Full Moon Features: Freaks of Nature (2015) and Slice (2018)
This month’s Full Moon Feature is a double since I’m covering a pair of films set in places where humans coexist with supernatural creatures. In Freaks of Nature, it’s Dillford, the “Home of the Riblet,” where humans, vampires, and zombies live side by side, with shock collars on the zombies to prevent them from chowing down on the human population and an uneasy truce keeping the humans and vampires from going at each other. Meanwhile, Slice’s Kingfisher is divided between humans and ghosts, but the town’s slogan — “A Great Place to Be Alive!” — is a real slap in the face to its 40,000 deceased residents. Of course, I wouldn’t be talking about either film if they didn’t also feature werewolves, but in both cases the hairy beasts feel like an afterthought, as if the screenwriters decided to throw in another monster at the last minute, which is pretty much when they show up in each film.
The protagonists of Freaks of Nature are high school students Dag (Nicholas Braun), whose hippie parents have long kept from him the fact that he’s a werewolf, newly turned vampire Petra (Mackenzie Davis), who gets labeled a slut for going “all the way” with one of the vamp bullies at their school, and put-upon nerd Ned (Josh Fadem), the smartest kid in school who deliberately gets himself bitten by a zombie after an uninspirational teacher shatters his dream of getting into a good college. Said teacher, who just so happens to be a vampire, also happens to be played by Keegan-Michael Key, one of a number of funny people director Robbie Pickering and screenwriter Oren Uziel don’t spend nearly enough time with.
Other grown-ups who get short shrift in Freaks of Nature are Denis Leary’s asshole riblet plant owner, Bob Odenkirk and Joan Cusack as Dag’s “understanding” parents (who give him The Talk about the changes his body is going through), and Patton Oswalt as a doomsday prepper who’s ready for the coming apocalypse — whatever kind of apocalypse it turns out to be. His decision to let Dag, Petra, and Ned into his shelter in the midst of an alien invasion predictably backfires, but at least he can take comfort in having aided the only creatures — undead or otherwise — standing between Dillford and oblivion.
There’s no alien invasion to foil in Slice, just a conspiracy by a coven of witches to open the gate to Hell located in the basement of Perfect Pizza Base, which is suffering from a shortage of delivery people thanks to the mysterious killer targeting them. Since fugitive werewolf Dax Lycander (Chance the Rapper) is spotted at the scene of each murder, Kingfisher’s mayor (Chris Parnell) is quick to attribute them to him in a series of press conferences. This isn’t too hard to swallow since Dax fled town after the Yummy Yummy Chinese Cuisine Massacre, which claimed six lives, but has returned for reasons known only to writer/director Austin Vesely. (He certainly doesn’t seem too concerned about clearing his name.) Meanwhile, the first victim’s girlfriend (Zazie Beetz) tries to get to the bottom of things since the lead detective on the case is prejudiced against werewolves and therefore eager to pin it all on Dax without any evidence.
“What kind of werewolf are you?” Dax is asked when he’s taken into custody, and the answer turns out to be the kind that needs the moon to be full to wolf out, and when he does the change in his appearance is decidedly underwhelming. (See above. That his transformation back to human form mere minutes later is accomplished with CGI only adds insult to injury.) As in Freaks of Nature, the brightest spots in Slice’s supporting cast are filled by skilled comedians like Parnell and Paul Scheer (as the owner of the cursed pizza place who’s more concerned about the losses in sales than his employees’ lives). To paper over the copious holes in his script, though, Vesely throws in tons of narration by an eager newspaper reporter (Rae Gray) whose efforts to make sense of it all are ultimately beside the point in a film with lines of dialogue like “Godspeed, you Chinese food werewolf.”
Award-winning short “The Hunted” brings a ghost, a werewolf & a monster hunter together
Werewolf Claire in a shot almost certainly paying tribute to An American Werewolf in London (image: GORE Pictures)
Luke is a paranormal hunter who is able to communicate with the spirits of the undead. Claire is a recently turned lycanthrope on the run from the wolves who took away her humanity. And a vengeful spirit named Karen makes these two cross paths.
