Netflixable? Norwegians serve up “Jaws” with Claws in “Viking Wolf”

Sure, you can give your movie a rapacious Viking prologue to a modern day werewolf story.

But it’s not until the new-to-town cop meets the grizzled, loony one-armed werewolf hunter whose name is Lars and not Quint, and the young academic wolf expert/veterinarian is consulted, and the locals attempt their own hunt — which goes badly — and the Norske blonde mayor tries to calm fears that this “Jaws” with fur has a shot at coming off.

“Viking Wolf” is a Norwegian werewolf movie that traffics in the tropes of the genre, from that first bloody attack to the “infection” that no rational person believes in, but which strikes a pretty teen who’s been bitten.

But it’s the amusingly obvious “Jaws” references that tickled me. The rest of the movie’s a muddle, with this back story under-explained and that empathetic thread not satisfyingly unraveled. But the moment Mr. “I’ve been hunting this my entire life” shows up, the picture becomes promising.

Thale (Elli Rhiannon Müller Osborne) is the new teen in town, pretty enough to find herself invited to hang with the gang down at “The Bay,” a fjord-side beach where teenagers party. She’s arrived, mid-schoolyear, with gossip about her past. “Drugs” and stuff from Oslo, her classmates think. “I killed a man,” Thale says.

Wait, what? Perhaps her father, as we’ve seen she’s got a stepdad? I don’t think that’s ever explained, certainly not before some beast bursts out of the woods, bites Thale and then yanks the mayor’s screaming daughter into the inky black night.

Finding her body only gives the sheriff’s department more trouble. If it was a wolf, there are “local concerns” to be dealt with, the sheriff tells his newest deputy, the Swede Liv (Liv Mjönes), who happens to be Thale’s mom.

We’re allowed to wonder if the locals know all about what’s going on, some of them anyway. But that’s not developed any more than Thale’s “I killed a man.”

As she recovers, bullied by classmates who think she could have “saved” the dead girl, Thale notices her hearing getting sharp and her hallucinations turning “Norwegian Werewolf in Nybo.”

Mom is visited by the one-armed Lars, whom she dismisses, but not before he’s given her a silver bullet. They call in wolf expert William (Arthur Hakalahti), who has to abandon his “Wolves don’t kill people” education to help battle the beast.

There’s a bond that’s introduced between Thale and her deaf little sister, but that’s not built up into anything that generates pathos when it’s called for. The family dynamic is frayed, as mom has remarried and Thale is acting out, either through resentment or guilt.

The “Jaws” plot might have been the most entertaining direction this could have taken. You’d lose the teen “Twilight” hook, but enjoy a hunt with a cop, a wizened hunter and a callow, scientific method “expert,” battling the beast and bantering old werewolf tales rather than recounting the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. “Viking Wolf” commits to some of that, but not nearly enough.

Write this one off as an interesting attempt to find a salty-fresh angle to the werewolf genre, but a “‘Jaws’ with Claws” that ends up being mostly toothless.

TV-MA, violence

Cast: Elli Rhiannon Müller Osborne, Liv Mjönes, Arthur Hakalahti and Ståle Bjørnhaug

Credits: Directed by Stig Svensen, scripted by Espen Aukan and Stig Svendsen. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:38


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.