Somewhere in rural England, a man is running. Everywhere he goes, his movements are tracked by hidden security cameras and a low-flying helicopter, which reports his movements to several armed men. They pursue the fugitive. However, each time they catch the man, despite being armed with guns, they let him go. This proceeds for some until the man runs onto the grounds of a mansion, where suddenly the armed men reappear and open fire and it is then revealed that their guns are loaded with blanks. The man - Tom Newcliffe - is unharmed.
Cut to a control room inside the mansion, where a refreshed Tom, now revealed as the wealthy owner of the house and all the land around it, is talking to a his Polish chief of security, Pavel. He has turned the isolated country estate into an impenetrable fortress patrolled by armed guards and helicopters, and overseen by security cameras and hidden microphones, both inside the house and in the woods. Tom was testing the effectiveness of the system, using himself as bait. He seems satisfied.
Pavel is slightly in the dark about why his boss wants all this added security. Tom isn't terribly forthcoming about his reasons. He tells Pavel he'll learn what it is he intends to hunt soon. Later, Tom and his wife Caroline are greeting some guests they've invited out to a weekend get-together. Or, should I say, Tom has invited them - Caroline has never even heard of half of the people he's invited. But Tom seems to know each of them intimately, having done extensive research on each of them. One by one, he introduces them to Caroline.
First up is Arthur Bennington, a former United Nations diplomat. Apparently, he and two others of the diplomatic corps got into a scrape and the other two turned up dead. Only Bennington survived. Bennington was exonerated but fired from his job. He now works as a TV show host.
Then we have Jan Jarmokowski, a former concert pianist. Once renowned throughout the world, he is unwelcome in certain European countries because every time he was in town to perform, there were grisly murders.
Davina Gilmore, a wealthy socialite, has been separated from her boyfriend Jan following some kind of fight between them. According to Tom, every time she attends a party, they always come up a guest short.
Then there is Paul Foote. A former medical student turned artist, Paul and some friends, while in medical school, once ate some flesh from one of the cadavers, leading to their expulsion. Later, during his career as an artist, there was a murder, and one of Paul's paintings just happened to resemble the victim. Paul claims he saw the victim's face in a newspaper photo, but Tom isn't so sure.
Lastly, we have Dr. Christopher Lundgren, who is a Swedish archaeologist by trade but whose personal hobby is cryptzoology. In particular - and here, we see why Tom saved him for last - Lundgren is a self-professed expert on werewolves.
This shocks the other guests and Tom explains that he believes without a shadow of a doubt that one of them is a werewolf, and he aims to prove it and slay the monster. The full moon is coming up, he says, and will last for three days, and with all the added security around the house, there is no way the werewolf can escape, and he vows wait until the werewolf's identity is revealed, and then hunt and kill it - after which the remaining guests may leave.
Tom's plan seems foolproof. The security system airtight. The guards well-trained. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. Before the three days are over, the Newcliffe's guest list will be quite a bit shorter...
This is a fine and fun little werewolf film, with some great performances. We have Peter Cushing doing a Swedish accent he lapses in and out of; the smarmy, acid-tongued Charles Gray; the painfully handsome and soft-spoken Anton Diffring; and, years before his turn as Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, Michael Gambon. There's also Ciaran Madden, although she's a bit on the wooden side; making up for this where the fairer sex are concerned is the positively gorgeous Marlene Clark.
But the true standout performances are Calvin Lockhart as Tom Newcliffe and Tom Chadbon as Paul Foote.
Lockhart lords himself over all of the other actors, even stalwarts like Charles Gray and Peter Cushing. Lockhart's delivery is a bit stilted at times, but, nevertheless, his sheer charisma and force of personality make give his Tom an utterly magnetic and engaging screen presence. He's like a modern day Captain Ahab, too, growing more and more crazed and obsessed at figuring out who the werewolf is each time he fails to kill it.
And then we have Tom Chadbon. He's an absolute joy here. His Paul Foote is quite simply the funniest and most engaging character in the entire film. He doesn't take anything seriously and is constantly making jokes, even in the most dire circumstances; clearly, Paul operates on an entirely different plain of mental existence from the other people in the mansion.
If the movie has one weakness, it's the werewolf itself. Apparently, Amicus blew its entire budget renting a helicopter, that they had zilch left over for the monster, so the titular beast is played by an actual wolf. Or, at least, a large dog that looks reasonably enough like a wolf. Still, to Amicus' credit, they keep the critter mostly offscreen and let the suspense and the drama drive the story, and, when the shaggy abomination does rear its cute head and waggy tail, they shoot the attack scenes around the animal, and it works fairly well.