desert wolf | beau yotty | hayley vrana | jessica y. martin | werewolf | werewolves | united states | elizabeth broeder | dan weisgerber | john carr | erin caneer | mark deboer | jewel bradford | adam yoyles | christine manola | sky c. donovan | kayla andrews | curse
Film: Desert Wolf
Director: Beau Yotty
Writer: Beau Yotty
Starring: Beau Yotty, Hayley Vrana and Jessica Y. Martin
This was a film that I heard about when the writer/director/star of this reached out to me asking if I would be interested in reviewing. I’m always down to check out independent films, so I immediately agreed. The description he gave really peaked my interest as well. The synopsis is a series of gruesome murders occur in the small town of Junction City, Arizona. They each have one thing in common, the carnage takes place under a full moon.
We start this film on the night of a full moon. We see a man walking around and attacked by something. Mrs. Baker (Christine Manola) makes a call to the local sheriff as she is hearing something outside. His name is G.W. Garrett (Beau Yotty) and shows up to see what is going on. She tells him there’s something outside of her place and goes to check it out. He is then attacked by something with large claws, but he shoots it. He didn’t see where it went, so he tells Mrs. Baker they’ll be back the next day to search.
The next morning it is revealed that the man we saw was Cortez (Adam Voyles). They don’t find the animal so it takes Garrett to check on the remains. The original thought is that he was killed by a mountain lion, but after the initial investigation by Dr. Charles Archer (Dan Weisgerber), he thinks that it looks more like a wolf. The problem is that the wounds are much too big for a wolf, especially the desert ones in the area.
From here, we get introduced to some of the people in the town from here. There’s Betty Johnson (Hayley Vrana) who runs the local bar and is raising her younger sister Christal (Jewel Bradford). Sheriff Garrett is friends with a local Native American Kai Benally (Elizabeth Broeder) who is in tune with auras. She feels there’s something different about Garrett when he enters. Also in town is the mayor, Kauffman (Mark DeBoer), who is worried about a celebration of the town coming up. The murder is putting that in jeopardy since they have Ramona (Jessica Y. Martin), a famous singer, going to be in attendance.
The investigation into what happened to Cortez is ongoing and at the next full moon, more killing happens. Garrett is concerned that it is him. With his heightened senses and the feeling Kai has that there’s been a change in him. He’s given a talisman that will allow his consciousness to stay when he becomes a wolf. He doesn’t know what to do with himself and his deputy, Tuttle (John Carr), is suspicious of him as well due the changes in his personality. What is going on in this small town?
Now I have to say, this film does definitely do some cool things that I enjoy. The description that I was given from Beau that he blended The Wolf Man with Wolf, which I have to say that he’s dead on. The opening is definitely similar to the 1941 classic and the changes that come over Garrett definitely falls in line with the Jack Nicholson film from 1994. The small-town feel works for sure as we have a community where everyone knows everyone and some distinct characters as well.
I have to give credit that he also made this his own. Instead of using the gypsy curse, this is a Native American folklore where they believe that werewolves existed under the name of Skinwalkers. I’ve seen other films using this and I dug that was the basis. It is also interesting to have our main character being the sheriff in town. Being that he’s in a position of power as the head police officer. I like the concept that if he’s doing the killings, it is an allegory for the abuse of power.
From here I did want to shift to the pacing of this overall. We get a good runtime of 88 minutes, so it doesn’t outstay its welcome and it didn’t necessarily drag. I did feel that there was a stretch around the midway point where it got a bit too story heavy and just didn’t progress as quickly as I would have liked. I can’t fault it too much though as they’re adhering to the traditional werewolf folklore of the full moon. They need to have a month go by before he can change again. There’s a reveal though during the climax that I did really enjoy and it actually goes back to a point I made earlier as well.
I’ll move to the acting here next. Since this is a low-budget, independent film, I’m not going to harp on it too much as there’s a bit of charm that comes with these people not necessarily being the most polished. I actually have to say my favorite performance was from Yotty himself. I thought he embodied this sheriff and I did feel like he actually wants to get to the bottom of what is happening and not trusting himself. My second favorite would have to be Broeder. She does well in giving us the lore that is the crux of the story. Vrana, Broadford, Weisgerber and DeBoer were all solid in their roles. I didn’t love Carr as I did feel he was a bit wooden. I would say that the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed though.
That will take me to the effects of this movie. I will give them credit that they hide quite a bit, which I’ve always said, I’d rather do that as it gives me the chance to assume what is happening instead of giving me bad CGI. The contacts used were good and the look of these werewolves similar to Wolf in that they have just really gnarly sideburns. The arms and claws used were fine. The blood for the most part looked good as well. There was one death scene where it was a bit thick looking though. I also felt the film was shoot fine and had no issues there.
Now with that said, this film did some things that I actually really dug. I like werewolf movies and I like that it blended aspects of two classics while doing its own thing. It stuck with the werewolf mythos and it took the Native American idea of that which is fitting for the setting. I thought the town has a solid grouping of characters that were distinct, the only issue I had was with the pacing were I do think it got a bit boring during the middle. It does find its way to the climax and there’s a solid reveal at the end. The acting for the most part was fine and I think what they did with hiding most of the effects were good so what we got to see worked. I did have a slight issue with the soundtrack as there seemed to be times where it was just silent, but I did think that for the most part it fit for what was needed. I think this is an above average independent film. Don’t come in expecting too much and just enjoy it. If you like werewolf films, this one definitely is worth checking out if you’re into this type of thing.
My Rating: 6 out of 10