Action and horror only sometimes coexist smoothly in the same movie, often ending up with one genre annihilating the other, although this is not the case with Brotherhood of the Wolf from 2001.
Under the guise of a costume drama in the days before the French Revolution, we travel to the woods in the country’s south.
No one is safe day or night because a strange creature roams the shadows, indiscriminately killing women, men, and even children.
The nobles at the castle promise a rich prize for whoever kills the fierce predator, inviting to participate a Knight who is famous for his battles in America and Africa.
Amid the skepticism of the local hunters, the man arrives with his faithful adjutant, a mysterious Native American who is the sole survivor of an epidemic that decimated his village.
This adjutant’s abilities seem almost superhuman, for example, facing many men alone in a fight or having an excellent intuition in tracking prey.
Nevertheless, after several months, the Knight and the many hunters who came to participate still failed to find the beast.
However, for the man, it was not entirely a waste of time since he can get to know better a noble girl who, after an initial mistrust, finally reciprocates his feelings.
His family, however, is not enthusiastic about this relationship, especially his brother, who is a resentful and jealous obsessive without an arm.
When the two lovers finally meet alone, just then, the fierce creature comes attacking them.
That’s when the Knight and his sidekick discover this animal has tough armor for protection and has undoubtedly been trained by someone.
Except the conspiracy behind this story will be much bigger and more horrifying than they could ever have imagined.
Italian horror in delicious French sauce
Christophe Gans is familiar with the pages of this site since I had previously recommended his excellent 1995 action/fantasy Crying Freeman.
From that movie, the director brings along Mark Dacascos, an actor who follows him as faithfully as his character follows the knight played by Samuel Le Bihan.
Given his martial arts skills, obviously, the action scenes with Dacascos are the most exciting and impressive.
Moreover, this strange, reserved, and perceptive character is the coolest in the whole story. However, he has many shadows in the narrative only partially explained, such as his absolute loyalty to the knight.
Returning to Christophe Gans‘ work, the staging and costumes are absolutely impeccable, as much in the wealthy nobleman’s household as in the dirty and cramped meanders of the woods.
The horror side of the story is absolutely perfect, sparing no vicious attacks and brutal, bloody scenes which can visually shock.
Regarding the (many) action scenes, they are choreographed with style and creativity, although sometimes there are a few too many slow-motion.
You can rest assured; however, the result is still quite spectacular, and we never get to the ridiculous slo-mo orgy we get from other directors like the unbearable Zack Snyder.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is a 2001 movie with great respect for the genre’s classics, especially the old horror of Italian heritage.
Indeed, the director said in several interviews to be a great admirer of horror masters such as Mario Bava or Dario Argento, especially being inspired for this particular story by Antonio Margheriti‘s movies.
We see this devotion in the sexual and psychological aspects of the various characters, whose personal motivations propel the narrative forward from hatred to pure terror.
Beauty and prowess run harmoniously
Although Mark Dacascos is my favorite figure, talking about the cast, we must pay justice to all the other excellent actors and actresses.
Samuel Le Bihan plays the classic fearless hero, womanizing and brash with anyone, although this knight takes a decidedly dark turn in the last half hour.
Moreover, although he lacks the athletic prowess of Dacascos, in the end, we see him carry out a delightful revenge massacre in the villains’ lair with phenomenal aggressiveness.
The female flank of this story is no less remarkable, beginning with the beautiful young Émilie Dequenne, whose demeanor is at times cocky but hides a great desire for adventure and escape from her family.
More mature but equally gorgeous is Monica Bellucci, who plays the matron of the village pleasure house and establishes a strange and morbid relationship with the protagonist.
Despite being Italian like me, I admit many times this actress’ performances have not convinced me, such as in her uninspired role in The Matrix saga.
However, in this case, she becomes the character with excellent catharsis, moreover without being shy about showing the wonders of her body.
Moreover, in many movies, as in this case, we often see her husband, Vincent Cassel, together with her.
It is pointless to argue too much about the prowess of what is, without question, one of the best French actors of his generation.
The dear Vincent is a versatile shifter capable of playing any role, just as here he is an arrogant nobleman; it was equally convincing as a wretched petty thief in the beautiful Read My Lips I recommended some time back.
Finally, we come to Jérémie Renier, the narrator of the story, who initially seems an irrelevant secondary character, yet whose true importance we realize only at the end.