Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004)

romasantaI was intrigued by “Romasanta” because while it is horror, it’s not technically horror, and while it is a werewolf film, it’s not really the conventional werewolf film. Simply put, if you’re expected werewolves, full moons, and a big clan of lycanthropes, well you best turn elsewhere. “Romasanta” is a brutally original horror film about the human mind and the sheer atrocities it is capable of when sick and inflicted. “Romasanta” is a rather unique entry that’s a horror film, a werewolf film, a murder mystery, a period piece, and a crime drama all rolled into one. But one of the appeals of this film was that it was original. Originality it a rarity in film these days, and it’s a shame we don’t get much of it in terms of innovative ideas.

A werewolf crime drama that takes place in the nineteenth century that provides a new twist on the genre. Paco Plaza gives an excellent job of direction in what I can really describe as a new twist of the werewolf sub-genre. After her sisters are murdered, Barbara sets out to find the beast who literally tore them limb from limb. But when she discovers the murderer may be lurking closer than she thought, she’s nearly killed and sets out on her own to find and stop them before they kill more innocent women. But is she looking for a beast or a man? Plaza’s film is drowned in sheer tension and atmosphere, as the film’s heroine finds herself in a rather lurid love affair with a man that turns out to be more than he lets on, and she finds herself in for the shock of her life in a well played plot twist that appears from nowhere.

“Romasanta” evolves from a taut horror film, to an engrossing thriller, right down to an intriguing exploration of the rare psychological disease called lycanthropy which convinces its victims that they are indeed wolves. Elsa Pataky gives a lethal combination of sheer sex appeal, and incredible acting chops as she’s seduced and falls in love with Romasanta, and finds herself in a situation that changes her life for good, and she handles it giving a brutally emotional performance. She’s never reduced to a cliché, only as a woman who takes it upon herself to find the person that killed her family and struggle with the fact that the person she was falling for is the person she must find and murder.

Meanwhile, we’re given an interesting examination not only in the sheer unpredictability of the human mind, but its capability to convince us of the most outlandish things to keep our murderous instincts understandable only to us. Julian Sands is Romasanta, the seductive, suave, and sleek man who persuades women to do his bidding and ultimately uses that vulnerability against them. Though he’s perceived as demonic entity by his ally, he really just presents the lycanthropy through a manifestation of the pure bitter evil of his persona. Sands steals the show and does it very often, and the best scenes are with Pataky. Their interplay creates the mood and tension for much of the remainder of the engrossing drama.

For a film that’s only ninety minutes, it really does manage to drag itself down in almost endless dialogue and exposition that never really seemed to interest all too much. Thus, it rambles on for the first thirty minutes, before it actually sets itself down into the story and gets moving. “Romasanta” may not be the most action packed horror film, which may anger many of those who love the brainless horror, and for the almost endless dialogue, it will test the patience of a portion of its audience. In spite of plot holes, and characterization that never quite made much sense, “Romasanta” is a grim, bleak, and original peak into the rare disease of lycanthropy, and posits a new take on the werewolf genre. With great acting, and a tense story, this is an obscure gem worth watching.