Brotherhood of the Wolf (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

In 18th-century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend Mani are sent to the Gevaudan province at the king's behest to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.

May 22, 2023 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Crossing film genres is nothing new to the film industry. In fact, many projects are green-lighted or scripts sold on pitches like, “Imagine this: The Matrix meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Which very well could have been the pitch for Brotherhood of the Wolf, but besides that, who would have thought that the French would make such a film and, as it turns out, know what they were doing? But they did, and the result is a film that has the cinematography, editing, and overall visual style of its foreign counterparts filtered through the artistic lens of its French origins. Though it’s an American- or Asian-like action film, Brotherhood is based on a true tale from French lore, so director Christophe Gans and his crew had the natural right to make it. In late eighteenth century France, sixty women and children were mysteriously mutilated and killed, and the King ordered the capture and death of the “Beast” suspected to be the killer. The film romanticizes the idea, of course, by including Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), his Iroquois aide Mani (Mark Dacascos), and a whole mix of evil occult members, political conspiracies, stunning martial arts, bordellos, and a monster thirsty for innocent blood. While Fronsac and Mani hunt the Beast, they discover dark secrets and get drawn into a supernatural world but still manage to kick a lot of butt along the way.

Sounds like a true Hollywood adventure, doesn’t it? Le Pact des loups is all French, though, and it’s subtitled in America it’s subtitled in English. Like with any subtitled film, this is a bit of an unfortunate distraction from the action on screen, and it’s especially a shame with this film because of its fast-paced action and beautiful cinematography. The gritty, rich images have nearly the same look as the awesome photography of The Fellowship of the Ring. Likewise, the tempo of the editing and film speed alteration during fight scenes is perfectly done and quite impressive — but they themselves are overshadowed by the booming sound effects that come with every fight and growl of the Beast. The technical aspects certainly make the movie entertaining, and it’s made even more so by the liberties director Gans takes with other film styles. The opening of the film even mirrors Steven Spielberg’s Jaws as a woman violently writhes under the attack of an unseen predator, and the fighting scenes are just as fantastic as those from The Matrix and, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The period nature of the film is also reminiscent of something like The Last of the Mohicans. And as surprising as it may sound, this monster movie/martial arts/period epic combination truly works. It’s what makes Brotherhood a worthwhile film.

It works so well that director Christophe Gans makes us wonder if an American crew would have made the film as entertaining. He borrows techniques from famous American and Asian films but knows exactly how to use them and how to make it seem more like an homage than piracy. Such care with filmmaking is seldom taken with larger productions anymore, and Brotherhood of the Wolf, though a low-profile release, is just as good as many popular American films of the same type. Thematically, the film may relate to Americans more than is apparent. The title refers to a secret society revealed late in the film, whose role is to protect the interests of the Catholic Church in rural France. With their hooded dress and secretive meetings, they bear more than a passing resemblance to the Ku Klux Klan, who were involved in “protecting the interests” of whites in the American South after the Civil War through similarly horrific means. Although for the most part director Gans simply portrays them as villainous characters, the parallels (likely unintentional) provide an interesting light on the historically based subplots.

Video: How does it look?

It’s been over two decades since I sat down to watch this, so I think the slate is clean when it comes to my memory and how I remember this looking. Shout!Factory came out with a special edition Blu-ray a few years ago (included in this set), which left some less than desirable results – namely the image was a bit muddled and dark. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a dark movie, but this new 4K image seems to have rectified some of those issues. There’s a little more detail at work here and there is a deeper contrast when compared to the Blu-ray. It’s still not perfect, but a modes step up in picture quality from the previously-released Blu-ray.

Audio: How does it sound?

The same DTS HD Master Audio mix found on the Blu-ray has made the leap to this 4K disc. Simply put, I was blown away by the creative use of the channels, from directional effects to excellent pans to all other manner of usage, this is one awesome track. The subwoofer even gets to chime in on many, many occasions and I think this mix could easily be used to showcase a home theater, as it is that damn good. There’s never a problem with dialogue however, which remains clean and easy to understand, even in the most powerful audio sequences. Of note, there is a French track which does provide a more unique listening experience, but if your French isn’t what it should be (and you don’t want to read subtitles), then that track might not be for you.

Supplements: What are the extras?

All of the supplements are found on the third disc, the Blu-ray that was bundled with the previously-released set. That said, it’s a decent selection of extras.

  • Brotherhood of the Wolf: Guts of the Beast – This 80-minute documentary is about everything and anything you could want to know about the film. Interviews with the cast and crew and everything in between. If this movie is your thing, you’ll be right at home. As with the movie, this is in French but
  • The Making of Brotherhood of the Wolf – The more aptly-titled segment runs nearly as long as the above, though the focus isn’t quite as centered on the lore, more of (as the title would indicate) the making of the film itself. All the usual pieces are in place, making for an interesting watch.
  • Legend – An interview with author, Michel Louis, who wrote the novel the film was based on. He shares his knowledge of the lore as well as some candid thoughts on the film itself.
  • Deleted Scenes – Just over 40 minutes’ worth are included, each with an introduction by director Christophe Gans. Given the film’s already lengthy running time of 150 minutes, these were trimmed for the film’s final release.
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line

In the realm of French horror movies (and I’m not entirely sure how many that encompasses), The Brotherhood of the Wolf is among the best. It might not be for everyone, but if it’s your thing – Shout’s new disc looks the best the film ever has.

Disc Scores