Based on that synopsis and the trailer, I’d give this a few bucks and ten to twenty minutes of my attention! I’m not likely to get a chance soon, though – The Hunted is currently winning awards on the festival circuit, popping up as recently as March 2019 at NJ Horror Con, with future screenings planned this summer at Indie Horror Film Festival in DeKalb and Reels of the Dead in Las Vegas. Unless they show up at VIFF this autumn, I’ll have to wait until GORE Pictures puts it up online somewhere. Find more information on upcoming screenings at the film’s Facebook page.
For a look at the film’s distinctive (and award-winning) werewolf makeup, check out the Instagram page of makeup artist Alexa Branco. She has a few photos of actress Liz Meinders (who also won awards for this film!) as Claire in (possibly partially-transformed) werewolf mode.
A Brief Visit to Chicago’s Werewolf Coffee Bar
The exterior of Werewolf Coffee Bar, as seen from one of the two(?) available parking spots out front.
After several days spent traipsing around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron on a top-secret mission (during which Tandye won first prize at a monster costume contest), it was time to begin our three-day drive back home to Vancouver, BC. Our route took us from northern Indiana through Illinois. On a day when we planned to drive for twelve hours, we’d generally try to avoid travelling through a metro area like Chicago, but on this Saturday morning, traffic was relatively light, and we had a little spare time, so we took a brief detour off I-94 to Werewolf Coffee Bar.
Like so much of the lycanthropic ephemera I experience, I learned about Werewolf from a passing reference on a podcast. Two of the hosts of Do By Friday, Max and Alex, record in Chicago, at the Lincoln Park headquarters of Cards Against Humanity. Sometime last year, Max made a passing reference to the nearby coffee shop, and a small portion of my brain became forever dedicated to knowing that there was a caffeine retailer called “Werewolf” a mere 2,200 miles from my home.
Werewolf is a truck inside a building, parked by the entrance to a space with high ceilings, plenty of seating, and a design aesthetic that’s much more Glass Walker than Uktena. This quiet, airy space is ostensibly for customers of the coffee bar, although it also seems to serve as a hang-out space for other tenants of the building. We only visited long enough to get our drinks and snap some photos, but I could easily imagine hanging out there for hours.
In addition to coffee and tea, they offer a narrow range of snack food, but I skipped over that to zero in on their merch zone, where they sell t-shirts and patches emblazoned with their logo. Those items – and the signage out front – are the only things that reference werewolves, which is fine, because most of their customers probably aren’t utter fanatics like me. I bought a t-shirt and a patch. Like a fanatic.
Coffee is an essential component of any road trip, and in that context, I am not particularly picky about quality – although I will gladly suffer a withdrawal headache rather than drink Tim Horton’s hot brown water. Werewolf’s coffee menu, however, is calibrated to satisfy people who know about things like Chemex ratios and “bloom”, and their barista provided Tandye and me with the best mocha and Americano of the entire trip.
If one were so inclined, one could probably spend years driving around America, visiting coffee bars and restaurants and nail salons with werewolf-related names. I think the overall experience of such a pilgrimage would be fairly middling – the inclusion of a werewolf theme in an enterprise is no indicator of quality, as werewolf movies have taught us – but perhaps the standout locations would make the effort memorable. Werewolf Coffee Bar certainly rose to the occasion. If you live in the Chicagoland area or are even just passing through, it’s worth stopping by! Just remember to be patient with the parking, and bring an extra fifteen bucks for a t-shirt.
Werewolf Coffee Bar is located at 1765 N. Elston Ave in Chicago, and is open Mon-Fri 6am-4pm, and Saturday 8am-3pm.
Polymer Clay Werewolf Sculpture by Ace of Clay
(image: Ace of Clay)
I’m on a cross-country road trip without my computer, so it’s tricky to post, but after seeing this video in the Werewolf News Slack group, I figured it was worth trying to navigate the process through my phone.
Sculptor and YouTuber “Ace of Clay” recently accepted a viewer request to create a werewolf, and the result, rendered in polymer clay and acrylic paint, is fantastic. Enjoy this nearly 30-minute time-lapse video of the process!
