Category: Film, Television & Music
Craig J. Clark — Aug. 5th 2017
The year 2007 was rather a light one for werewolf films (the only one I’ve missed the anniversary of is the YA adaptation Blood and Chocolate, which I’m not exactly heartbroken about), and it would be even lighter had the Canadian-made Skinwalkers, which premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, not taken so long to get a theatrical release. (Oddly, there’s no Canadian release date on record, but it did finally come out in the States on August 10, 2007.) Directed by the late Jim Isaac, whose previous genre effort was Jason X, Skinwalkers features decent-looking creature effects by Stan Winston Studio, but all too often they’re obscured by flash cuts and camera-speed trickery that was probably intended to make the action scenes seem more exciting, but all it really does is detract from them. Its effectiveness is also blunted by how much it was whittled down from its original 110-minute R-rated cut to the leaner (but definitely not meaner) 92-minute PG-13.
The plot is centered around a boy named Tim Talbot (I wonder which of the three credited screenwriters came up with that name) born of a human mother and a skinwalker (which is a fancy Navajo term for werewolf) father who is on the cusp of his thirteenth birthday, when legend says he will be able to break the curse of lycanthropy — that is if he lives that long. Seems one group of evil skinwalkers (led by Jason Behr’s Valek) has developed a taste for blood and wants to go on indulging their bestial natures, while another (led by Atom Egoyan regular Elias Koteas’s Jonas) seeks to protect the boy (Matthew Knight) and his skeptical mother Rachel (Rhona Mitra, who went on to play the vampire love interest in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) at all costs.
At one point they hit the road in a converted RV that is incredibly easy to spot once you know to look for it (and which reminded me a lot of the fortified vehicle in George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead), and eventually wind up at an abandoned factory (that favorite locale of action directors) where the survivors of both groups duke it out and occasionally shoot at each other. (Did I mention there’s a lot of gun play in this movie? No? Well, there is.) Then comes the most unintentionally amusing moment in the whole film, when the two main werewolves square off against one another and the filmmakers quickly flash on the actors’ faces so you know which one you’re supposed to be rooting for. I guess it didn’t hit them until they were in the editing room that guys in furry werewolf makeup tend to look somewhat similar.
Anyway, in addition to the distracting editing tricks, the film also features plenty of digital effects that don’t do a whole lot to advance the story. Sure, they can make the moon look red and show extreme close-ups of animalistic yellow eyes, but are they doing anything at all to make me believe in the reality of what’s happening onscreen? (Not that realism is necessarily the first order of business when one is making a werewolf movie, but still.) One of the things that I did take away from the film that showed the filmmakers had actually put some thought into their premise, though, was the design of the restraints that the good skinwalkers voluntarily put themselves in when they know the change is coming on. Looking at them, one can imagine how they would have been handed down and modified over the centuries. Of course, with this film’s paltry box office take (just over $1 million in the few weeks it was in U.S. theaters), it’s no surprise we never got a Skinwalkers 2: Rise of the Skinwalkers.
A. Quinton — Jul. 10th 2017
You and I are alone in an executive office. I am sitting across from you at a desk. Behind me, a smouldering sunset illuminates the skyline through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The desk is massive, gleaming, its dark varnished surface devoid of objects except for my folded hands and an unbranded video tablet. Its screen is illuminated but shows only a white triangle on a black background.
We sit in silence, the steady eye contact between us drawing out for what seems to you like many minutes, until I lean forward suddenly, as though responding to a signal your senses are not yet attuned to detect. My leather chair creaks as I push the tablet towards you with my stiletto-manicured fingertips. Wordlessly, you accept the device, rotating it so that the triangle points to your right in the universal symbol of commencement, fresh starts, new beginnings. But you have been here before, you tell yourself. This is not new. Can this be right?
“WolfCop?” Your whispered question hovers between us like a frightened hummingbird.
I lean back in my chair, folding my hands, and blink slowly. A look of profound serenity settles on my face, as gentle and implacable as the encroaching twilight. You don’t understand, yet. But you will.
“No,” I murmur. “Another WolfCop.”
As the last sliver of sun sinks below the horizon, presque-vu blooms in your mind, heralding a sudden liminal epiphany – too big to comprehend, but eternal and infinitely knowable. With trembling fingers, you reach out and press “play”.
Thank you to @Somnilux and everyone else who sent me a link to this trailer for the long-awaited sequel to WolfCop. If you’re in Montreal you can catch the Canadian premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival at 2:40 PM on July 29th. If you’re anywhere else in the world, keep an eye on this site for release info.
