For a movie about a werewolf, Cate Caplin’s Mating Dance is a stirring and thought-provoking film. Adapted from the play “Mating Dance of the Werewolf” by Canadian playwright Mark Stein, the movie came about as Caplin was asked to write a vampire, slasher, film for Cineville. When inspiration ran dry, she pitched the idea of a werewolf play after recently completing choreography for “Mating Dance of the Werewolf,” which was produced at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, CA. As she explains it, “I thought maybe it might fit into the criteria of the edgy thrillers they were looking for and at the same time satisfy my love for strong characters, dance and comedy within theatrical story telling.”
The end result is a film akin to Interview With a Vampire, as Caplin gives a humane, character-driven approach to a startling and lofty subject matter. Her touch helps create a sensual, lustful, quirky drama about a woman with lycanthropic impulses and a carnal desire for murder. If this sounds all a bit out there, that’s because it is, but then again this is a story about a werewolf, how much gravity can one expect? The meat of the film is the strong acting, cinematography and choreography.
Lead role Lauren German as Abby, the aforementioned werewolf is incredible. She’s sexy, enigmatic, engaging, inviting and highly charismatic, if not a little nuts. Ken, the man courting her, played effectively by Shawn Christian does well in his role and adds a dose of reality to the film. The amount of times he second-guesses Abby and then succumbs to her is wholly realistic and highly effective. Lisa Rotondi’s turn as Ken’s ex-girlfriend Pam is another solid touch to the film and the key link to the depth and complexity of the script. Touted as a cop thriller with a twist, it’s more or less a character study about deception, betrayal and romance.
Eric Lang as Ken’s friend Allen, inserted to add a bit of a Sideways buddy comedy element, according to director Caplin, is a bit of a stretch and easily the film’s weakest point. Roberto Sanchez as Raul, the new love interest of Pam, and the cop trying to solve the crime is another plothole that leaves a bit to be desired. Though there is some weak acting and it does takes a few soap opera-like turns, it’s a winning film and a nice addition to an ever-growing movie library.
Looking beyond the film though, and realizing the work that went into it, is what makes seeing “Mating Dance” worth it. Director/writer Caplin is a world champion theatrical ballroom dancer and award winning choreographer who treated the film’s narrative structure in a choreographed manner. To put it bluntly, the character of Abby (Lauren German) dances in and around the lives of these four friends and their lives are captivated and turned upside down by her presence. Numerous scenes, including Pam’s seduction of Ken, a club scene between Pam and Raul, a dancing scene between Allen and Abby, a head-turning sniffing scene, and the numerous seduction scenes are carefully choreographed and physically staged. To quote Caplin, “We rehearsed the film like a play and worked out all the moments and actually had a run through before we went into our intense shooting schedule. A good shoot day is typically 4-6 pages and we were shooting 12-15 pages a day. It was intensely storyboarded and rehearsed and that’s how we were able to knock out the whole film in 12 days.”
The film was screened at the Long Island International Film Expo and has already appeared at the Riverside International Film Festival, The West Hollywood International Film Festival and will screen on opening night at the Central Florida International Film Festival. With German’s captivating presence, Eric MacIver’s tantalizing cinematography and Caplin’s deft work as director/writer, there are enough reasons to consider this trio as surefire up-and-comers. For all it’s flaws, Mating Dance is the surefire arrival of new talent on the rise.