Jesse Bartels & Tandye Rowe
Full Moon Features: Ladyhawke (1985)
Matthew Broderick was a year away from his signature role at the time, but there are many ways in which Phillipe Gaston — the pickpocket he plays in Ladyhawke who goes by the nickname Mouse — is Ferris Bueller transported back to the Middle Ages, substituting his one-sided conversation with God for Ferris’s fourth-wall-breaking asides to the camera. Phillipe talks so much, in fact, that his nickname should have been Motormouth, but that may have been too anachronistic, even for a film with a hard-driving synth-rock soundtrack produced by Alan Parsons.
Often cited as one of Ladyhawke’s biggest flaws, its score (composed by Andrew Powell, who did the orchestral arrangements for the Alan Parsons Project) is far from the film’s only problem. For starters, it’s the kind of medieval epic where all the soldiers’ tunics look brand new (or at the very least freshly cleaned) and their swords all gleam, a marked contrast with Paul Verhoeven’s down and dirty Flesh + Blood, which second-billed Rutger Hauer starred in the very same year. Hauer, incidentally, plays the film’s lycanthrope, a knight named Navarre cursed to live as a wolf by night while Isabeau, his lady love, is a hawk by day. In her human form, she’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer, whose sudden arrival on the scene stuns Phillipe almost as much as the wolf that makes its first appearance (and kills a peasant) the first night he is traveling with Navarre. “There are strange forces at work in your life, magical things that surround you,” he tells the knight the next day, but it is a while before he finds out precisely how strange.
The second night passes without any sight of the wolf (which is no great loss because it is, after all, just a wolf), but on the third day of their journey the hawk is shot with a crossbow bolt (did I mention that Phillipe and Navarre are being pursued by a tyrannical bishop played by John Wood who has dispatched his guards to capture/kill them?) and Phillipe is sent with the wounded bird to the ruined castle of a monk (Leo McKern) who knows all about their curse (“Always together, eternally apart”) and believes he knows how to break it. Alas, there’s a great deal of wheel-spinning to be done before that can occur, stretching the running time to two full — nay, overstuffed — hours.
Since Ladyhawke arrived in the midst of the decade when in-camera transformations were all the rage (even the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” indulged in them), it can’t help but be disappointing that director Richard Donner opts for simple dissolves or cuts between flashes of lightning to change Hauer into a wolf and Pfeiffer into a hawk and back again. That’s the difference between horror and high fantasy, though. No need to make the transition seem physically painful since Navarre and Isabeau are enduring the emotional cruelty of being kept apart.
Nightmare Force’s DemonDawg Mask is a Real Monster
The DemonDawg mask representing what it would look like if Hell had glamour shots (image: Andrew James)
Looking like a cross between a classic short-muzzled wolfman, a scorched demon, and Rawhead Rex, the DemonDawg is a great option if you want a mask that says “I have just killed so, so, so many people who thought silver bullets would work, and you’re next” while repping a lycanthropic style. It’s available from Nightmare Force for a surprisingly modest fee in both “wearable” and “display” variants.
My thanks to collector Andrew James (nuclear.satan on Instagram) for making this mask known to me, and for taking the fantastic photo featured at the top of this post. The product photos on Nightmare Force’s site are adequate, but Andrew’s photo makes this mask look like it costs a hell of a lot more than $165 USD!
“Ask the Werewolves” Is Back!
Blackbird and Duran, werewolves and dispensers of werewolf life experience (image: askthewerewolves.com)
After a brief hiatus, JD Laclede’s comic Ask the Werewolves has returned with a new site on a new platform, bringing with it the promise of new comics and more werewolf Q&As.
Following the veritable collapse of Tumblr as a place to maintain an audience (or functional platform), JDL began porting over the content, collected comic volumes and “Ask” functionality of ATW. That work was completed today.
Ask The Werewolves has been answering viewer questions about the lives of a young werewolf couple since 2015. Originally on Tumblr, this blog was relocated to its own site at the tail end of 2018. The comic book series has taken things toward an ongoing narrative, while blog questions are answered as best as these two werewolves can.
I’ve been a fan of JDL’s work since I discovered Ask the Werewolves in late 2015. I’ve since devoured the whole series to date, plus his other stellar comic, El-Indon, and we’ve been helping each other with various projects since 2016. I’m very happy to see Blackbird and Duran return to the web, and I look forward to more questions, answers, and irresponsible behaviour from both of them.
