The Problem With Werewolf Movies

A. Quinton — Jul. 11th 2008’s Jon Abrams waxes philisophical in a fantastic essay about why werewolf movies basically stink. He suggests (rightly, in my opinion) that while every genre, sub-genre and niche in film has its diamonds in the rough, werewolf movies are fundamentally lacking.

Every major strain of genre filmmaking, whether it be the war movie or the alien invasion/science fiction movie, the time travel movie or the samurai movie, the Western or the boxing movie or the comic book movie or the vampire movie – all these have their few-and-far-between classics that make sitting through all the more inferior efforts worthwhile. The exception is the werewolf movie.

I’m inclined to agree with him. Other than An American Werewolf in London, which was great more for its horror, humour and effects than its story, can anyone name a truly excellent werewolf film– one that doesn’t require a real effort to appreciate?

The werewolf is a fantastic metaphor for so many aspects of human life that we’re afraid to address directly: loneliness, rage, indecision, lust, repression, self-loathing. On a more positive plane, werewolves are also mirrors of our connection to the natural world, the duality of spirit (or higher intelligence) and flesh (or animal instinct). Says Abrams:

Werewolf stories are… about loneliness… the loneliness of being different, of thinking different, of having done different – and terrible – things. An interesting cinematic treatment of werewolves, to me, would be to consider the beast as the Travis Bickle, or perhaps the William Munny, of movie monsters.

There’s a whole library of excellent stories that could be told with a werewolf avatar– tales that could connect with viewers on a level far more profound (and yes, Hollywood, more profitable) than the standard pathos-heavy gore-fests filmmakers have been serving us since the days of Watuma. The technology for representing werewolves on-screen has certainly improved over time, but the imagination and creativity of the storytelling has stagnated. As the cost of filmmaking continues to drop, here’s hoping that this depressing and frustrating trend makes a change for the better.

  • I agree completely. I read a lot of werewolf novels. In fact I am kind of addicted to them. Some of my favorites are the ones by Patricia Briggs and Kelly Armstrong. Even the two books Stray and Rogue by Rachel Vincent are excellent and about werecats instead, but it’s still the same premise. also I just finished the first book called the Silver Wolf by Alichia Borchart(Ann Rice’s late sister).
    What I dislike about werewolf movies is that they are all beasts trying to rip people apart, and loose complete control when they turn.
    Yes, werewolves have rage, but like in the novels, I would like to see some intelligence when they are in their other form. Like in the novels they struggle with the wolf and the human, the indifference and human feeling, the rage and blood lust…but they also revel in night, running free. feeling the breeze, smelling the grass, the air, the earth, hearing everything around. They romp and play with their pack mates, and have a bond with each other that is more pure than any human could ever have.
    My favorite movie with werewolves by far is Underworld. At least they are not senseless beasts who want to rid themselves of their “curse”. Also, the werewolves turned out to be the good guys. After I found out the real story in that movie , I was sad every time a werewolf died. However, still in that movie, when they changed, they were frenzied, stupid beasts. In the second movie, Evolution, William was awesome, but he did not deserve to die.
    I would like to see a movie with with werewolves who are not killing humans, or crazed beasts. I would like to see a movie well done, with werewolves like in the books I read, beautiful and full of depth. Or something like Interview wit a Vampire, but with werewolves.

  • Michael Powell

    I would say that Ginger Snaps is a truly excellent werewolf film, delving into the metaphors of the beast while remaining very entertaining.