'Lycan': Film Review

Lycan Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group
A run-of-the-mill werewolf thriller with a psychological angle.

Dania Ramirez plays a misfit student on an ill-fated camping trip in husband Bev Land's first feature.

A half-dozen students pick the wrong subject to research for history class in Lycan, a stuck-in-the-woods slasher film that flirts unsatisfyingly with werewolf themes. The debut feature for director Bev Land, husband of the picture's star Dania Ramirez, it intends to introduce novelty to its overfamiliar setup, but uneven casting and a very thin script get in the way. Commercial prospects are slim, even among horror die-hards.

Ramirez plays Isabella, a campus misfit randomly assigned to a group of students for a class project. Told to select a historical subject that needs reevaluation, these six pass over the opportunity to prove a black felon was wrongly convicted in favor of exploring a lurid old newspaper story about "The Werewolf of Talbot County." It appears that the gravesite of the suspected werewolf is on property adjoining the farm where Isabella lives; over her protestations, the team sets out on horseback to camp in the woods until they can dig up some evidence.

Land and co-screenwriter Michael Mordler offer the usual Breakfast Club hodgepodge of campus stereotypes — jock and smart-ass stoner, preppy grade-grubber, prissy sorority girl and her fashion-obsessed sidekick. Their banter is less clever than bitchy, ensuring that we won't mind much when they start dying off; trouble is, there might not be one of these kids we care enough about to root for.

The intentionally mixed signals sent out by the picture from its first scenes — is Isabella mentally ill, the victim of an ancient curse, or both? — are more muddy than tantalizing, and adding a romantic angle doesn't change that much: Hunky Blake (Jake Lockett), rather than hooking up with one of the sorority girls, longs for the troubled Isabella and can't understand why she's so skittish.

He'll find out soon enough. But not until after a series of violent encounters in the forest, nighttime scenes staged and photographed unappealingly by Land and lenser Colin Michael Quinn. Genre-savvy viewers will know to expect the eventual return of Isabella's landlady, a "crazy cat lady" played by Gail O'Grady. But while that resolves some of the plot's questions, it does little to raise the emotional stakes or make us more invested in these bland campers' survival.

Production company: 1 Bullet in the Gun Productions
Distributor: Parade Deck Films
Cast: Dania Ramirez, Jake Lockett, Parker Croft, Rebekah Graf, Craig Tate, Kalia Prescott, Gail O'Grady
Director: Bev Land
Screenwriters: Bev Land, Michael Mordler
Producers: Crystal Hunt, Bev Land, Donnie Land, Dania Ramirez
Director of photography: Colin Michael Quinn
Production designer: Jacob Kiesgen

Costume designer: Pelar Jones
Editors: Kevin Christopher, Michael Schultz
Composer: Jason Pelsey
Casting director: Vanessa Rodriguez

87 minutes