There are two things that immediately stand out about Project Wolf Hunting. First, the ungainly title. (It’s the “-ing” that throws me off.) Second, the gallons upon gallons of fake blood the movie spills in its nearly two-hour runtime. Unfortunately, despite the silly name or the geysers of gore, there’s not enough fun to be wrung out of this imported action/horror hybrid.
The story is straightforward Die Hard with most of the action taking place in a single location. A freighter transports dangerous extradited criminals from the Philippines back to their native South Korea. Things go wrong, the criminals take control of the ship, and out of left field a genetically altered monster of a man who just happened to be transported in the bowels of the same ship interrupts the standoff between cops and criminals and goes on a killing spree.
With the stalking villain taking out the crew, there’s more than a pinch of Predator here too. The main villain, with his eyes sewn shut, even sees with infrared vision, much like the crab-faced aliens from that 80s action classic.
There are a lot of characters in this movie. Notice, though, that I didn’t mention a single one by name. That’s because none of them are important. Oh, to be sure, the movie takes its time in setting up the myriad cops and criminals that board the freighter, but in the end, most are just cannon fodder. This is probably done on purpose, possibly as a sick joke or to keep the audience on their toes: whoever you think is the main character and thus safe, probably isn’t, and will be dispatched in some gruesome way.
This leaves a giant John McClane-sized hole in the center of the movie, though. There’s nobody with a personality to guide us through this scuzzy world of violence. The cops are boring and one-note, with most being ineffective at best. The criminals stand out more with their full-body tattoos and over-the-top gesticulations, but they’re too rotten to be any fun and definitely not qualified to be a Snake Plissken type of anti-hero. Eventually, one character does end up having a bit of agency, with more backstory and motivation than the rest, ending up a sorta-protagonist, but with the character’s stone-faced stoicism, it’s a pretty feeble attempt by the filmmakers to give us somebody to care about that also comes far too late in the story. With nobody to root for, the characters are all just…bodies, bodies that will be shot, crushed, bludgeoned (there’s a lot of bludgeoning in this movie), stabbed, you name it.
And that really is the film’s calling card. The gore. The effects work is well done. I often felt bad for the actors because the jet streams of blood shooting out of every facial orifice could not have been fun to film. But once you’ve seen the first moment of grand guignol carnage, you’ve basically seen them all. Occasionally, something audacious happens, like one poor sap whose arm is ripped off and is then beaten to death with his own appendage. Mostly, though, it’s just the same bloody note smashed (…and smeared, and squished) over and over again. Once the initial shock wears off, monotony sets in quickly.
What’s missing is a sense of escalation. Peter Jackson’s early films, gorefests like Bad Taste and Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead), relished coming up with new twisted and ingenious ways to top the last stomach-churning moment. And despite all of that red splashed across the screen, a sense of fun permeated those films.
Project Wolf Hunting never quite commits to a tone and ends up not being much fun at all. If the movie were an eye, we would find no glint in it. Actually, if this movie were an eye, it would probably be a gouged-out one…
Project Wolf Hunting hits Digital, Blu-ray & DVD on February 14