Not even horror veterans Tobin Bell and Danny Trejo can save The Curse of Wolf Mountain from its lackluster screenplay and poor execution.
When I first read the premise for The Curse of Wolf Mountain, I felt hopeful. As a big horror fan, any feature starring Saw’s Tobin Bell, who portrays one of the best villains in horror franchise history, was bound to get my attention. Add seasoned horror genre regular Danny Trejo into the mix, and on paper, this movie was one I wanted to sink my teeth into.
Though the opening scene starring Bell alongside The Curse of Wolf Mountain screenwriter and lead actor Keli Price seemed promising, my confidence quickly dissipated as the minutes progressed. If your draw to the film is Bell, then I am sad to report that you will be extremely disappointed. His moments on-screen reflect his brilliance, but he isn’t utilized enough and appears in the movie for less than five minutes. Unfortunately, Trejo suffers the same fate, and though his performance is fun, his appearances are few and far between.
Aj (Price) starts to dream of his parent’s death that took place at Wolf Mountain when he was a child. As it turns out, he was present when they met their demise and believes the visions he is experiencing have meaning. This urges him to return to the location where the tragedy took place, alongside his brother and girlfriend, to look for answers.
Clearly, creator Keli Price and director David Lipper, who also stars as Aj’s brother Max in the film, were inspired by 90s slashers when bringing the project to fruition. To give credit where it’s due, The Curse of Wolf Mountain does a decent job of recreating the feel of films from the same era in a modern-day setting.
The most apparent inspiration is the Friday The 13th franchise, with The Curse of Wolf Mountain adopting a campsite setting while a vicious killer roams the forest. Unsurprisingly, couple clichés are also present, as the lovers share intimacy in their tents and are oblivious to the dangers surrounding them.
There are quite a few differences, however. First, The Curse of Wolf Mountain is on a much tighter film budget, with shots so dimly lit come nightfall that the scene visuals are skewed. And when the killer does reveal himself, we aren’t presented with a menacing Jason Voorhees-type character, but instead, an unknown perpetrator that hides its identity under a gimmicky wolf mask that isn’t remotely scary.
Gory deaths are within the film’s DNA, but each is anticlimactic. Due to a lower budget, I hoped that Lipper would reach into his bag of tricks and lean into some unique and creative kills to elevate intensity. Sadly, this is not the case, as each death is as brief as it is forgettable and accompanied by cheap jump scares. Ironically, some of the best camera work is achieved during daylight hour scenes, giving viewers some visually pleasing shots panning around the mountain range.
One of The Curse of Wolf Mountain’s biggest downfalls is its inability to sell the drama woven into the storyline, which is diluted by cheesy dialogue and bland characters. The humor incorporated into the screenplay shows that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. The issue, however, is that the events that unravel throughout the runtime play out more like a horror movie parody than a scare fest with comedic one-liners sprinkled into its landscape.
The most disappointing part of the film is the wolf-man reveal, which is fruitless and so cartoonish that it fails to deliver. And though Hollywood heavy hitters Bell and Trejo are a welcomed addition to the cast, their limited presence cannot salvage the low-budget horror flick The Curse of Wolf Mountain from its problems.
The Curse of Wolf Mountain will be released on digital platforms and DVD in the US on May 9, 2023.