Jordu Schell Werewolf Mask
A very detailed, very expensive, very worth-it werewolf mask (image: Schell Sculpture Studio Facebook Page)
Another cool find from the Latex Mask Central Facebook group! A group member posted an unboxing video for a Jordu Schell werewolf mask, which immediately sent me into a panic as I tried to learn who is Jordu Schell and where can I get one of these masks?
Schell is a sculptor and concept artist who’s responsible for many iconic film creatures, including the distinctive Predator design from Predator 2 and the Na’vi from Avatar.
This fantastic wolfman-style werewolf mask was available from the Schell Sculpture Studio store at a sale price of $1,400 USD, but the limited edition run already sold out.
…Each mask was sculpted by Jordu Schell, and is painted by him personally, bringing his highly unique and individual sense of quality to every mask that is sold. Jordu’s passion for the craft is evident in the incredibly lifelike eyes, glistening fangs and singly-punched hairs that adorn these fine creations, making these pieces far more than a disposable Halloween novelty*, but singular works of art unmatched in their design, paintwork, finishing and overall quality.
*These masks are NOT wearable.
For me, the knowledge that this is a display-only mask takes the sting out of its sold-out status. I don’t currently have $1,400 USD laying around to spend on a functional creature mask, much less a collectable art object. Given the detail of the finished result and the sheer effort required to make each one, I think the price is more than fair, but if I can’t wear it, I’m happy to save some money and simply appreciate some JPGs of the incredible design. I’ve included a few below, and you can see many more on the Schell Sculpture Studio web site.
All images via Schell Sculpture Studio.
Is There a Werewolf in Netflix’s “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”? [Spoilers]
Sabrina is threatened by a mysterious muzzle (image: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2 | Official Trailer)
In late 2018 Netflix released the first ten episodes of a new live-action show called Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the young witch character who inhabits the Archie comics universe. The show was originally conceived as a companion piece to The CW’s Riverdale, a previously-established series based on the core roster of Archie characters. Sabrina was bounced to Netflix before production began, and a 20-episode first season was shot in and around Vancouver, BC, with the same crew as Riverdale.
Despite the shared crew and adjoining production schedules, the move dissolved any initial plans there might have been to set up crossovers between the two series, which was just as well. Riverdale is a teen drama that, despite its surprisingly noir style, is grounded in the real world. Sabrina is named after a teenage witch who contends with demons, casts spells that can cure alcoholism and turn people into basketball pros, and she lives with her Satan-worshipping aunts. No longer obligated to maintain bridges with the more square world of Riverdale, the first season of Sabrina – split into two 10-episode chunks because why not – was free to populate its episodes with supernatural creatures that would send Archie into the fetal position.
The first 10 episodes included a variety of creatures, including grotesque demons, avian psychopomps, zombies, ghosts, and an impressive goat-beast rendition of Satan. The trailer for part two arrived in Spring 2019 and featured glimpses of more horrific creatures, including a tantalizingly lupine muzzle that had me wondering which character from the previous episodes might possibly have some lycanthropy in their future.
So when my wife and I sat down to watch Chilling Adventures of Sabrina part two, shortly after its April 5th debut, I had only two questions on my mind: will I ever get used to the weird way all the characters pronounce the phrase “The Dark Lord”? And, more importantly, have they managed to work a werewolf into the smirking, baroque mythology of this show?Spoilers Follow
Under a Blood Red Moon
Our unnamed protagonist shows off her new manicure (image: Black Eye Media AB)
Under A Blood Red Moon by Sweden’s Black Eye Media AB isn’t a real film – the Vimeo page for the clip says “is NOT based on a real existing film, therefore it is not a commercial product”. It’s described as a pilot, a trailer, and a short film within the space of three sentences. Whatever it is, this clip has many of the werewolf movie tropes we all know and love: casual transformation, a dire warning, some internet research, some overt sexuality, and of course, running through the woods.
I like the lead actress and the werewolf effects quite a bit, and the detective in the interrogation room has a flustered charm I enjoy. It’s a shame this trailer isn’t really for anything… it’s three years old, and if it was going to become something more, it probably would have happened by now. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see some of these classic werewolf movie bits done with some real proficiency.