Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des loups)
Brotherhood of the Wolf revisits the French legend of the Beast of Gevaudan, which allegedly was responsible for the violent deaths of over 100 persons in the mid-18th century during the reign of King Louis XV.
When the mutilated corpses of women and children begin appearing across the French countryside, the Royal Court sends Knight Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel le Bihan), a renowned scientist, to find and capture the wolf they believe is responsible for the vicious killings. With the help of his blood brother Mani (Mark Dacascos), a Mohawk Indian from Canada skilled in spiritual shaman techniques, de Fronsac sets out to hunt the beast down. The two men leave Paris to stay at the country home of the Marquis d'Apcher, whose grandson Thomas serves as their guide, but are met with a strangely chilly reception from the locals. During the course of their investigation, de Fronsac falls in love with Marianne de Morangias (Emilie Duquenne), the daughter of an extremely influential family in the region. But de Fronsac finds out the locals, and Marianne's family, are hiding a sinister secret and soon discovers that this beast is far more dangerous than any wolf or myth.
Samuel le Bihan (Total Western) is perfect as Gregoire de Fronsac. His portrayal of the character doesn't come across as pompous or superior but as an experienced, worldly scientist driven by a sense of curiosity and interest. His brother Mani is played by Mark Dacascos (The Island of Dr. Moreau) and though he doesn't say much throughout the film because of the language barrier, he uses physical means to express his character's wisdom and spirituality. As de Fronsac's love interest, Emilie Duquenne (Rosetta), with her pale skin and flushed cheeks, portrays Marianne as an intelligent and headstrong woman who doesn't put up with games and deceit. Her one-armed brother is played by Vincent Cassel (Jeanne D'Arc), who has this eerie way of portraying the character's ambivalence. There is always the underlying impression that something is not right with him, but it is impossible to pin down what exactly it is.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is the subtitled version of the French film Le Pacte des Loups which was released in France in January of 2001. The director, Christophe Gans (Crying Freedom), creates an elaborate period piece with the tension and gore of a fantasy horror film. The story of the Beast of Gevaudan alone is mesmerizing, but Gans takes suspense to a whole new level by never actually revealing the beast to the viewer until the very end of the picture. But it is the carnage the beast leaves behind and the terror it strikes in people that instills fear and anxiety rather than special effects (the actual animatronic beast, which was created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, is not all that spectacular). The film also contains many stunning fight scenes involving Mani, choreographed by Philipe Kwok (Tomorrow Never Dies). The film, however, is bit on the long side at 140 minutes and a few story lines are definitely expendable.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is a ruthless blend of history and supernatural. It never lulls and keeps its intensity all the way through to its twisted and bizarre ending.