Love, Death and Robots: “Shape-Shifters” Flash Review
Mar. 18, 2019
A werewolf concludes its transformation by tearing off its human face (image: Netflix)
I looked up next to nothing about the rest of Love, Death & Robots, an animated anthology series that just premiered on Netflix. However, I saw there was at least one episode that involved werewolves, and the short films can be watched in any order, so I leapt right for Episode 10: Shape-Shifters.
Animated via photorealistic motion-capture (which didn’t fall into the uncanny valley, in my opinion), the episode follows two US Marine werewolves at a firebase in Afghanistan. The main character and his friend are the point man and rearguard for patrols, and the opening scene shows why. Unfortunately, they face prejudice from their fellow Marines despite being highly qualified to carry out their mission and serve their country, too. Their commanding officer seems to have more faith in them, but only if the weather is fair.
Without trying to spoil too much, the story intensifies quickly and delivers on its horror and war drama promise. We’re shown the aftermath of a battle at an outpost and left to imagine the terror of how it happened based on what’s left. The Marines aren’t the only side with werewolves.
Not so much a spoiler as a quick note on what these werewolves look like. Lupine heads and bodies, big claws, big teeth, bipedal and quadrupedal movement, with very, very short tails. Transformations seem to be controllable and involve ripping skin. If you like your werewolves to lean more towards horror and snarling, I think you’ll dig their design.
In closing, the episode is quick, tight, delivers on the setup, provides visceral action, and had characters I could enjoy watching more of. It also offers a few ideas to think about and different audiences could read into the underlying themes in different ways. My one slightly negative feeling comes from a sneaking suspicion that I’ve heard this story before. Of course, that could just be because I’ve read other short werewolf stories online, so viewers new to the material may find it all fresh. (Check out QuebecoisWolf’s story “Secrets” if you want more in this vein.) Still, the result is solid. It feels like the crew behind this short put a great deal of effort into their work and I think it shows. Individual mileage with certain elements may vary, but this episode accomplished its mission for this werewolf fan.