ROMASANTA: THE WEREWOLF HUNTER (also known as THE LEGEND OF ROMASANTA) is an odd piece of work. It left me at a bit of a loss for words. I mean, it’s not a badly made movie. But it’s not particularly entertaining either. Still, there’s something about it that got under my skin and left an impression. Ostensibly based on true events that occurred in Spain in the mid-1800s (in fact, some have told me they are “well known” in Spain), this movie is in some ways more of a psychological examination of a serial killer than the supernatural shlock fest you’d think from the title. After I got past being mislead, I found myself intrigued…
Manuel Blanco Romasanta is played by a familiar face to b-movie lovers, Julian Sands. Julian again pays his typical role: tortured soul, mixed with brooding sensuality that is apparently irresistible to women. The big exception, of course, being his role in LEAVING LAS VEGAS as the knife-happy pimp, which I’d hope women would find resistible. Anyhow, let me ruin what isn’t much of a secret: Romasanta is the killer. And he’s not a werewolf, I think. He just thinks he is, or at least kills that way. Well, at least that’s what we’re supposed to believe. It’s a bit confusing. Now you see how misleading the title is?
Romasanta has a few different methods of killing – some people he takes out right away, others he likes to get to know and get into their lives. This is what happens to Barbara (the gorgeous Elsa Pataky). Romasanta and Barbara become friends…then more than friends. The problem is, Barbara has a sister and niece and they go off to find her work elsewhere, but instead end up killed. So, Barbara swears revenge and before long enlists some local police inspectors and gets them on a trail that may or may not lead to Romasanta.
There are some pretty rough deafs, the worst of all being a deaf child caught in a bear trap whose eyes were gouged out. But there’s just not a lot of action. It’s more of a character study, and as such the focus is on mood, lighting and cinematography, all of which are extremely well done. As is the surprisingly lush score. As the film reaches its high points, we’re left with pleas from Romasanta that he is insane and the werewolf is in his head, but the decision is ultimately left to us.
Let’s get right to the point: if you’re looking for a werewolf flick, you will be disappointed. This movie is slow, often plodding, and never really takes off. At no point are you excited or entertained in a serious way. But, damn-it-all it’s interesting, and it’s not entirely junk. The acting is actually pretty good and the filmmakers clearly care about developing the characters. They should have focused a little more on the story and streamlining matters, but this is an admirable effort, if not the most fun.
RATING: ** and a half (out of four)