Craig J. Clark — Jul. 8th 2017
Is it possible to make a successful werewolf movie where the protagonist never transforms into a wolf creature of any kind? Well, in 1975, Toei Tokyo proved it was not only possible, but the resulting film could be wildly entertaining in unexpected ways. Based on a popular manga series by Kazumasa Hirai, Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope follows the adventures of Akira Inugami, the lone survivor of a clan of werewolves slaughtered during the opening credits who grows up to be a reporter played by action star Sonny Chiba. After witnessing the grisly demise of a man in a white suit (all the better to show off his red, red blood) frantically fleeing from a phantom tiger that corners him and claws him to death, Akira is grilled by the police, but soon released when the autopsy report comes back. “A human being wouldn’t be able to slash a body like that,” one cop says, “and not in such a short time either.” Little do they know…
From that point on, the fantastical plot Akira gets enmeshed in becomes increasingly convoluted. Turns out the dead man was in the band Mobs which, at the behest of its corrupt manager, gang-raped up-and-coming singer Miki Ogata (Etsuko Nami), who was given syphilis by one of them. As a result, she’s strung out on drugs and reduced to singing in a cheap strip club, which is where Akira tracks her down, but not before facing off against a vicious gang of yakuza thugs. From this altercation he’s rescued by a mysterious motorcyclist all in black leather who takes him back to her place, literally licks his wounds, and initiates sex. “Right now, I’m just a woman who wants an animal,” she says, and she gets one before disappearing from the film as abruptly as she rode into it.
At various points during the story, director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi inserts a caption to keep the viewer updated on what day of the lunar cycle it is. This is pertinent because while Akira never physically changes, his mystical powers wax and wane with the moon, so on Day 15 — the full moon — he’s near-invincible and he’s at his weakest when it’s new. Even so, between these extremes he still has astonishing healing powers, which is why he shrugs it off when he’s shot in the shoulder and is unconcerned about catching the clap when he puts the moves on Miki.
For her part, Miki turns out to have a psychic link with the phantom tiger slashing her rapists and other ne’er-do-wells to death. This is why she’s of interest to the Japanese Cabinet Intelligence Agency, which also scoops up Akira and experiments on him, even performing a blood transfusion to see if lycanthropy and its attendant powers can be passed on in that fashion. The answer: kind of, but the effect is only temporary and the recipient has a nasty surprise coming to them. “Is this proof that werewolves and humans can never mix?” Akira muses, sending him back to his birthplace, where he’s immediately recognized and captured by the same superstitious villagers that massacred his clan years before. (Guess they have long memories.)
This development leads to the the film’s third weird sex scene, when Akira is freed by a woman who takes pity on him and says, “Let my body give you some relief, even if just for a while.” (Screenwriter Fumio Konami’s dialogue is full of such howlers, although it’s entirely possible this is just a translation issue.) Inevitably, everything winds up with the long-awaited clash between wolf and tiger as Akira and Miki are pitted against each other by the J-CIA, whose director also meets a fitting end. And now, thanks to Arrow Video’s sterling release, this underseen werewolf exploitation film will be reaching more eyeballs than it has in decades. Long live Wolf Guy!
A. Quinton — Jun. 27th 2017
Via Bloody Disgusting comes the news that Universal (who really seem to be doubling down on their stable of monsters lately) is re-issuing seven of their classic horror films this September. They’ll be sold exclusively through Best Buy as SteelBook Blu-rays, featuring brand-new cover paintings by legendary comic artist Alex Ross. Included on the roster is 1941’s “The Wolf Man”.
So what’s a “SteelBook Blu-ray”? According to the SteelBook site, it’s a cool metal case.
Prized by fans and collectors for its iconic design, luxurious finish and ability to showcase artwork, a SteelBook® edition is a premium metal case that represents the ultimate way to store your favorite movies and games.
Nowhere on the Best Buy site are the specifications of the Blu-ray disc itself given, so it could very well be the same edition of The Wolf Man that’s available for purchase right now, albeit with some lovely new artwork wrapped around it.
I think Ross’s work here might be the best Wolf Man art I’ve seen since Martin Ansin’s print for Mondo, but the delivery format isn’t for me. My DVDs and Blu-rays and VHS cassettes are all slotted sideways on a shelf so that only the spines are visible, and I’m not interested in collecting physical media for films anymore anyway, unless the film itself is something rare or exclusive. In this case I’d rather pay for a print of Ross’s beautiful new art that I can put up on the wall than a 5″ x 7″ copy that’s stuck to the front of a metal box.
