Category: Film, Television & Music

Feral wolf-kids never looked so timeless as in this “Wolfwalkers” concept trailer

A. Quinton — Mar. 21st 2017

Word first surfaced in 2015 that director Tomm Moore was working on a film about wolves and wolf-people in 17th-century Ireland. Now Cartoon Brew has an exclusive first look at the concept trailer for Cartoon Saloon’s 2018 animated feature “Wolfwalkers”.

Note that this is a concept trailer designed for distributors and investors, not a promotional trailer. There are some rough edges in the title cards, and elements of the production may change between now and the film’s release. Nevertheless, the stunning animation and design that made Cartoon Saloon’s Song Of The Sea my favourite animated film of the last few years is on full display here.

It’s an idea that Moore has been developing for years. Wolfwalkers tells the story of 11-year-old Robyn Goodfellow, a young apprentice hunter who comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack of wolves. Her life changes though after she saves a native girl, Mebh, which leads to her discovery of the Wolfwalkers and transforms her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.

Read more at Cartoon Brew, and check out this behind-the-scenes video of the Cartoon Saloon crew working on location sketches and the awesome “wolf-vision” scene from the trailer.

The beautiful 1980’s hallucination that is the “Lonewolf” action figure commercial

A. Quinton — Mar. 16th 2017

If you don’t remember this block-smashing action-packed toy from your childhood, you probably weren’t alive in the 80’s.

If you do remember it, you’re probably suspended upside down in the purple and green kaleidoscope haze of the Purgatory Zone, that infinite glowing haunted house that binds the world of the living to the realm of the infinite. You are therefore probably not alive at all.

(yes I recognize that Lonewolf appears to be a human wearing a wolf-head on his own head, but I am asking you to come with me on a journey of imagination wherein he becomes a werewolf [still wearing that wolf-with-eyepatch-hat] who crushes blocks make out of silver-plated lunar rock with his bare claws)

This fever-dream of a commercial is the product of award-winning director and VFX artist Mike Diva – whose work I just realized I have been seeing everywhere for years. He ripped it from “an old VHS” he “found at the cemetery”. Check his Twitter and YouTube channel for more of the neon good stuff.

Thanks to teenypuddin for the link!

Monster Legacy explains why werewolf Lupin looks like that in “Prisoner of Azkaban”

A. Quinton — Mar. 15th 2017

I tend to reserve “catchin’ up on my sites” for the end of the day, but any time I spot a new Monster Legacy post – even when it’s not about werewolf creature effects – it immediately gets my full attention. This one is about a werewolf, though: Hogwarts professor and Harry Potter fan favourite Remus Lupin.

Lupin’s werewolf form in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was controversial. Scrawny, sparsely-furred and almost rat-like, his transformed state in the film was neither what author J.K. Rowling described in the book (essentially a big wolf with some human traits) nor what most werewolf fans wanted to see (a shaggy, well-built human-wolf hybrid). This was a deliberate decision on the part of creature designer Wayne Barlowe, who channelled Rowling’s concept of “lycanthropy as sickness” into

a gangly, emaciated creature with distorted proportions… a hunched back, long and thin limbs, and a sickly, almost skeletal head.

The filmmakers were so committed to the concept that they built werewolf suits with stilts and limb extensions to use on set – practical effects that turned out to be anything but. Almost all of the clumsy suit shots were later replaced with CG effects that, while easier to work with, pushed the already-unconventional werewolf Lupin right down into the uncanny valley. A shame – I personally like the look of the practical suits, which seem to have more werewolf and less Gollum in the design.

Take a look at the full post on Monster Legacy for concept images, set photos, conceptual and practical details (including the reason why CG werewolf Lupin was put through an exercise regimen), and a reminder that Rowling wrote perhaps the most uninspiring depiction of a werewolf transformation ever.

Full Moon Features: Beauty and the Beast (2014)

Craig J. Clark — Mar. 11th 2017

It’s a tale as old as time: One studio announces a project based on a well-known (and preferably public domain) property and others pile on, jockeying for a piece of the action. So it is that Disney’s highly anticipated live-action Beauty and the Beast, due out this week, has been beaten to the punch by a French version of the same Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont story, albeit one that came out three years ago. It just landed on video here, though — courtesy of the good folks at Shout! Factory — so clearly the thinking is that some viewers either won’t know the difference or won’t care that there aren’t any singing teapots.

Co-written and directed by Christophe Gans, whose Brotherhood of the Wolf left me dissatisfied when it showed up Stateside in 2002 (mostly because it was not, as I had hoped, about werewolves), this Beauty and the Beast is closer in spirit to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 fantasy than it is to Disney’s animated musical, a comparison driven home by the framing device of a mother reading it as a bedtime story for her children. They must be especially patient children, though, because a full 26 minutes elapses before André Dussollier’s down-on-his-luck merchant, having lost his fortune and his way in a blizzard, plucks the fateful rose that invokes the wrath of Vincent Cassel’s Beast, who demands that the merchant return the next day to forfeit his life. In the merchant’s place, though, comes his daughter Belle (Léa Seydoux), who slowly comes to learn there’s more to the melancholy monster holding her prisoner than meets the eye.

