Horror fans want more great movies about werewolves. Now we have EIGHT FOR SILVER, which is written, directed, and with cinematography by Sean Ellis, and it is a conditional success. It is a period werewolf drama set in the late 1800s, in a mist-shrouded land filled with bigotry and lower case aristocracy. A terrible crime was committed against the local Romani people and an unknown evil starts to stalk the children of the town including the son of Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) and his wife Isabelle (Kelly Reilly). As the fear spreads, they call in John McBride (Boyd Holbrook), a man who has dealt with such strange happenings before to get to the bottom of the mystery.
EIGHT FOR SILVER’s greatest strengths are the interesting ideas at the core of the film’s mythology about werewolves, its striking imagery, and the strong performances of many of the actors, especially some of the supporting cast. The direction and story are strong up to a point. But then there’s a sense that the ideas that made it interesting ceased to be as important as the family drama and dynamic and a romantic subplot which unfortunately are not as compelling as that mythology and the social issues that were first established. Those ideas were the things that drew me into the story so strongly in the first place and it was only when they popped up again from time to time that the film became more vital for me. I do think that the ending actually brings the story back to a form that was true to the original direction.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a werewolf film that is quite good. I enjoyed quite a bit of it. When it’s firing on all cylinders, it’s impressive. In search of why I felt this way about the film, I read an interview with the director and he really tried to show the “complexity” of the characters. So that even the bad guys had their reasons. I think that’s something to be admired, but it might be hard to pull off this type of horror film with character motivations that are less well defined. Fortunately or unfortunately, the attempt to allow more shades of grey among the characters of the heroes and villains and the diversion into the family and romantic drama might have killed the momentum of the story for a time.
EIGHT FOR SILVER is a good werewolf film with great imagery and strong performances that sadly could have been what they call an instant classic. That is really my only qualm with it. I saw the potential for it to have been something spectacular. The fresh mythology of the werewolf was very intriguing but isn’t explored much. Still, it’s a strong addition to the werewolf canon that is beautiful to look at. Those fangs! I would also like to single out the performances of two of the ensemble, Roxane Duran as Anais and Aine Rose Daly as Anne-Marie. I felt terror for both of them and that’s an example of good direction and terrific acting. Boyd Holbrook holds his own as the hero as well. He’s not quite Van Helsing, but he’s driven as a monster hunter in a believable and sympathetic way. The werewolves are a mix of practical animatronic effects and CGI/CGV and the beasts look different from most werewolf designs in a formidable way. Like I have said, there is a lot to like about EIGHT FOR SILVER.
If you love a good werewolf film, I would recommend EIGHT FOR SILVER. It’s different in setting and does have scenes and images that strike terror in the heart. It definitely has the most frightening straw man since Dark Night of the Scarecrow. I just wish that it was a little bit more of whatever it chose to be.