If this edition of The Wolf Man catches your fancy, though, you can pre-order it directly from Best Buy for $19.99 right now and it will ship in mid-September.
Movie Nights explains why we got “An American Werewolf in Paris” instead of “An American Werewolf in London 2”
A. Quinton — Jun. 26th 2017
Thanks to @Somnilux for bringing the excellent Movie Nights Youtube channel to my attention with this fascinating video about the nearly-extant An American Werewolf in London 2. No, I’m not talking about the execrable “An American Werewolf in Paris“. I mean an honest-to-goodness sequel, starring the original cast (yes, even those that were turned into meatloaf or gunned down). I’ll leave the rest of the details for you to discover in the video, but suffice it to say I would have much preferred this very weird continuation of the “American Werewolf” tale to Paris, which was associated to the franchise in name only (since the single scene tying it to its predecessor was cut).
Movie Nights is hosted by comedienne / podcaster / prolific maker-of-things Allison Pregler. You can follow her work on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, and support it over on Patreon, where she specifically gives a shout-out to werewolves – always a signifier of distinction, if you ask me. A quick scroll through the Movie Nights Youtube channel reveals at least six other werewolf-related reviews in amongst the Baywatch and Evil Dead videos, so get, like, a Coke Zero or something and check it out!
A. Quinton — Jun. 23rd 2017
I would be doing my 10-year-old self a grave disservice by not posting about the fact that the current season of Nickelodeon’s animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series will contain a four-episode storyline involving zombies, vampires and werewolves.
I haven’t watched a TMNT show since the original 1987 – 1996 series so I have no idea what’s going on in this CG version that started in 2012, but I’m pleased to see in the season 5 trailer below that Usagi Yojimbo is still around, Donatello (the best turtle) is still a nerd, and that the Turtles are still somehow effectively disguising their 4-foot-tall mutant reptile bodies with trench coats and hats.
This four-episode run starts on August 13, 2017 with episode 8 (The Curse of Savanti Romero). I don’t know what level of werewolf content will be present, other than “there is one in the trailer” and “it’s mad at Donatello”, but 35-year-old me will be observing this conjunction of two of 10-year-old me’s formative fandom obsessions with a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Parting thought: apparently Raphael becomes a vampire for a little while during these episodes. That’s not great, but at least it’s not Leonardo, for whom vampirism would mean a downgrade from “the worst Turtle” to “supermassive black hole of lameness”.
A. Quinton — Jun. 23rd 2017
Wrestler, movie star, singer, Instagram darling, potential US presidential candidate – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can do anything he wants. Now he might want to be a werewolf, which is fine by me! According to The Hollywood Reporter, rumours are circulating that Johnson may be under consideration for the title role in the upcoming “Wolfman” reboot that comprises one of the pillars of Universal’s “Dark Universe” franchise. There’s been no new information about the reboot itself since the initial rumours in 2015, but the possibility of that big charming beastly man portraying Larry Talbot is the first thing I’ve heard about the Wolfman reboot that’s made me interested.
Thanks to Tandye for the image accompanying this post!
A. Quinton — Jun. 18th 2017
Serbian artist Dušan Marković recently posted his amazing cover art for Australian power metal band Night Legion‘s debut album. The cover of “Blood Wolf Coven” depicts lead vocalist Vo Simpson leading the rest of the band, who have turned into a squad of incredibly bad-ass werewolves. Below are some detail shots from the Night Legion Facebook page. Click any of them for the full piece on Dušan’s DeviantArt page.
Friend of Werewolf News (and amazing artist in his own right) Viergacht called it “the most epic werewolf metal album cover”, and I agree! These beasts perfectly embody my ideal werewolf aesthetic. That seems to be Dušan’s style – he’s painted at least one other group of werewolves in this style and I think I’m in love.
I wish I could tell you more about Night Legion and Blood Wolf Coven, but their online presence is kind of weird – there’s no release date other than “2017” for the album on their Facebook page or web site, and you can only hear their music in sample videos for the spring tour that just ended. If you’re into melodic power metal, check them out!
Craig J. Clark — Jun. 8th 2017
Long in the works and nearly as long making it to home video after its first public screening three years ago, the big-screen adaptation of Mitch Hyman’s cult comic book Bubba the Redneck Werewolf is finally available to be seen by all manner of lycanthrope lovers. It must be said, however, that it will be most appreciated by those with a high tolerance for bad jokes, puns, and sight gags. In fact, viewers will know right away whether Bubba is the werewolf for them based on its bouncy, countrified theme song, which plays over the opening credits.
