Occult Horror: WOLVES AT THE DOOR (2017) Review

Based on the true events of the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends by the Manson Family, it depicts the events on that horrific night. What was supposed to be a nice, quiet, and fun night eventually turns into one that shocked and disturbed the country.

The thing with this movie for me, is that it’s not a bad movie itself, it’s just badly made. The movie runs at a mere 75 minutes; and at first I thought it could have been a good thing in order to prevent it from dragging on more than it needed to. It turns out that the short running time is one of its huge downfalls. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that felt so rushed. Due to the short runtime, the characters are greatly underdeveloped. We only get brief snippets of the characters to get an emotional attachment to them, but it’s not exactly enough. We care for them sure, but we don’t really get to know them. Ironically, they chose to focus more on the secondary couple of Abigail and Wojciech (played by Elizabeth Henstridge and Adam Campbell). They’re a very likable couple from what we see of them, but you would think they would have chosen to focus more on Sharon Tate (Katie Cassidy) and her boyfriend Jay (Miles Fisher). These two quite frankly don’t get much development at all (at times it seems they’re hardly even in it). With Tate I can only assume we’re just supposed to worry for her because she’s pregnant, which is understandable, but at the same time don’t let that speak for the character. Even Sharon and Jay’s relationship comes off as non-existent.

Had this been longer, we could have been given a lot more of these characters and their relationships with one another and actually make us care for them more. For those who know the story of these murders, it does bring on a massive sense of dread knowing that the outcome for these characters won’t be a positive one. And this sense of dread does in a sense provide a good and emotional impact on the movie. However, if you’re one of the people who thinks it’s in “poor taste” to have made a movie about this, then don’t bother with this one. I’m personally glad someone had the guts to finally touch upon this story. They don’t show the murder of the pregnant Tate, but the way it plays out in your head is probably much worse than them actually showing it. Instead of playing out the movie with the story it’s trying to tell it ends up becoming more like The Strangers and your basic home invasion movie. I feel like had this been a slow-burn horror movie with all of the terror coming towards the end with more character development, but also giving us hints of what’s to come (such as news reports of previous Manson break ins or crimes, not counting the opening scene). The suspense and intensity works here, but also could have been stretched out better instead of being clumped together.

Also, for a movie that takes place in the late 60s, there wasn’t anything that felt 60s about this movie. They tried to make it look 60s, but even that felt half-assed. In terms of acting, we kind of have a mixed bag. Elizabeth Henstridge provides the strongest performance of them all (this could be due to the fact that she has the most development and screen time), Katie Cassidy has more weak moments than she does strong ones; however, the moment where she is taken to her ultimately doom, Cassidy nails it here and makes the moment really gut-wrenching as she only fears for the life of her unborn child. The two male actors are basically the weakest of the bunch because of how bland they come off. I could almost say that maybe had their characters been more developed, the cast could have been able to turn in stronger performances.

While this movie could have been much worse in terms of brutality, it’s definitely not for the most sensitive of viewers. It has some decent terror in it, and the knowing sense of dread really helps with making the movie all the more horrific. Despite this, Wolves at the Door suffers from an extremely rushed script with underdeveloped characters and story, with performances ranging from weak to decent because of it, and extremely weak portrayal of the time period it takes place in.

–Cody Landman