Category: Film, Television & Music

Full Moon Features: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Craig J. Clark — Mar. 1st 2018

I’m hopping a bit off the beaten path with this month’s Full Moon Feature, but with Early Man now in theaters, I can’t think of a better time to watch a cheese-loving inventor and his long-suffering pooch grapple with The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Made in 2005, it was the second feature for Aardman Animations after 2000’s Chicken Run and the first big-screen adventure for their signature characters, Wallace and Gromit. Directed by their creator Nick Park and Steve Box, the film amply illustrates the dangers of hooking yourself up to a Mind Manipulator-omatic and then plugging it into a BunVac filled with pesky rabbits and trying to brainwash them into not liking vegetables under the light of the full moon. There’s just so many ways something like that can go so, so wrong, as man and his best friend alike soon learn.

How it comes to that is simple: In the lead-up to their town’s annual Giant Vegetable Competition, everyone has signed up with Anti-Pesto, Wallace (voiced as always by Peter Sallis) and Gromit’s high-tech “Humane Pest Control” service. Their non-lethal methods especially impress animal lover Lady Campanula Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter), who has to fend off aggressive blueblood Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), who resents the competition. However, after Wallace’s attempt at bunny brainwashing backfires, he literally creates a monster that is identified by Reverend Hedges (Nicholas Smith, Mr. Rumbold from Are You Being Served?) as the titular beast, carrotus apetitus giganticus. No points for guessing who it turns out to be.

Park and Box and their co-writers Mark Burton and Bob Baker pack as many vegetable puns as they can into the proceedings (under the headline “Night of Vegetable Carnage!” there’s the delicious subhead “Anti-Pesto Fail to Turnip in Time”), and they also managed to smuggle a few naughty jokes past the MPAA. (“Beware the moon,” indeed.) Even better, they work in numerous allusions to classic horror films, with my favorite being when the beast is vanquished and it returns to human form with the aid of a series of lap dissolves, just like in the old Lon Chaney, Jr. movies. I know that’s hardly extraordinary considering the entire film is stop-motion animated, but the gesture is appreciated.

Roald Dahl’s “Revolting Rhymes” animated shorts features very stylish wolves

A. Quinton — Feb. 23rd 2018

Roald Dahl’s collection of delightfully messed-up fairy tales has been adapted from a book into two half-hour animated short films directed by Jakob Schuh Jan Lachauer and narrated by Dominic West. The meta-story surrounding the two short films stars a wolf (potentially Big and/or Bad), which is werewolf-adjacent enough to be posted here.

The characters designs are fantastic – a kind of mashup of Quentin Blake’s illustrations and Aardman-style 3D figurines. Lupine bias aside, I love the variety of depictions the wolf (or wolves) have.

Revolting Rhymes was produced by Magic Light Pictures (London), animated by Magic Light Pictures (Berlin) and Triggerfish Animation (Cape Town), and aired on PBS in the United States. The first episode, featuring a radical reinterpretation of Red Riding Hood and Snow White’s stories, is currently in the running for an Academy Award.

It’s available to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and you can obtain it on DVD or iTunes if you’d prefer something you can actually own.

You can’t watch “Monster Family”, the animated film that was based on a ride that was based on a book

A. Quinton — Feb. 19th 2018

“Monster Family” is animated family film of the sort where the trailer features a lovingly-animated fart joke. As far as I can tell, there is no way to watch it.

When I saw the character art I was sure it was a spin-off from the Hotel Transylvania series, but nope – it’s based on David Safier’s book “Happy Family”, which was then somehow turned into the premise for a 4D cinema/ride at a cave-based theme park called Wookey Hole, which was then – because this is how these things work – expanded into a feature film. It follows the misadventures of a shitty family who get turned into monsters because Dracula hates them for some reason. I’m posting about it because the boy becomes a werewolf who looks like Rhea Butcher.

This British-German production features the voices of Emily Watson, Nick Frost, Jessica Brown Findlay, Celia Imrie, Catherine Tate, and Jason Isaacs. The trailer and the airport scene that follows it seem to contain dialogue animation matching a non-English script – German, maybe, or perhaps Brazilian Portuguese, for the sake of the film’s premiere, which was in Brazil. It arrived in American theatres on February 9th 2018, and now doesn’t seem to be playing anywhere, nor is it available for purchase. It does not exist. Did it ever exist? Or did Genndy Tartakovsky have a bad dream that we all shared?

Wookey Hole, if you’re looking for another attraction to turn into a feature film, I have a suggestion.

Vote for “Timber”, a Storyhive project that pits lumberjacks against werewolves

A. Quinton — Feb. 5th 2018

Want to help bring a new werewolf web series to life? Starting today and running through Friday the 9th, werewolf fans can visit the Storyhive campaign page for “Timber” to cast one vote per day (no registration required). Those votes will comprise a large part of the decision-making process that will award 15 projects $50,000 each to fund a full series.