“His teeth are long, his claws are sharp, he’s a beast in moon and sun,” goes one lyric. “If this defies your precious science, well, you might wanna cut and run.” Science aside, Bubba is not your traditional werewolf since his transformation is one-way only with no return to his human form in sight. He’s even played by two actors — Chris Stephens when he’s human, which only lasts for about 15 minutes, and Fred Lass after he wolfs out (a transition that disappointingly happens off-screen). This comes about when the hapless Bubba, in an effort to win back his one-time high-school sweetheart Bobbie Jo (Malone Thomas), makes a deal with The Devil (gleefully played by Hyman), who arrives in the hick town of Broken Taint (in Cracker County, Florida) in all his red-skinned, horned glory. “I wanna be strong and powerful,” Bubba confides in him. “I wanna be a macho man with hair on my chest and hair on my head.” And that is precisely what The Devil delivers — along with a four-slice toaster and smokeless ashtray as a bonus for signing away his soul.
When Bubba awakens the next morning and sees himself in the mirror, his response isn’t far from how many werewolf aficionados would probably react. “Holy shit,” he says, admiring his fangs, claws, and fur. “I’m a werewolf. I’m a fucking werewolf,” pausing before adding, “Awesome!” Unfortunately, just about everybody else in town makes spectacularly bad deals with The Devil, who has a lawyer’s knack for finding loopholes in contracts and taking full advantage of them. Accordingly, they take up residence in Bubba’s favorite watering hole and petition him to kill the fiend and release them from their self-inflicted torments. The trouble is Bubba likes his new identity, especially since it causes Bobbie Jo to toss her new beau aside and swoon for him in a big way, so he’ll need to have all his wits about him when he finally confronts the horned one, and he doesn’t have too many to start with. “I made you and I can destroy you just as easily,” says The Devil, a line given extra weight since it’s spoken by Bubba’s actual creator.
Befitting its comic-book origins, the action in Bubba is frequently cartoonish and over-the-top. Director Brendan Jackson Rogers (who also appears as Bubba’s idiot cousin Clovis in addition to producing, operating the camera, and being one of the film’s editors) embraces this with his reliance on digital effects for a lot of the signage, explosions, blood sprays, and projectile vomit. Meanwhile, screenwriter Stephen Biro wallows in all manner of verbal humor, much of it of the cornball variety. This reaches its nadir in the interminable “Where Is Hu?” routine, which won’t be causing Abbott and Costello fans to lose any sleep. And the less said about the montage in which Bubba goes fishing and bowling, plays video games, and catches a Frisbee in his mouth (a moment that recalls a similar sequence in Teen Wolf Too), the better.
It would be a mistake to judge this film too harshly, though. Bubba the Redneck Werewolf — at least in its cinematic form — was always meant to be lowbrow entertainment, so as long as one approaches it on that level, it’s possible to find things to enjoy about it. Plus, it’s barely 80 minutes long, so it doesn’t have enough time to wear out its welcome. That counts for a lot.
A. Quinton — May. 25th 2017
The Star Wars werewolf connection hinges entirely on special effects legend Rick Baker deciding to use some of his off-the-shelf creature masks during re-shoots of the Episode IV cantina scene in 1977. Among those masks was a werewolf Baker had created on his own in 1973. As with seemingly everyone else in that cantina, the werewolf extra gained an official name – Lak Sivrak – and an elaborate backstory full of intrigue, romance, tragedy, sacrifice, most of which was told through Star Wars comic books.
Then in 2012, Disney consigned everything about the character except his name and species to Legends, the phantom zone for all retroactively non-canonical Star Wars artifacts. And that was it for poor Lak until earlier this week, when Baker set about re-casting a new mask from that original 1973 mold.
He posted four photos of his work – which I’ve embedded below – on his Instagram feed. The quality of his design and work is astonishing, and consider that he did all of this in three days.
The hashtags and reminiscences in Baker’s comments make this seem like an observance of the film’s release anniversary – Star Wars hit theatres 40 years ago today –but it could also be a coincidence. Baker seems like the kind of person who’d resurrect a 43-year-old mold and then and pour, pull, paint, hair and trim a new mask on a lark – simply because he loves doing this sort of thing (and happens to be really, really, really fucking good at it).