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From the Vault: ‘The Brotherhood of the Wolf’

Very loosely based on the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan — a man-eating animal of unknown origin that terrorized the French countryside in the late 18th century — the historical drama (for lack of a better term) Brotherhood of the Wolf is a gonzo blend of about a half-dozen disparate genres that somehow works as a slice of pure and bloody brilliant B-grade cheese.

The year is 1766, and naturalist Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his blood brother Mani (Mark Dacascos), an Iroquois warrior with a curious amount of martial arts skill, are dispatched to Gévaudan by King Louis XV to capture or kill the beast before the peasants get bent out of shape about the whole thing.

Gregoire’s presence draws the smarm of minor noble and maimed ex-soldier Jean-François de Morangias (Vincent Cassel, Eastern Promises) in part because Gregoire insists on wooing the man’s virginal sister, Marianne (Émilie Dequenne). This doesn’t prevent our hero from finding time to frequent the local brothel and enjoying the services of the mysterious local whore Sylvia (Monica Bellucci). Don’t judge too harshly — he is French, after all.

The more Gregoire (ahem) probes, the deeper, darker, and more complex the situation is revealed to be. The body count escalates via some impressively staged and effectively terrifying scenes, punctuated by elaborately choreographed fight sequences straight out of an entirely different genre.

In short, it’s Les Miserables meets The Hound of the Baskervilles with a little Last of the Mohicans and a dash of your average kung fu flick thrown in just for the hell of it. It’s a thoroughly ludicrous genre mash-up superbly handled by (then) rookie director Christophe Gans (who hasn’t been as good since), one that’s all sumptuous sets and costumes, gore-fuelled monster madness, Gothic weirdness, romantic idealism, and high-octane fisticuffs wrapped around a conspiracy-driven plot disguised as a socially relevant morality tale. Turn your brain off and just go with it.

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About Gary Dowell

Professional film critic, journalist, Byronic hero.

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