Studio: Wild Eye Releasing
Director: Mike Davis
Writer: Mike Davis
Producer: Mike Davis, Miles Flanagan
Stars: Marc Evan Jackson, Anthony Jenkins, Chris Smith, Del Stetson, Ashley Ann, Amanda Abel, Casey Robinson, Amy Trinh, Dean Stockwell, Clifton James, James Gregory, Biff McGuire, Jane House
In the midst of a reelection campaign, the President of the United States discovers he is a werewolf while facing a potential buyout of the country by China.
Stricken with polio, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went to great lengths to keep his affliction from the public eye, even while raising six children, pulling the United States out of the Great Depression, and combating Axis forces during WWII. John Wolfman’s presidential difficulties belong to a different breed. Stricken with lycanthropy, President Wolfman struggles to keep his full moon alter ego under wraps, even while raising a son solo following the joy ride suicide of his wife, courting the chaperone of a junior miss beauty pageant, and blocking a congressional bill meant to merge the USA with China so the rich and powerful can live inside individual skyscrapers (the Vice President gets the Chrysler building).
Doesn’t make sense? Doesn’t matter. As far as a story goes, “President Wolfman” is only as coherent as is absolutely necessary to zip nonsensically from point A to point Q. Its creator isn’t stitching something together that can be quantified by traditional expectations anyway. He is taking the audience on an express train ride through lunar cycle lunacy.
Billed as a “green” movie because it is Frankensteined from the recycled parts of 112 public domain and stock footage films, the bulk of which borrows from the 1973 Dean Stockwell embarrassment “The Werewolf of Washington,” “President Wolfman” is the logical evolution of MST3K-styled ribbing. Filmmaker Mike Davis recuts, rewrites, and redubs the kitchen sink soup to produce a surprisingly smart send-up of American culture, political chutzpah, and the entire medium of film itself. Aided by art direction from Miles Flanagan, who contributes a slick R. Crumb-influenced animated opening, “President Wolfman” doubles as a period perfect throwback to an exploitation-era aesthetic of B-movie nuttiness.
The real novelty is that “President Wolfman” is more than a mere gimmick. Davis doesn’t lean on the stock footage splicing stunt as the movie’s lone comedic crutch. Genuinely funny dialogue and highly professional voice work go the distance in selling the film as a wry satire of American politics in sometimes trite, but always hilarious fashion.
More than that, Davis funnels humor into each frame through any means available. A squeegee in the background receives its own sound effect as an aside. Words exchanged inside a men’s room are given a slight tile-walled echo. “President Wolfman” does not chintz out on such little details, instead taking advantage of every opportunity to pack as many jokes as possible onscreen at once, whether it is by adding silly digital enhancements or the running gag of goofy teletypes.
Pointing out that “President Wolfman” doesn’t fit everyone’s sense of humor is like cautioning someone with a peanut allergy to be wary of Thai food. It goes without saying. Delicate comedic tastes may bristle when the dialogue substitutes r’s for l’s in a Chinese voice, fills black characters’ mouths with jive-talking slang, or playfully gives Indian accents to Native Americans. This isn’t cheap racial insensitivity, however. “President Wolfman” skates by on being a pastiche of the time from which its material is pulled. The intention is innocent amusement, not deliberate outrageousness.
Up for more debate regarding questionable taste is the inclusion of a live birth scene in the backseat of a car. I might be keener on supporting an accusation of indecency if not for the reminder that everything shown onscreen is actually taken from another source. Director Mike Davis may be just as shocked that such a sequence already exists on film, and why not include one more WTF moment in a movie defined by WTF moments?
The irreverent attitude coursing throughout will click with those dialed in to the peculiar brand of comedy. Others may find it insultingly childish. As a movie disinterested in broadly appealing to all comers, “President Wolfman” is equally okay with either reaction. Usually, films that start with a specific goal of pleasing midnight movie crowds try too hard to be kitschy. But “President Wolfman” writes a complete application for contemporary cult classic status as a uniquely inventive experiment in audacious entertainment.
Review Score: 85