I wasn’t exactly thrilled to pick up The Wolfman by Jonathan Maberry because it is the novelization of a movie that did poorly at the box office. Rotten Tomatoes did a fine job summing up the film, “Suitably grand and special effects-laden, The Wolfman suffers from a suspense-deficient script and a surprising lack of genuine chills.”
This is a shame since it stars acting legends such as Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, and the great Anthony Hopkins. I remember going into the theater years ago with high expectations that soon led to depression followed by complete amnesia.
So when I cracked open Maberry’s novelization I had absolutely no memory of the film. It was as if a higher part of my brain seized control and wiped all knowledge of characters and events from my memory. Or maybe it’s still there, buried deep and waiting for some bigger trauma to jar it loose? I don’t know.
But thank goodness for my repressed memory.
Because reading this book was an absolute delight!
About a third of the way through I actually suffered an emotional punch in the gut. It caught me completely by surprise and I can only attribute it to Maberry’s superb characterization and how the father and son’s relationship is shaped by grief. Loss and untimeliness is something that has cropped up in my life before, so feeling the characters struggle with the same processes really spoke to me. Compile that with a rich setting and descriptions that drip off the page and you’ve got a fantastic read!
Early on, I was amused at the cozy mystery setup the novel had working (cozy minus the blood and guts). We have an isolated English manor, an old village filled with kooky characters, and an outsider with extreme acting talents who is personally invested in the outcome.
Toward the end of the novel, the blood and guts were so over the top that it shifted into comedy. It was when the third or fourth head bounced off a nearby victim that I laughed. I can only take so much gore before I have to disinvest myself and laugh it off. But Maberry obviously knew this and the scene with the werewolf at the masquerade ball was as horrifying at is was funny, a true accomplishment from a writer who knows what kind of story he’s trying to tell.
All in all, the events in the book unfolded in a logical succession that only built the tension, and I can’t help but wonder where the film went wrong if both it and the book had essentially the same core? If anything, this proves the point that the book, even one based directly from the script, is always far superior to the movie because books put us in the moment. Films happen in another place as we watch events unfold through a distant window.