Admittedly, it’s always difficult to pull off the ‘one location’ thriller.
While the concept sounds great, it’s a challenge to maintain intensity when there’s very little space or characters. (There have been some successes over the years. Ryan Reynold’s overlooked Buried comes to mind.) However, when the premise loses its way, they can be a difficult watch. Unfortunately, Rising Wolf is a film that never gets off the ground.
Written and directed by Antaine Furlong, Rising Wolf tells the story of Aria Wolf (Charlotte Best), a young woman who wakes up terrified to find herself trapped in a high-tech elevator. With limited cell reception and no one around, she attempts to escape to no avail. Suddenly, a screen lights up that reveals her father, Richard (Jonny Pasvolsky) has been kidnapped and is being tortured before her eyes. As Aria watches in horror, she also begins to have flashbacks that reveal a very different childhood than she remembers and secrets from her family’s past begin to break through.
Rising Wolf is an ambitious film that has a story that has as many ups and downs as the elevator that it features. Featuring a mysterious and complicated backstory with supernatural elements, the film has great potential to be absolutely gripping. However, the pieces of mythology that are meant to hold the film together simply never fully gel.
Having said this, there are things to like about Wolf. A film like this is a tremendous burden on the shoulders of its star and Best does do her best with the material. At the same time, the film’s core mystery reveals itself in a proper pacing for the runtime, which allows the audience to become more invested in Aria’s well-being. Built on the back of flashbacks, there is far more going on within this story than first expected. (“This isn’t going to make sense at first but it will,” she’s told early on.) In this way, Wolf unspools its web of intrigue in a way that draws you in and keeps you engaged throughout its runtime.
Nevertheless, this may also be a case where the script is too ambitious as plotlines begin to become confusing as the film progresses. Wolf has all the ingredients to do something unique but seems so intent on creating a much larger world that it can get lost in its own storytelling. While this may have worked well in an open setting, the claustrophobia atmosphere simply doesn’t have the same effect. (And, honestly, there are only so many times one can watch a person go up and down…)
What Rising Wolf does do quite well though is carry its theme to completion. This is not only a film about family secrets but also questions our trust in memory. For example, though Aria has always trusted her memories, these events have caused her to re-evaluate everything. Suddenly, her most cherished moments are called into question and truth begins to reshape her picture of the world. As a result, although Aria’s world begins to unravel, so too does it become much larger and more powerful. Even though this is a terrifying experience for her, it also points to the fact that truth is larger than our own perspectives and feelings. While we can get wrapped up on our own ideas, fears and beliefs, it’s humbling to realize that things are bigger (and oftentimes, better) than our own views.
Though it has the potential to rise to new heights, Rising Wolf simply drops the ball. Aside from a fairly endearing performance by Best, Wolf can’t deliver on its high stakes premise and interesting mythology. In short, rather than taking this trip, maybe it’s just better to take the stairs and walk away.
Rising Wolf is available on demand on Friday, August 6th, 2021.