Wilderness (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


Wilderness was originally a  BBC mini-series about a woman who thinks she's a werewolf. It was shown on BBC with 174 minutes of footage, but has been trimmed to 99 minutes for a video release. That compression is not without problems, as you might imagine, but the video still presents a comprehensible, often entertaining story.

Remember that this was on British TV, and you'll realize immediately that it will not be a typical werewolf film. The British censors don't much care for gore, so this is one of the most lyrical non-violent werewolf films you'll ever see. She's sort of like a Quaker werewolf. The film mentions one wolf attack, but there are no close-ups of the attack or its aftermath. Instead, they show the horrified reaction of a passer-by. Most of the time, the wolf simply leaves human company without attacking. Actually, this makes a lot of sense, much more than the typical werewolf yarn. Real wolves rarely attack humans, and don't kill without a reason.

The film doesn't picture any gory, bone-cracking transformations either. Those are done with a simple computer morphing program on the cheap, producing exactly the same type of effects you could do on your home computer.

All just as well, because we've seen all that, and this is a different kind of story. The wolf plays a background role. The real story centers around the reaction of her psychiatrist and her lover when she explains to them that she's a wolf. Mainly they think the same thing we would think. 


Amanda Ooms shows her breasts and buns throughout the movie. There is some frontal exposure, but it is very subtle and perhaps a bit coy. See the main commentary. 

Catherine Holman was naked, briefly, as the same character in flashbacks.  

Suppose you were a psychiatrist and a woman came in claiming to be a wolf. Would you think it was true? Of course not. You'd look for the reasons that caused her to think this way, and explore the connections to her childhood sexual traumas, and related psychological bric-a-brac, especially since the wolf problem began when she had her first period, and occurs on a lunar cycle, like menstruation. Suppose your girlfriend tried to explain to you that she didn't come home last night because there was a full moon, and she turned into a wolf. You'd buy that, right? You wouldn't think that she was doing the nasty with that incredibly hunky Brazilian guy she likes to flirt with? 

In fact, at first we are led to believe that the psychiatrist and the boyfriend are right. She appears to be a meek, disturbed librarian who has molded her mental anguish into this werewolf story, possibility to let her act out her repressed aggressions through an alternate personality. As the story progresses, she gains control of her transformations, and is able to convince them.

The film also differs from the typical werewolf flick in that it has a certain intelligence to it. The co-screenwriter has written some very good recent scripts (Bridget Jones's Diary and The Tailor of Panama), as well as the Masterpiece Theater version of Moll Flanders with Alex Kingston.

One of the most interesting features on the DVD is a written article about the development of the project, featuring the tribulations of working with Ayla, a real timberwolf raised from infancy by its owner. Most of the time Ayla was a docile as a Collie, but she retained her DNA and could revert to wild behavior. At one point one of her handlers tripped when walking her, and was temporarily in a position where his head was beneath Ayla's head. This triggered some instinctive aggression from the wolf, and subverted the guy's normal role as a member of the dominant species. Starting a couple of days later, and unprovoked, she started stalking and attacking the poor guy incessantly, every time she saw him. They finally had to fire the guy so they could get Ayla's mind back on the film!

DVD info from Amazon.

  • no widescreen (it was never released theatrically)

  • mimimal features: written article, some trailers, etc

Since you are now aware it was a TV series, you're probably thinking it doesn't have much nudity. You're forgetting that this is British TV, in which nudity is almost mandatory. The quantity and context of the nudity here is very, very similar to the Nastassja Kinski version of Cat People. They might easily have called this film "Dog People". Amanda Ooms is naked throughout the film - probably 10-20 minutes of screen time, several different scenes. She does all of her transformations naked. She gets naked when she knows the change is coming, so she won't ruin her clothing. 

Hey, she's a werewolf on a budget, you know. They don't pay werewolf librarians any more than the other employees at the university library. In fact, many of the larger libraries are cutting back to only a single werewolf on staff. Certain hard-line CFO's are even arguing that a library doesn't need a werewolf at all, but I don't think it will ever come to that point. There are some things that man must maintain as a part of our precious cultural heritage, despite some economic hardship.

OK, I guess I've stolen enough of Monty Python's Pantomime Horse jokes, so it's time to summarize by saying it's an OK movie, despite the trimming. 

The Critics Vote

  • Apollo 62/100

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.1/10, Apollo users 69/100. (It isn't really that good, although perhaps they are rating the full 174 minute version, which I haven't seen)
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Don't be fooled into thinking it is a horror film. It's not scary. It is the rare werewolf film with a psychological and sociological point.

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