Now, strictly speaking, Beauty and the Beast isn’t a genuine werewolf narrative since the Beast isn’t capable of changing back and forth between his two forms — although he technically does thanks to Belle’s nightly dreams which double as flashbacks to how Cassel’s Prince came to be cursed — but there’s no denying that it plays on some of the same themes of duality. (That these are mirrored in the Prince’s tragic backstory is no accident.) And it’s not a horror film, but Gans takes pains to keep the Beast hidden from view initially, enshrouding him in shadows, keeping him out of focus, or only showing his paws or a close-up of his mouth. That all changes, though, once Belle gets her first clear look at his face when she awakens to find him watching over her (not at all creepy, dude). From then on, despite his repeated demands that she not look at him, Belle (and, by extension, the viewer) gets an eyeful of the leonine Beast. (When a peripheral character encounters the Beast, he asks point blank, “What are you, anyway? A lion? A big cat?”) And while he tries to keep his savage side from her, it has a way of asserting itself at inopportune moments.

As lavish as the production is (it’s not for nothing that it was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design at the César Awards, where it won Best Production Design), it’s unlikely that this telling of Beauty and the Beast will stand as the definitive one. For one thing, the CGI employed for the Beast’s furry visage and his overly cute canine helpers (which turn into ordinary puppies when their master transforms back into a man) will probably age about as well as digital effects tend to (i.e. not at all). For another, Gans and co-writer Sandra Vo-Anh add some wholly unnecessary elements to the story’s climax, which could have stood to be less bombastic. Mostly, though, it has to contend with Cocteau’s wondrous vision, which has been enchanting audiences for seven decades and remains as beguiling as it ever was.

This weekend, “Grimm” fans in PDX can buy all of the show’s creature props

A. Quinton — Mar. 9th 2017

Portland-area fans of NBC’s Grimm – which airs its final episodes this month – will want to gas up their cars, pack a lunch and gather up some rainy day cash. According to Portland Monthly, “a 40,000-square-foot warehouse stuffed with more than 120 episodes’ worth of Grimm props and paraphernalia will open its doors to the public” this weekend.

The announcement, which doesn’t actually mention the name of the locally filmed show (but c’mon, what else could it be?), promises “vintage furniture, antique furniture, mid-century modern furniture, clothes, costumes, household goods (new and vintage), doors, architectural items, signs, rugs, industrial lighting, lamps, books, smalls, primitives, collectibles, Christmas stuff (vintage and new), home furnishings, building materials, props, Halloween stuff, bicycles, hardware, kitchenware, chairs, apothecary, artwork, banners, restaurant ware, office supplies, costumes, tools, pallet shelving, retail store display stuff, frames, home decor, dining tables, benches, special effects items, linen, drapes, sports equipment, camping stuff, advertising, and so much more…”

The EstateSales.net listing has dozens of photos of the items that will be available. Much of it seems to be clothing and antiques, but I bet discerning fans will find plenty of props related to the show’s menagerie of werewolves, were-foxes, were-beavers, were-vultures and other Wesen.

Conspicuously absent from the listing is an address for the event. That will be announced tomorrow night:

The address for this sale in Portland, OR 97210 will be available after 7:00 PM on Friday, March 10th, 2017.

The sale will run from 9 to 5 on Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th, and 10 to 4 on Monday the 13th. Due to warehouse safety concerns (and possible rogue hexenbiest on the premises), no children under the age of 10 will be admitted.

Thanks to Violette B for the link.

Watch my favourite werewolf short film “Hair of the Dog” for free right now

A. Quinton — Mar. 2nd 2017

I’ve had a lot of nice things to say about Michael Butts’s werewolf film “Hair of the Dog”. Now you can see for yourself why I think it’s the best werewolf short I’ve ever watched: Michael posted the whole thing to YouTube.

I think that for a werewolf film (or story or comic) to be truly excellent, it has to be able to stand on its own without the benefit of a werewolf fan’s inclination to like it “because werewolves”. “Hair of the Dog” accomplishes that with ease. From an email I sent to Michael in December, right after watching it via a super-secret Vimeo link he shared with me:

I came to this expecting “a better-than-average werewolf short” – the teasers you’ve shared set the bar quite high so I knew it was gonna be good no matter what – but what I got was something that affected me on a scope beyond “fan watching something I’m predisposed to like”. There’s lots there for any werewolf/horror fan to enjoy, but you handled the themes of addiction, self-loathing and duality in a way that would have an impact on anyone with a heart, soul and brain.

You are a master of “show, don’t tell”. Editing and pacing were perfect. No fat on this at all, just lean and mean, but soulful. And the sound design! From the birds at the start to the various disorientating filters and effects to snarl at the end, just exquisite.

Watch it below. Sorry that YouTube selected a particularly graphic thumbnail image.

