-man. Ultimately though, bear in mind that everything we say – no matter how cattily it comes across – is intended to help filmmakers grow. Just like no food critic enjoys eating a plate of fetid garbage, we would rather Directors put good films in front of us, and we are willing to literally spell out how they can do so.

The best of the art form understand this, and even when they receive broadly positive feedback, will take the smaller points to heart when developing their next project. I can only hope that Declan Cole-Flynn follows their lead, and learns from The Naked Wolf, instead of adopting the mentality of a YouTuber with a wounded ego, calling on fans and hangers-on to close ranks around him, because frankly, there is a lot to be learned here.

First, though, let’s focus with what went well. Mercifully, the film is competently shot, and well edited, so visually at least it zips along at the rate I wish the allegedly comedic dialogue would keep pace with. The splicing of shots makes sense, and we always know what we are looking at, and where we are being invited to look next. There is also a rather neat little animation which kicks off the film, as a cartoon wolf jumps about a city, causing minor traffic accidents and being a general nuisance. Mechanically speaking, the raw materials are present for making a decent short film here – if only the elements that make us want to go to the cinema were there too.

However, what little charm and technical proficiency the film does possess is squandered by a frustrating lack of narrative direction. In this art form, a Director must know what response they intend to draw with their work, and clearly and concisely go about achieving it. You cannot afford to wander around the piss-pot to get to the handle when making a short film – time is of the essence – and should you do so, having failed to set clear goals and beats to hit en route to them, an audience will quickly tire of your work, even if it has the smallest of run times.

so startled

Unfortunately, The Naked Wolf falls firmly into this category, and viewers will exit with no clearer idea of what they have witnessed than when they went in. For anything but a bizarre, art-house experiment, that is unforgivable, and as far as can be discerned, this is not a film where audiences should, or would want to bring their own interpretation to it. In fact, according to the film’s blurb, this is a “horror/comedy”, which feels like a statement that should be sarcastically read aloud with accompanying air-quotes.

In terms of comedy, Vincent Kos and Georgia Walters’ “flamboyant” housemates (again their flamboyance was exhibited through the blurb, rather than the on-screen action) struggle to inject much life at all into the tame banter of the script, before uncovering a naked man in their garage. George Dimarelos does bring a degree of cheeky wit to his role, but two-thirds of the way through the film, there is far too little time for that to matter. The duo awkwardly flirts with him, before he reveals himself to be a genuine werewolf as the punch-line to a gag nobody set up. In terms of horror, meanwhile, the titular Wolf is a relative no-show until the final seconds of the film – with little work done to foreground him as a threat, beyond a shoe-horned television news segment – before a desperate ejaculation of ketchup implies some kind of violence is taking place off camera. Cut to black, cue titles which make up one-sixth of the run time. The term “horror/comedy” is something of a stretch then, unless it refers to horrific comedy and or comical horror.

It is important for Directors to understand that in a hybridised subgenre such as this, both sides of the film’s personality need to play off each other. The best in the business – such as Shaun of the Dead, American Werewolf in London or Return of the Living Dead – use their comedy as a kind of safe haven for audiences, giving them a moment’s respite from the unfolding carnage, but also emphasising it. Dylan Moran’s disembowelling scene in Shaun of the Dead, for example is much more impactful because it comes just minutes after the gang joking about in the dark, impersonating the orang-utan from Every Which Way but Loose.

Unfortunately, The Naked Wolf does not strike this balance. The “horror” and the “comedy” are firmly separated, leading the viewer to feel the filmmaker has bitten off more than he can chew, and for no real reason. A better idea here would have been to acknowledge the limitations of this production and focus on one aspect or the other, rather than attempting an unhappy marriage between flabby and inconsequential jokes, and a rushed attempt at an easy ending disguised as supernatural violence. Although, I have to admit – in terms of hastily cobbled together endings which serve merely as an excuse to book-end a meandering brain-fart of a plot – having a man resembling a lost ‘pup’ from a furry convention slaughter someone in cold blood, did provide some entertainment, albeit unintentionally.

Naked Wolf stars

The Naked Wolf either lacks the understanding of what makes horror/comedies work, or the discipline to carry it off. Either way, if he is to elevate his work in the future, Cole-Flynn must learn to walk before he tries to run, approach projects with a clear goal in mind. With a firm motivation behind his work and an acceptance of his limitations, he will produce far better than this.

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