I’m not a fan of werewolf films. So when I heard that Unearthed Films’ latest release, Sheep Skin (the first feature-length film from director Kurtis M. Spieler and based on his 2007 short), was a werewolf flick, I was both skeptical and intrigued. Skeptical because it’s a werewolf flick; intrigued because it’s from Unearthed Films. So, did Sheep Skin have me howlin’ at the moon in delight or boredom?
Todd (Laurence Mullaney) is a business man who’s cheating on his wife, Nicole (Jaime Lyn Bagley). One night while leaving his office, Todd is kidnapped by a group of punk rockers. He is taken to an abandoned warehouse, tied to a chair – where the punk rockers, led by Nathan Schafer (Michael Schantz), accuse Todd of being a werewolf who murdered Nathan’s sister! As the night wanes on tensions rise, tempers flare, and doubts abound. Is Todd really a werewolf? Is someone else a werewolf? Or are the punk rockers just delusional?
Formerly, werewolf flicks fell into two categories for me: An American Werewolf in London, and all the others. I must revise that to three categories: An American Werewolf in London, Sheep Skin, and all the others. Yeah, I enjoyed it that much. What I love most about the film is that it takes lycanthropy and treats it in a realistic, as opposed to fantastic, manner by eliminating many of the tropes associated with werewolf films. Doing this, however, means Sheep Skin is better able to enhance the mystery aspect: is Todd a werewolf or not? You’ll have to watch to find out but it definitely had me guessing until the end.
For a low-budget film, the cinematography is excellent. It could have easily passed for a mainstream effort. And there’s a special bonus for those who purchase the DVD: you get both the color version and the black-and-white version. I watched the color version for the purposes of this review, but I did take a look at some scenes from the black-and-white version, and I definitely prefer the latter as it has a, in Spieler’s words from the introduction, “punk rock edge” missing from the color version. Either way, kudos to cinematographer Adrian Correia.
The acting is also a solid point in Sheep Skin. While the characters are stock – the cheating businessman, the suspicious wife, the loose cannon, the determined leader – the actors fill them out nicely and bring them to life. Michael Schantz is definitely the top performer here and is exciting to watch. He’s definitely an actor to keep your eye on.
All in all, Sheep Skin is a worthy entry in the werewolf sub-genre as well as the horror genre as a whole. Excellent performances bring the characters and story to life; the presentation of lycanthropy in a realistic manner will leave audiences guessing until the end, something that so few films do nowadays. Chalk up another win for Unearthed Films. And keep your eye on Spieler: that dude is going places.