“Timber” is being pitched as “Lumberjacks Vs Werewolves” by its creative team. Here’s the synopsis:

In 1920’s Canada a doctor visits her estranged brother while he is working at a lumber camp. When she gets there she is shocked to learn that the lumberjacks are hiding the dark secret that werewolves are real, and she must discover who is and isn’t infected before it’s too late.

I’m writing this post on the 4th, before the big push for votes starts, and there’s already a ton of video and production stills on Timber’s Storyhive page and Facebook page. Watch the pilot episode below!

I asked Peter Kominek, one of the experienced filmmakers behind the project, about their plans for the werewolf design. I’m always interested to hear how the werewolf for a given project is going to be built, and here’s what he wrote me:

Our werewolf is going to walk on all fours, it is going to be a ferocious beast/hell hound rather than a wolfman type werewolf. Our intention is to make it hairy, and if possible have the face be completely hairy/flocked, unlike a lot of other movies. We are going to have arm extensions and make an animatronic head. There will probably also be a separate puppet head for maximum chomping. Our instagram has a couple sketches from our designer up on it, and there is also a short video about the history of our project.

“Maximum chomping”. Those two words alone are worth the 10 seconds it’ll take you to cast a vote.

Update 12:27: this post previously incorrectly stated that Timber was in the running for a $10k prize to fund a pilot; in fact, it has already won that prize and is now in the final phase of the competition.

Full Moon Features: Good Manners (2017)

Craig J. Clark — Jan. 30th 2018

Further proof that the most creative and inventive werewolf movies are being made outside the U.S. right now, Brazil’s Good Manners isn’t the first werewolf film to come out of that country — 1972’s O Homem Lobo has it beat by 45 years — but it’s the first one I’ve seen. (The second will be coming to Full Moon Features in the not-too-distant future.) Written and directed by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, Good Manners (original title: As Boas Maneiras) is a bit of a shapeshifter itself since its story cycles through a number of different genres, beginning with a social-realist drama about a financially strapped woman with no references and no work experience who gets hired as a live-in nanny for a single mother-to-be who’s still months away from giving birth. She just needs somebody to help with the cooking and cleaning and shopping and everything else she’s never had to do for herself.

The novice nanny, who trained as a nurse but had to abandon her studies to take care of an ailing grandmother, is Clara (Isabél Zuaa), and her employer, who moved into a spacious condo in downtown Säo Paulo after being cut off by her family and dumped by her fiancé, is Ana (Marjorie Estiano). At first, things are a bit bumpy between then, but Clara puts up with Ana’s spoiled and sometimes erratic behavior because, well, she needs the job. Then she figures out (which the help of a nifty lunar-themed calendar) that Ana’s behavior becomes especially erratic around the full moon, culminating in the scene where Ana goes out sleepwalking one night and eats a stray cat. (This is after her doctor has told her to cut out meat, a directive the baby growing inside her is clearly not on board with.)

Slowly but surely, Good Manners edges into horror territory (while also taking detours into lesbian romance and, strangely enough, the musical) in scenes like this and the one where Ana comes on to Clara, only to bite her lip and leave deep scratches in her shoulder. As for the identity of the baby’s father, which presumably would explain a lot, this is revealed through a series of drawings as Ana recounts the night she was seduced by a stranger who subsequently turned into a beast and fled when she shot it with her gun. His progeny, meanwhile, prematurely claws its way out of Ana’s belly one full moon and is, I must confess, cute as the dickens. The newborn pup is brought to life by a sophisticated puppet, but when the story jumps forward seven years, the transformed Joel (Miguel Lobo — yes, that’s the kid’s name) is entirely a CGI creation. Rojas and Dutra withhold his feral form until the film’s final act, but before that they do show the aftermaths of his nights in the “little bedroom” adjoining his own where Clara chains him to the wall. (Instead of reverting completely to human form, he still retains a coat of thick hairs that have to be shaved off and sharp fingernails that must be trimmed before he can return to school.) And it’s not until after Joel has killed one of his classmates (and makes the news) that the word “werewolf” is even spoken, but there’s never any doubt about what he is — or his father was.

The thing is, it ultimately doesn’t matter who Joel’s father is because he was never in the picture to begin with — much like Rojas and Dutra radically frame their story’s first half so no men are ever seen (although some are heard, chiefly Ana’s doctor). This way, the first clear sighting of one — the father of one of Joel’s classmates — is as much a shock to the viewer as it is to the young boy who has more questions about his parentage than Clara is prepared to answer. This is why it’s so easy to believe her when she tells him, “Everything I do, I do it to protect you.” Right or wrong, she’s only doing what she thinks is best for him, but let’s be honest. Keeping the kid on a strict vegetarian diet was always destined to fail.

Lycanthropy, motherhood collide in gothic Brazilian horror drama “Good Manners” (As Boas Maneiras)

A. Quinton — Jan. 11th 2018

When I asked folks on Twitter to let me know about any upcoming werewolf movies missing from my list, Full Moon Features writer Craig J. Clark sent in a link to Good Manners (“As Boas Maneiras” in its native Portuguese), a 2017 horror drama from writer / director team Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas.

