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Film / Wolf

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"Within every man, there are two men. One who learns to be civilized by day. One who longs to be savage by night. If any man could be both at once, he'd have to be daring... he'd have to be dangerous... he'd have to be... Jack."
Narration from the teaser trailer.

Wolf is a 1994 supernatural horror film directed by Mike Nichols, starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Will Randall (Nicholson) is the aging managing editor of an influential publishing house. His skills have somewhat diminished with age, and his disloyal protege, Stewart Swinton (James Spader), has taken full advantage. Their employer, tycoon Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer), announces Will's demotion in favor of Stewart, while Will's wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan) has started an affair with Stewart.

However, Will's life seems to be about to change for the better. A chance encounter with a lone wolf on a snowy country road of Vermont results in a single small bite on his arm. Gradually, he becomes rejuvenated, revitalized, and more aggressive, which allows him to outperform Stewart and get his job back. His sexual appetite has also increased, and he seems to have a mutual attraction with Laura Alden (Pfeiffer), Alden's world-weary daughter. His new superhuman senses of sight and smell are part bewildering and part fascinating.


But then our hero discovers himself taking on animal characteristics and spending nights hunting deer in nearby forests, waking up at morning with hazy memory of the night's activities but plenty of blood on his hands to give him a hint. Will finally realizes what is going on. He is becoming a werewolf... and the process has just begun. Worse, he's not certain he hasn't been spreading his condition to others.


Wolf provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: Jack Nicholson as a man who gradually turns into a werewolf after portraying "Big Bad Wolf" Jack Torrance, complete with the huff-puff-blow threat in The Shining.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Is Will's transformation permanent, or just part of the full moon cycle? The question is never definitively answered, leaving the audience to decide.
  • Attempted Rape: Laura is on the brink of being raped by Stewart, until Will manages to put a stop to that.
  • Ax-Crazy: Stewart, after becoming a demon wolf, becomes vicious and truly savage.
  • Black Sheep: Laura to her family. Pfeiffer said it best in an interview:
    Michelle Pfeiffer: Laura has always been the outcast, the black sheep within her family... And I think that the wildness within her is attracted to the newfound wildness in Will.
  • Cock Fight: Will and Stewart both want Laura, and it culminates in a battle of beasts when they fight each other in werewolf form.
  • Cursed with Awesome: How Dr. Alezais sees Will's transformation: if he is a good man, then becoming a wolf could be a wonderful gift. Alezais even asks to be bitten so he too can share the gift.

  • Creator In-Joke: Elaine May plays the telephone operator. She and Mike Nichols had been part of a stand-up comedy act 'Nichols and May' - and in most of their routines played characters speaking on the phone.

