A walk-in-the-woods movie with a limited cast and perhaps too much revised mythology to take on board in one go, Seb Cox’s Are We Monsters stretches its resources imaginatively – in an overworked sub-genre, it definitely comes up with things you’ve not seen before, which more than compensates for the occasional awkward patch of dialogue.
A veteran werewolf hunter (Justin Hayward) has been passing on his knowledge to his two sons – thoughtful Everett (John Black) and resolute Connor (Stefan Chanyaem) – but dies in a skirmish with a pair of uniquely-designed long-necked beasts (‘they don’t look like a wolf at all’). The hunters have the last silver bullet manufactured by a process that’s now lost but understand that a normally invulnerable creature is killable during the night of the blood moon (we get an animated illustration of what this phenomenon is). Also in the woods is Maya (Charlotte Olivia), a young girl who’s also the last werewolf and not sure if she should even try to survive, and Luke (Jathis Sivanesan), an enthusiast for the paranormal who is keeping secret the reason why he’s not afraid to spend time with a creature predisposed to rip him to pieces. Over the course of the characters’ traipse through pretty English woods, they talk about the mythic origins of lycanthropy – which involve the sun and moon deities Helios and Selene, and also get a scratchy animated flashback – and whether it’s time for monster hunters as well as monsters to find new ways of getting on in the world.
Early on, the monster manifests as a white CGI critter with a rokurubi-style neck and a jagged maw – but as the movie progresses, an etched-on-the-image animated form takes over, like some crude picture app or a device from a preschool TV series trying for a scary episode. It works surprisingly well, especially given that the thrust of the story – from the title on – is to question how monstrous the monsters are. Written by Black and Cox.