1981 was a big year for wolves. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was a huge hit, and THE HOWLING didn't do too shabby either. WOLFEN is the third title to be released by a major studio the same year; pretty much forgotten in the cult movie shuffle. And that's too bad, because even though it's unconventional in many ways and isn't as heavy on the special effects, it's just as good as the other two. Documentary filmmaker Michael (WOODSTOCK) Wadleigh's first, and so far only, fictional film concerns mysterious predators terrorizing New York City. A police detective (Albert Finney, giving his usual winning, charismatic performance) teams up with a new female partner (Diane Venora) and a wisecracking coroner (Gregory Hines, very good in his debut feature) in an effort to track down and exterminate the creatures before they can strike again. Despite what you may have heard, this is not your typical werewolf film nor your typical urban set horror-action flick, but a unique, intricate, allegorical thriller filled with social statements on everything from the environment to the state of native American Indians in contemporary society. It's also filled with stunning, red-filtered POV photography, trend-setting camerawork, great performances (also including Edward James Olmos and Tom Noonan in good supporting turns) and even a sense of humor. Unfortunately, at 115 minutes, it goes on a bit longer than it probably should. The director and David Eyre adapted the novel by Whitley Streiber. The cast includes Dick O'Neill, James Tolkan and the voice of Mel Welles.
Score: 7 out of 10