The trouble with John Leonetti’s Wolves At The Door is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be or for whom it is exactly aimed at. The film has what could admittedly be considered as one of the most terrifying opening scenes in a horror movie you’ll see this year, but sadly for its makers, it ends up leaving a bad taste in the mouth and some serious questions about the morality of such an undertaking.
Written by Gary Dauberman (Annabelle), Wolves At The Door is loosely based on the murders of Hollywood actress Sharon Tate and her friends at the hands of the Manson Family (a murderous cult lead by Charles Milles Manson) in the summer of 1969. The film itself never explicitly gives away who these characters really are, until the end credits, hoping instead to capitalise on a new generation of movie-goers who may not be familiar with the infamous murders. However, no first names have been changed and the story itself appears to be pretty accurate to the way the events unfolded on that fateful night.
Staring Katie Cassidy as the heavily pregnant Sharon and the brilliant Elizabeth Henstridge (Agents of Shield) as best friend Abigail, the action takes place as four friends find themselves spending one last night together before Abigail moves back to her parent’s home in Boston. As Abbie’s dismayed boyfriend Wojciech (Adam Campbell) pleads with her to reconsider, the foursome, which also includes Sharon’s friend Jay (Miles Fisher), must accept Abigail’s final decision. From then on, what could have easily been made into a tasteful account of the events, the film instead turns into a foul and unnecessarily brutal depiction of the senseless murders. Leonetti’s decision to blur out the faces of the assailants could perhaps be explained by him as a deliberate attempt to depict them as monstrous figures, however this argument loses all credibility when the killings are administered with such vividness and precision without once turning away from the action taking place.
The film’s complete and utter disregard for the fragility of this subject is in fact puzzling, especially considering that some of the victims still have living family members, including Sharon’s own husband at the time, Polish director Roman Polanski. Having said that, what saves the film in parts is the brilliant performances by a fairly unknown cast. Henstridge is excellent in the role of Abigail, as are Cassidy and to a lesser extent Adam Campbell whose ludicrous undisclosed European accent can at times feel a little forced.
On the whole Wolves At The Door delivers some stellar performances and a genuinely terrifying story, but is largely let down by its makers inability to understand that there are limits to what can and cannot be shown on screen when it comes to the retelling of real life murders. Fans of recent horror movies might be seduced by the usual tropes, however savvier audience members will remain unconvinced by this tainted production.
Wolves at the Door is released on March 17th