This is a thinking person's werewolf movie. Well directed by Mike Nichols, it features a stellar cast who give excellent performances. Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Plummer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, and David Hyde Pierce all contribute to the successful execution of this sophisticated and subtle horror film. As an added bonus, those of you who are devotees of the TV series, "Friends", should look for David Schwimmer's cameo appearance in the film.
Jack Nicholson plays a middle aged, married, senior book editor for a publishing company. Driving home at night from a business trip in New England, he hits an animal on the road. When he gets out of his car to check on the condition of the animal, he discovers it to be a wolf. What happens next will change the course of his life forever.
When Jack gets back to his office, he is feeling the after effects of his interaction with the wolf. He is also concerned about his job, as his publishing house has been taken over by Christopher Plummer. Jack initially plays his character as a somewhat laid back, nice guy, a good man who doesn't see the knife being plunged into his back by his young, ambition driven underling, played with obsequious perfection by James Spader, until it is too late. Publishing is, indeed, a dog eat dog world.
Betrayed by his underling who has been given his job, Jack finds himself undergoing a subtle, physical metamorphosis. He no longer needs reading glasses, his hearing is extremely acute, and he has a keen, very keen, sense of smell. It is these enhanced senses that lead him to discover that his wife, well played by Kate Nelligan, has shockingly betrayed his love and devotion, causing him to leave her. It is a betrayal that is to have dire consequences for her.
Finding himself more robust and aggressive, literally a new man, Jack goes on the attack and, and with the aid of his loyal underling, played to perfection by David Hyde Pierce, gets his job back. He aggressively asserts himself with Spader and lets him know, in no uncertain terms, who is top dog. There is a memorable scene to this effect. In the process of regaining his life, Jack falls in love with the boss's beautiful daughter, played with gritty charm by Michelle Pfeiffer, and she with him.
Still, Jack finds himself battling his inner demons over his change. The transformation of Jack is subtle, and there is very lttle use of special effects to enhance his metamorphosis. Jack is often able to convey to the viewer what he is undergoing with a flick of the eyebrow, a twitch of the nose, a curl of the lips. It is a wonderful piece of acting and a tribute to the power of suggestion.
Certain events transpire that make Jack fear that his transformation will result in injury to Michelle. She eventually buys into his fear, misinterpreting certain events that take place. What he and she ultimately discover is that they both, in fact, have a great deal to fear, but that their initial fear was misplaced. Look to a great finale.
If you are the type of horror film fan who likes excessive gore, as well as many high tech, special effects, this is not the film for you, as there is very little of that in this film. This is a subtle, multi-layered, symbolic type of horror film that will leave the viewer analyzing what they just saw. It is simply a great werewolf film.