2009 was a busy year for underground filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, as he worked on the movies Silent Venom, Voodoo Dollz, Bikini Royale, and Dire Wolf. A veteran of old-school filmmaking, Fred Olen Ray was most popular during the 1980s and 1990s, producing variety of horror, science fiction, and even softcore sex movies for the drive-in circuit and the grindhouse scene. Those of us who grew up watching low-grade horror science fiction, action, and horror will really appreciate 2009’s Dire Wolf. Fans accustomed to watching CGI special effects and “sophisticated dialogue” will likely scratch their heads while watching Dire Wolf, and it’s really too bad, as this movie is outright fun and funny.
The plot of Dire Wolf (also known as Dinowolf) is relatively straightforward. Deep in the secluded mountains, scientists are working on creating a new type of creature that combines and strength and ferocity of the dire wolf (an extinct mammal, roughly the size of a gray wolf, but with a much heavier build) and the intelligence of a human being. The scientists succeed in creating such a creature, but it escapes from the facility and begins to attack people in a neighboring rural community.
The responsibility for this mess falls on Colonel Hendry (Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century). He dispatches a pair of agents to capture (not kill) the creature. In the meantime, Sheriff Parker (Maxwell Caulfield) and his adopted son and park ranger Jim Martin (Blake Griffith) have to deal with the creature themselves, as more and more people are being ripped to pieces.
The agents finally team up with the ranger and the sheriff. The final reel of the movie has the body account escalate as the group comes face-to-face with the creature, which they lure back to the genetics facility. It is here that the group discovers that one of the scientists (Jaime, played by Amber Krzys) actually used her own stem cells to “birth” the creature and that the hybrid dire wolf thinks of her as its mother. The creature must be destroyed, but as the movie shows, the dire wolf is vindicated, for it was only doing what it was created to do.
Dire Wolf is by no means a great horror film. However, for old-school fans of horror, it is a welcome return to DIY filmmaking, complete with practical effects such as a monster suit and plenty of blood and fake guts. Screenwriters Dan Golden and Patrick Moran turn in a fun and funny script, one filled with quirky characters (the sheriff is obsessive-compulsive in the extreme, for example) and plenty of snarky dialogue (Teddy the photographer to his model girlfriend: “Hold up your boobs, like little cupcakes”).
Fred Olen Ray keeps his direction minimal, minimizing the number of jump cuts and edits. His approach is effective, particularly when it comes to showing off the monster. Ray also does not pull away from the gore—he also has fun with plenty of teasing T&A that never crosses the line like so many modern movies.
The acting is pretty good throughout, with some secondary characters struggling with their lines from the script. The leads are uniformly good, relishing the opportunity to create quirky characters that nevertheless manage to survive the onslaught of a pretty vicious creature.
Dire Wolf is definitely not for everyone. If you are a fan of B-movie schlock produced during the 1980s and even 1990s, then you will appreciate Dire Wolf. It’s not outright camp, but at times it does come pretty close.