Category: Film, Television & Music
Craig J. Clark — Apr. 10th 2017
Having run the Howling series for The A.V. Club last year, I have witnessed the depths to which a werewolf movie can sink — namely, to the gaping abyss that is 1995’s The Howling: New Moon Rising. This is why I can be inclined to go easier on an aggressively mediocre one like 2010’s Neowolf than I previously would have. Made by French director Yvan Gauthier, who was so proud of the finished product he chose to be credited as Alan Smythe (not Smithee as the IMDb incorrectly states), and based on an original story by producer Alessandro Di Gaetano (of Project: Metalbeast infamy), Neowolf is the kind of film that opens with an anonymous couple leaving a club to have sex in the parking lot only for them to be interrupted by a very hairy creature (guess what) which slaughters them both. Then, and only then, do Di Gaetano and co-writer Michael January bother to introduce their protagonist.
That would be Tony (Michael Frascino), an aspiring rock singer/songwriter driving cross-country to get back together with his girlfriend Rosemary (Heidi Johanningmeier), a college student whose studies in Gothic literature and botany come in handy when she begins to suspect her wayward boy with the wandering eye has fallen in with the titular band of ravenous werewolves. Of course, it takes a while for this to happen because it takes a while for anything to happen in Neowolf with the notable exception of Gauthier’s (or his editor’s) rush to get to the sex scenes, of which there are three within the first half hour.
It’s during the third one that Tony is bitten by Neowolf groupie Paula (Megan Pepin) because if Eurotrash bandleader Vince (Agim Kaba) had done it that would have been a little too gay, and when he comes to the next morning in his motel room with an enormous hickey on his neck and evidence of their tryst on his phone, Rosemary springs into action, Googling Neowolf because “something weird’s going on” and “the energy wasn’t normal.” Her best friend Kevin (weak comic relief Ryan Ross) is skeptical, but she hits the jackpot when she finds What Neowolf Doesn’t Want You to Know.com, a website put up by Romanians for Truth which asks, “Is it a coincidence that the band’s tour has been followed by a long line of mysterious killings or something more heinous?” Also, Vince apparently “only looks Pretty on the outside,” which is funny because I think he looks much hotter after he wolfs out (as far as anybody does in this movie, which isn’t very).
Coming to the only logical conclusion — that her strung-out-looking boyfriend is in danger of becoming a creature of the night — Rosemary consults with her literature professor (Sevy Di Cione), whose accent is such that he referred to “Dr. Jakyll and Mr. Hyde” in his first lecture, and nursery owner and self-proclaimed “crazy old loon” Mrs. Belakov (a slumming Veronica Cartwright), who conveniently grows wolfsbane (referenced in every story Rosemary can find about “werewolfs,” as she calls them) and resolves to help save her boyfriend. Kevin, alas, isn’t able to pitch in because he becomes werewolf chow when Vince gets a little bite-y while going down on him, a cringe-worthy moment that simultaneously brings to mind Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left and Lowell Dean’s WolfCop. And it all wraps up with an unearned tragic ending stolen wholesale from David Cronenberg’s The Fly. Okay, I’ve convinced myself. Neowolf is beyond mediocre. It’s actively terrible.
Listen to this great performance of werewolf screenplay “The Hounds of House Rearden” on Black List Table Reads
A. Quinton — Apr. 3rd 2017
Last week friend of the site / New Orleans legend @colonelnemo sent me a link to “The Hounds of House Rearden”, the latest episode of the Black List Table Reads podcast on Earwolf. It’s a live-action performance of a werewolf movie script, and an excellent way to pass an amount of time equal to, say, what it would take to assemble two IKEA Kallax shelf units.
Black List Table Reads “takes the best and most exciting screenplays Hollywood hasn’t yet made, and turns them into movies, for your ears”. The scripts are selected by host, narrator (and Black List founder) Franklin Leonard. Each monthly table read is recorded as a group performance by “a rotating cast of talented actors” and then supplemented with audio cues, sounds effects and music. The result is a feature-length audio experience they call an “earmovie”.
“The Hounds of House Rearden” was my first earmovie, and I was impressed. The cast (listed below & pictured even further below) did an excellent job, particularly Cooper Thornton and Greg Itzin. The sound effects and foley work were top notch, rendering the werewolf transformations (spoiler: there are many) and gruesome dismemberments (ditto) effectively. Check this killer poster designed by Erika Deoudes that went up with the podcast post. Details like that have nothing to do with the audio experience but demonstrate the level of care and attention to detail that went into the episode.
The screenplay itself was not bad, as potential werewolf movies go. It started off strong, with a nice antagonistic father-son dynamic and quick pacing, but lost momentum by introducing a few too many dudes with trope-y sub-plots – one of which had me wondering when Mushu was going to appear. There’s a ton of good werewolf action, though, and the identity of the titular Hounds caught me by surprise. I couldn’t find anything else by its screenwriter, Sean Geraghty, but he wrote a better werewolf action-horror movie than some others I could name that made it all the way to the screen.
“The Hounds of Rearden” written by Sean Geraghty. It stars Cooper Thornton (Peter), James Callis (Sir Julius/Cortez), Greg Itzin (Sen. Warren/Hunter), Charles Shaughnessy (Cromwell/Clark), Sachin Bhatt (Raj/Ranger #1), Gregg Daniel (Leopold), Andrew Roa (Johnny Napoleon), Ben Lawson (Hastings/Collins), Laura Kai Chen (Khan), and Franklin Leonard (Narrator).
A. Quinton — Mar. 29th 2017
The first teaser trailer for director Andrés Muschietti’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel IT is out, and in addition to exceeding all of my expectations, it shows a tiny bit of possible Canonical Werewolf Content.
The story’s eponymous, eternal villain has many forms, all of which are derived from the fears of children. Its most famous appearance is that of Pennywise the clown (whose look in this new film I am very into), but in two of the book’s scenes, It assumes the form of a werewolf. The 1990 miniseries condensed those appearances into a single new scene, but this new film appears to be a more faithful adaptation.
The teaser includes a short scene at 1:55 set in what looks like an abandoned house (which is where one of the book’s werewolf scenes takes place). In it, members of the Losers’ Club cower from Pennywise, whose flexing hand shreds the tips of its glove to reveal dark, clawed, very werewolf-like fingers. This might not be the scene I’m thinking of – in the book only one of the Losers’ Club is present – but assuming it is, I am very much looking forward to seeing Werewolf Pennywise.
This adaptation of IT will span two films. The first is in theatres September 8th. You can watch the teaser below.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.