It's difficult, if not impossible, to pull of use of one of the “classic” monsters of horror. When one s surrounded by real world horror in the wake of religious extremists, potential plague outbreaks or the simple reality that through no fault of our own, our generation is simply fucked and faced with crippling financial and environmental woes, the idea of a monster sprung to life after receiving 10,000 volts of electricity in the neck or one that turns into a beast under the right moon conditions seems silly and trite. The best films that still rely on these tropes use the monster as an allegory for blue collar problems, rather than a literal beast to be feared.
One problem among the many with Werewolf Rising is it very much wants to be a straightforward werewolf thrill ride, but it just isn't anywhere close to being up to the task. It's low rent and cuts corners every step of the way, from the sparse locations, to the subpar acting, to a dialogue heavy script that does not trust its audience's ability to pick up on very simply and specific character traits to astonishingly mediocre FX. Everything about Werewolf Rising feels slap dash and amateurish.
You can see where Rising takes cues from The Howling with its survivor girl heading back to nature in order to escape both the grind of the big city and the trauma of her past. Melissa Carnell steps into the Dee Wallace role as Emma, a young woman attempting to remain sober by moving back to her childhood home in the Arizona backwoods. Just before she makes her move, a pair of convicts escape from the local prison. One of them, played by Bill Oberst Jr, is a werewolf. Emma meets the other and winds up falling in love with him despite spending all of five minutes with him and discovering he's lied about his past, covering up that he's a wanted felon. The man's name is Johnny Lee, a fact drummed into our heads by Emma repeating it every other line.
However, The Howling brimmed with outstanding performances, jaw dropping special FX and biting commentary on repressed sexuality. Werewolf Rising lacks all three of these things, making it a slog to sit through. I have no idea what Oberst is trying to do in this movie, and judging by his upcoming schedule, you have to wonder if he ever reads a script or if he is desperate to pay off loan sharks before they break his thumbs. Between the uninspired dialog and dodgy decision making the script does Carnell no favors either.
Even a mediocre werewolf movie can be saved by killer wolf transformation scenes. Here lies another problem with Werewolf Rising: The complete lack of any time or FX given to shifting from man to beast. Don't tell me that you lack the budget to pull off at least one extended sequence when B-movie camp fare like Wolfcop is filled with terrific practical driven sequences that add a ton to what would be an otherwise easy to dismiss film. In Werewolf Rising, an afflicted character falls to his knees, the camera pans away, and when it returns there's a man in an eight foot tall rubber and fake fur suit on screen.