Review: Uncaged (2016)


When it comes to the Universal Monsters, those classic cinema giants, on screen time has been less than equitable. The marquee Monsters – Dracula and the romanticism of vampires, the sorcery and science that made Frankenstein’s Monster, the ancient unstoppable power of the Mummy have all been fairly well represented for the last century plus. While other icons have lost their lust, or simply haven’t shined much since the Golden Age (i.e. The Invisible Man, The Phantom, The Creature), one who despite some big successes remains relatively relegated to the doghouse is my favorite, the Wolfman. While a few standout efforts defined lycanthropy for the genres biggest decade, the 1980s in the form of An American Werewolf In London, The Howling, Wolfen, Teen Wolf the bite of the werewolf diminished a lot throughout the dry spell that was the 1990s (Bad Moon being the truly great lone wolf in the pack) and the uneven plains of the 2000s (Wes Craven and Kevin Williamsons failed experiment Cursed and a dredge of straight to video sleep inducers.) The genre ended up with a sharp division since its heyday and a recent resurgence is ample evidence of this: you either get semi-savvy source material that goes straight for the jugular or an amalgam of classic horror and sarcastic comedy – Uncaged goes for the latter and despite an admirable effort, misses the mark big time.


Pinpointing the problem isn’t too difficult as while a basic plot outline could be provided, it’s a real mess to say the least. You can surmise that protagonist Jack, our hirsute hero seen at the beginning of Uncaged as young boy witnessing his father’s untimely demise at what can no doubt be inferred as a werewolf rampage is destined to be embraced by the tribes of the moon. Fast forward to the eve of his 18th birthday and he and his cousin and friend are off to his uncle’s cabin for a weekend of debauchery. Of course, things get hairy fast and occasionally it can be fun/funny (mostly from the supporting cast and a few of course, unintentionally) but most of the time, there’s a lot of nonsensical points and outright head scratch opportunities. A great deal is birthed from the inability for Uncaged to focus on what kind of film it wants to be; the majority would criticize the blend of horror and comedy which is actually not too bad but is weakened by amateur acting but actually is because we are introduced to so many characters who do nothing to further the story, make little to no impact when they are on screen initially and when it comes full circle back to their development, the viewer is wondering “who the hell is this?” and it’s not a big cast.

There’s also a lot of locale/climate based questions and timeline issues that are completely unresolved and probably could have been alleviated if they’d focused on indoor shots or one exterior environment. It might not have salvaged the holes in the story but it undoubtedly would have made a better movie. Last but not least, there is the paramount question: how exactly does a loup-garou GoPro work? I am not joking. There is a footage playback of Jack attacking a man at the train station in an obvious homage to AWIL but unlike that masterpiece and despite being an inventive and kind of ballsy movie, it’s overall a painful experience for both the viewer and the on screen victim.

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On the positive side, I did enjoy the animation and mixed media – it really breaks up the monotony of the feature and I’m excited to see film makers trying other storytelling avenues. This style almost ramps up the overall appearance of the picture, making it seem in a tad higher tax bracket which in spite a few uneven patches is not a bad looking picture, given the quality of the story and actors. I am sure criticism would be lobbed at the make-up effects and transformation sequences which without spoiling anything, look a lot more Scott McCall than Eddie Quist but for the low budget and limited shooting schedule don’t ruin the movie in the least. Werewolves on a tight bankroll aren’t easy to do and I’d prefer the cheapest practical than anymore Underworld or Van Helsing computer generated ones. I also thought the score/soundtrack fit well and some of the DP work belies its humble origins.


While I welcome any werewolf film, being my absolute favorite of the OG monsters and don’t think Uncaged is necessarily a bad flick, it’s not a particularly good one either. This would have been a lot more successful as a horror film fest long play entered into the shorts category or maybe even part of an anthology. The meat of the movie is maybe 30 minutes at best, 45 tops and this flick is almost double that running time, leaving a lot of worthless scraps for diehard lycanthrope lovers.