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Review: Naomi Watts can’t save low-impact thriller ‘The Wolf Hour’

Naomi Watts in a scene from “The Wolf Hour.”
Naomi Watts in “The Wolf Hour.”
(Alison Cohen Rosa / Brainstorm Media)

The “paranoid woman under siege in her own home” plot has long been a kind of boutique thriller sub-genre, generating classics like “Wait Until Dark” and “Repulsion.” And Naomi Watts is certainly a strong enough actress to put her own spin on this premise in “The Wolf Hour,” as an agoraphobic author named June Leigh barely managing her mounting panic in a sweltering New York apartment in the summer of ’77 — the era of the Son of Sam murders and a big citywide blackout.

Unfortunately, writer-director Alistair Banks Griffin (who previously made the arty 2010 drama “Two Gates of Sleep”) goes too low-key in his approach, spending way more time on who June is than on what she’s enduring. Like too many indie films, “The Wolf Hour” gets off to a grabby start and then rapidly becomes an overly complicated backstory-delivery device, slowly disseminating information — in the most frustratingly roundabout ways — about the heroine’s famous family, and about why her most popular book has doomed her to life as a neurotic recluse.

The threats June perceives from the other side of the door are exemplified by an abrasively buzzing doorbell that keeps wearing on her nerves. This danger eventually become less abstract and more urgent.

Watts is plenty convincing as someone well past the brink of a psychotic break, but “The Wolf Hour” takes too long to get properly cranked up. This movie is mostly just mood-setting, with much more going on in the background than the foreground.

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“The Wolf Hour”
Rating: R, for language and brief sexuality/nudity

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: In limited release
“The Wolf Hour”
Rating: R, for language and brief sexuality/nudity

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: In limited release

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