Film Review: Lycan

Dedicated genre buffs will appreciate the attention to detail in this homage to ’80s horror, but fans of modern, effects-heavy shockers may find it slow going.
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A mismatched group of six 1980s high-school students think they've hit the jackpot when they're assigned a group history project that will count for 50% of their total grade. All they have to do is write a collective 20-page paper on some local topic. Brainy Irving (Craig Tate), the only African-American student in the group, suggests they tackle a miscarriage-of-justice story involving a black man on death row; maybe their research could exonerate him.

But stoner Kenny (Parker Croft), also an earlier adopter of all-day/all-the-time video-camming, sells the gang on a Blair Witch Project-style investigation of a local legend: the Talbott County Werewolf. Classmates Chrissy (Kalia Prescott), mean-girl Blair (Rebekah Graf), Blake (Jake Lockett) and Isabella (Dania Ramirez), the local weird girl, pack up their gear, saddle up and go into the woods, where scary noises, disemboweled animal corpses and creepy Texas Chainsaw-style cabins await. What happens next is no surprise.

To the credit of director and co-writer Bev Land (the husband of star Ramirez), Lycan has an authentic late-’70s/early-’80s low-budget genre feel: The cinematography is artfully unpolished, the dialogue free of in-jokes and smart-alecky patter and the violence quick and underplayed. The movie evokes predecessors as diverse as Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (1973), The Howling (1981) and Legend of the Wolf Woman (1976), and never feels as though it's winking at the audience.

Ramirez (of TV's “Devious Maids”) delivers a sensitive and increasingly desperate performance as Isabella, whose desire to live a normal life is thwarted equally by the call of the wild and the fact that she's a dark-skinned Latina surrounded by mean blondes; it's a clever dovetailing of ordinary and extraordinary conflicts. But minus Twilight-like sparkle vampires or hunky wolf boys, Lycan is unlikely to connect with teen audiences, and hardcore horror buffs are likely to find it lacking in gore appeal.

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