A new textbook for your werewolf film studies class: “The Werewolf Filmography: 300+ Movies”

A. Quinton — Feb. 26th 2017

McFarland Books has just released a monster of a reference book – and you know I’m serious because it takes a lot for me to break out a pun like that. The Werewolf Filmography: 300+ Movies by Bryan Senn is a 408 page hardcover with the dimensions and heft of a college textbook, and it contains the most comprehensive run-down of werewolf films I’ve ever seen.

From the horrific to the heroic, cinematic werewolves are metaphors for our savage nature, symbolizing the secret, bestial side of humanity that hides beneath our civilized veneer. Examining acknowledged classics like The Wolf Man (1941) and The Howling (1981), as well as overlooked gems like Dog Soldiers (2011), this comprehensive filmography covers the highs and lows of the genre. Information is provided on production, cast and filmmakers, along with critical discussion of the tropes and underlying themes that make the werewolf a terrifying but fascinating figure.

The book’s coverage is so comprehensive, in fact, that I’m out of my depth. To give you the best possible review, I am passing the book along to Craig J. Clark – Werewolf News’s in-house authority on werewolf movies. Craig has kindly agreed to report back to you and I on the book’s filmographic qualities.

If you’d like to conduct your own assessment in the meantime, you can purchase a copy on Amazon or direct from McFarland Books. Kudos to Bryan – this book is a huge accomplishment, literally and figuratively.

A behind-the-scenes glimpse of “The Monster Squad” monsters

A. Quinton — Feb. 21st 2017

The Stan Winston School of Character Arts recently put up a collection of behind-the-scenes photos and recollections from the crew responsible for building the titular monsters of The Monster Squad, including The Wolfman portrayed by Jonathan Gries.

“The challenge was to suggest those classic creatures, without really copying them,” explained  [lead mummy builder] Shane Mahan, “because we didn’t have permission or the license to use those specific images. So we could do a ‘Gillman’, for example, but it couldn’t look too much like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was frustrating for us at first, because, of course, we wanted to do the original designs! But we couldn’t. We could only suggest those designs.”

This isn’t a Monster Legacy level essay, but there’s some neat stuff on display, including Stan Winston’s original sketch of the Wolfman. Yep, you can thank him for those super wide-set eyes.

“Lore” 53: Trees and Shadows

A. Quinton — Feb. 14th 2017

The latest episode of the excellent podcast Lore examines a cryptozoological phenomenon near and dear to the hearts of midwest werewolf fans: the Beast of Bray Road.

Our connection to animals is ancient, intimate, and complex. Humans have worshiped them, sacrificed them, lived with them, and been buried with them. But folklore from all over the world hints at a darker connection, and it just might be true.

In under 30 minutes, writer/producer Aaron Mahnke explores the facts and speculations surrounding multiple wolf-human-hybrid sightings near Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and the impact the sightings have had on the town – including local election campaigns and cookie production.

Lore covered werewolves more generally in its phenomenal third episode.

Full Moon Features: Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

Craig J. Clark — Feb. 10th 2017

The list of period werewolf films is pretty short to begin with. Due to the compound challenges of producing a period film and adding werewolves to it, the list of successful ones is even shorter. For every Curse of the Werewolf, there’s a Van Helsing. For every Company of Wolves, there’s a Werewolf: The Beast Among Us. Try as they might, the makers of 2004’s Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning also fall short of the mark, but at least they’re able to rise above the level of, say, 1979’s Wolfman (admittedly, not the most difficult bar to clear and a film I intend to cover in this space in the near future).

Co-produced and directed by Grant Harvey, who previously served as second unit director on Ginger Snaps and also co-produced its sequel, Snaps Back is set in the winter of 1815 in the Canadian wilderness, in which sisters Ginger and Brigitte (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins) are discovered wandering on horseback. How they came to be there is never adequately explained, but after they come across a ravaged Indian camp and meet an old seer who cryptically warns them to “kill the boy or one sister kills the other,” their horse gets spooked and gallops off, leaving them in a spot that is exacerbated when Brigitte steps in a trap meant for some other kind of animal. She’s helped out of it by an Indian named Hunter (Nathaniel Arcand) who tends to her wound and accompanies the sisters to a nearby fort — a remote outpost of the Northern Legion Trading Company — where they are a less-than-welcome presence because of the shortage of supplies (seems the crew that set out the previous spring never returned) and the supernatural threat from without that no one is eager to give a name to.

Inside the fort, the sisters are under the protection of Wallace (Tom McCamus), the man nominally in charge, but his second-in-command (JR Bourne) would just as soon throw them to the (were-)wolves, and the resident fire-and-brimstone preacher (Hugh Dillon) likewise urges Wallace to cast them out. That seems harsh, but if they had been, Ginger wouldn’t have been bitten by the deformed creature kept locked up in the basement (the aforementioned boy) and the fort’s dwindling population wouldn’t have fallen to her furry friends quite so speedily. It also would have prevented Harvey from displaying his fondness for time-lapse effects, which lose their novelty the more he uses them. Thankfully, the full-on werewolf attack that arrives at the film’s climax is worth sticking around for, but it does strike me as a case of too little, too late.