  • Deadpan Snarker: Will, Laura, Stewart and Alden all have moments of very dry sarcasm.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: After the wolf bites Will and runs off into the woods, we see a whole pack of wolves glaring at him. Will appropriately flees as the wolf that bit him gives a Kubrick Stare that's right up there with his actor's previous work.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: According to Dr. Alezais the Indian mystic Will consults, a man who becomes a wolf doesn't also become evil; he will be an evil wolf if he was already an evil man.
  • Demonic Possession: Or at least that's how Will sees it.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: Will handcuffs himself, afraid of causing harm on his next night out.
  • False Soulmate: Charlotte, to Will, because he separates from her after he discovers she's been cheating on him, but before she gets killed by Stewart, whom she's been having the affair with.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Stewart can put on a seemingly friendly attitude, namely him saying to Will that he loves him, but it’s completely false.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Noticeably used when Will hunts down the deer in the forest.
  • Jerkass: Stewart, who is also an odious Smug Snake.
  • Like a God to Me: Roy to Will, when Will pulls off a spectacular bluff.
  • Literal Transformative Experience: After becoming a werewolf late one night, Randal is revitalised, dramatically increasing his aggression, assertiveness and sexual appetite. With his passion restored, he manages to regain his position, excel at his job, and start a new relationship with his boss' daughter.
  • Magical Accessory: The amulet that prevents Will from transforming into wolf form as long as he has it on.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Will kills a Mule Deer, a western species, in New York State.
  • Mugging the Monster: A trio of hoodlums attempt to "borrow" money from Will. This proves to be a mistake; they probably would've had more luck during the day time.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: After the bite, Will's sight, hearing and smell enhance, but he also begins to manifest more animalistic wolf-like mannerisms.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Will and Stewart are using the urinals together. Will (who is becoming a werewolf) pees on Stewart's shoes and says, "I'm just marking my territory, and you got in my way."
  • The Nose Knows: Among the first indications of the transformation.
    Will (sniffs): How the fuck can you drink tequila at this early?
    Gary: How the fuck did you know?
    Will: You kiddin'? I can smell it a mile away!
    • Will becomes suspicious of Charlotte and Stewart after smelling Stewart's cologne on her and sure enough, eventually catches them together.
  • Not Hyperbole: Averted at the end by Stewart, when he has fun with the guard.
  • Not Quite Back to Normal: By the finale, Laura has yet to notice some physical changes on herself, thinking everything has gone back to normal.
  • Not Quite Dead / Jump Scare: So, trying to drag the wolf that Will accidentally hit with his car off the road probably wasn't a good idea.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The word "werewolf" is never said in this movie.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The bigger the moon is at night, the more wolf-like the person becomes. By the full moon, the person completely transforms into a natural wolf.
  • Parental Issues: Laura seems to have some daddy issues like living at home with her father into adulthood, and purposely choosing men she knows he doesn't approve of.
  • Personality Powers: Dr. Alezais tells Will that being bitten doesn't necessarily ensure transformation into a wolf; one also has to have the passion of the wolf in their hearts in the first place in order for it to take hold of them. He even implies that for some people, the passion is enough and that being bitten by a wolf may not even be a requirement for them to change.
  • Real After All: Werewolves.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Will gives a small one to Laura about how she gets away with being an unlikable bitch because she's hot.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Will assumes this of Laura, and calls her out on it.
    Will Randall: You know, I think I understand what you're like now. You're very beautiful and you think men are only interested in you because you're beautiful, but you want them to be interested in you because you're you. The problem is, aside from all that beauty, you're not very interesting. You're rude, you're hostile, you're sullen, you're withdrawn. I know you want someone to look past all that at the real person underneath but the only reason anyone would bother to look past all that is because you're beautiful. Ironic, isn't it? In an odd way, you're your own problem.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: In the film, yellow eyes are a sign that a character is turning into a werewolf.
  • Super Senses: Nocturnal vision, superhuman sense of smell.
  • Took A Levelin Badass: Will becomes more assertive and daring as he transforms.
  • The Virus: Lycanthropy spreads like this in this film. Will inadvertently bites Stewart, who becomes a homicidal werewolf. By the end of the film, there is a close-up of Laura's face fading into dark, demonstrating lupine eyes and indicating her transformation has begun.
  • Wham Line:
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Of the type that verges on Fridge Horror. Since the fate of the two thugs Will attacked in Central Park is ambiguous (the mother of the black one laments about his fingers being bitten off implying he may have survived the attack, while there's no confirmation of his friend being killed) it makes one wonder if now there's two more people cursed with lycanthropy running around who presumably have much less constraint about targeting/hurting others than Will does.
  • Wolf Man: Will transforms into this at first, transforming into a full werewolf in the finale. It's indicated that those who undergo a complete change become full wolves, although they seem to have human intelligence.
  • Working-Class Werewolves: Zig-zagged: After being bitten by a werewolf, Will Randall loses his white-collar job as editor-in-chief and finds out his wife is cheating on him (with the guy who ousted him from his job). However, he soon embraces his newfound abilities, standing up to his boss, improving his work and sex life, getting his old job back and generally manages to bounce back better than ever... when he's not going feral every other night and savaging/accidentally turning the townsfolk into werewolves, that is.
  • You Sexy Beast: One of the additional signs of becoming a werewolf is becoming more sexually aggressive.