Week 17: “Talking About Werewolf Films”
I’m a huge fan of the werewolf film. I always have been since I first saw The Howling (1981). Sorry for those of you that prefer An American Werewolf in London (1981) but that film has nothing over this one. For the most part, the traditional werewolf film played with theme of man’s primal urges come to the surface in our most animal form. Uncontrollable. Unknowable. Unpredictable. That’s what made the werewolf such a formidable foe especially in films where an innocent person is turned into the werewolf and s/he must spend the rest of the film in a battle against themselves.
I’d first like to take a look at the original werewolf in which a man (or woman) is cursed and must spend the rest of the film grappling with their inner demons. The original Universal film The Wolf Man (1941) without a doubt is one of the best. It’s 2010 remake The Wolfman (with Benicio Del Toro) was an impressive update on the story but relied too much on CGI. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) is one of my favorite Hammer Studios films and it’s a shame that a sequel was never made. Wolf (1994) is one of the more prestigious werewolf films because of its amazing cast and direction and it never disappoints. Ginger Snaps (2000) is probably one of the most famous in recent memory not only because it features horror-loving females as the main characters but it was smart and intelligent and something audiences had never seen before. It was so popular that they produced two equally impressive sequels Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004) and Ginger Snaps Back (2004) which took the same theme and applied it in new and different ways. On a lesser note is the Wes Craven directed fiasco Cursed (2005) and the less said about that film the better. I would like to mention the infamous An American Werewolf in Paris (1997) which is a personal guilty pleasure which I’m sure would’ve been better received if not for the early CGI werewolf transformations which are less than satisfactory but actors Julie Delpy and Tom Everett Scott do a marvelous job balancing the comedy with the action and horror. I’m also a big fan of director Anthony Waller whose big budget break buried his career.
When it comes to werewolf films a lot of the times the main character is dropped into the world of the werewolf without knowing what is truly going on. Dog Soldiers (2002) is probably one of the more recent popular ones but I’m also a fan Silver Bullitt (1985), Bad Moon (1996) and Wild Country (2005). Many of The Howling films also delve into this like The Howling III: The Marsupials (1987) and The Howling V: The Rebirth (1989) and The Howling VI: The Freaks (1991).
Sometimes werewolves are not even werewolves but just plain old wolves such as Wolfen (1981) which is one of my all-time favorites so if you haven’t seen this film then I suggest you check it out. There is also the tamer Ladyhawke (1985), Red Riding Hood (2011) and Blood & Chocolate (2007), the latter of which stars the always enjoyable Agnes Bruckner. There are also the infamous Twilight Saga franchise of films which feature the larger than life wolves. I may not enjoy the films but I have to admit that the CGI wolves got better with each subsequent films.
Now come the guilty pleasure werewolf films and films in which the werewolf doesn’t play a huge part. I love the films where the werewolf doesn’t play a huge part like in The Monster Squad (1987) which has all the classic monsters of which the Wolf Man is just one. This goes the same for Van Helsing (2004) in which only the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster were the only interesting characters. I’m also a huge fan of the Underworld franchise but for the most part the werewolves were sidelined to the vampire characters, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek them out if you haven’t already seen them (there are currently four films in the franchise). There is also the original Teen Wolf (1985), which was a ‘80s version of the Wolf Man as portrayed by Michael J. Fox in his prime as an actor. It’s one not to miss. The anthology film Trick ‘R Treat (2007) also had some amazing werewolves in it as does the entertainingly fun Waxwork (1988). A film I wasn’t too fond of the werewolves but enjoy for entertainment value is Skinwalkers (2006).
There are tons of other werewolf films (and sequels) that I’ve not mentioned here mostly because I haven’t seen them all. The more I come across, the more I realize I’ve yet to see so my list of films to watch continues to grow. I hope that this list has a few gems you’ve not seen as well. Werewolf films are not as glamorous as the vampire and zombie films so there will never be as many of those films but it is a genre that should be looked at from time to time.