The film tells the story of Clara, a nurse from a São Paulo favela, who finds herself the adoptive mother of a werewolf child after his mother dies giving birth to him under a full moon. And that’s just the first act!

Reviews so far are unanimously positive. The Hollywood Reporter described it as “a hybrid of art house and genre cinema [that combines] sharp social commentary with grand guignol fantasy”.

The synopses, the reviews and even the poster position this as the sort of story I want more of – lycanthropy is integral to the story, but not necessarily the subject of the story.

I don’t read Portuguese so it’s hard for me to be sure, but I think Good Manners is currently in what I like to call “international festival limbo”. It screened at a variety of South American festivals in 2017, but it doesn’t yet seem to be slated for any 2018 appearances, and there are no details regarding international distribution. Keep an eye out for purchase / rental links here when that latter bit changes.

Edit: Indiana University Cinema has screenings scheduled for January 25th and 26th, if you can make it to Bloomington.

Further edit: Writer / director Marco Dutra commented on this very post to confirm the film had two US festival appearances, and that more are on the way!

In the meantime, here are some promo photos and a trailer. This film looks gorgeous and I can’t wait for it to traumatize me!

Birth.Movies.Death on The Amicus Vault Of Horror: “The Beast Must Die!”

A. Quinton — Jan. 6th 2018

Birth.Movies.Death has an interesting review of The Beast Must Die. Writer Jacob Knight speaks more highly of the 1974 exploitation film than Craig J. Clark did in his Full Moon Features review, although both writers noted the laggy pacing and “it’s just a dog” werewolf effects. The film is getting a new release on January 16th as part of the Amicus Collection, where it will join And Now The Screaming Starts and Asylum on Blu-ray for the first time.

Yes, the basic concept behind The Beast Must Die! (’74) is one Amicus’ most ingeniously exploitive: an Agatha Christie riff (call it Ten Little Lycanthropes), combining the racial tension of Blaxploitation with the modern updates of monster movies the studio had made its calling card over the last decade, competing with Hammer Studios for supreme dominance of the ’70s British horror market. Soon, six associates will arrive at Newcliffe’s home, all with various shady backstories. One of the them is a werewolf, and when the full moon rises that evening, the noble hunter assures us all that the beast must die.

This strikes me as one of those werewolf films that everyone assumes every other werewolf fan has seen, but I missed it growing up, when it aired on channels we didn’t get, far after I was supposed to be in bed. Now that I can just watch it at home at my leisure, I might need to cross this off my list, although I might opt for the more affordable stand-alone DVD release from 2006.

The conclusion of Craig J. Clark’s Full Moon Features review nearly encapsulates the reason I haven’t bumped this film higher up my list:

The biggest disappointment, though, is when the monster is revealed to be a big, black German shepherd. That’s not a beast that needs to die. It probably just wants to go walkies.

“Lycanimator” trailer leans hard into goopy, colourful B-movie territory

A. Quinton — Jan. 5th 2018

Whatever you might say about its production values or its gratuitous fetish content (“Who’s afraid of the big slimy wolf?” sounds like a writing prompt for a very DeviantArt sort of short story), writer / director / actor Sébastien Godin‘s upcoming film Lycanimator certainly looks fresh as hell. I spy that one werewolf mask everyone’s using in their low-budget werewolf movies, but it gets remixed into a horrific neon nightmare of ooze and incredibly long claws. Dread Central has the exclusive trailer (or watch it below) and more credits. Keep an eye on its Facebook page and its Werewolf Movies entry for release dates.

Full Moon Features: Something with Bite (2008)

Craig J. Clark — Jan. 1st 2018

This holiday season, Netflix subscribers received a lump of coal in their stocking in the form of Bright, a movie with more than a passing resemblance to 1988’s Alien Nation since it’s about a human cop reluctantly partnered up with an orc. Coming on the heels of 2015’s poorly received Victor Frankenstein, screenwriter Max Landis’s last high-concept genre effort, this doesn’t exactly bode well for his plans to retool the story of his forthcoming American Werewolf in London remake, but if one looks back about a decade in his CV, it’s possible to have a glimmer of hope for what might be.

It’s hard to imagine now, but long before he had any features to his name, Landis was just an up-and-comer whose sole writing credit was on the Masters of Horror episode Deer Woman, on which he collaborated with its director, who just so happened to be his father. When Showtime decided two Masters of Horror seasons were enough, creator Mick Garris sold NBC on a similar anthology called Fear Itself and brought the younger Landis on board to pen one of its episodes. The result was the scrappy werewolf tale Something with Bite, which never aired on the network because it pulled the plug on the ratings-challenged series after eight episodes in favor of airing the 2008 Summer Olympics. Talk about shortsighted.

Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson — another Masters of Horror veteran — Something with Bite stars Wendell Pierce as tubby, lethargic veterinarian Wilbur Orwell, who’s good with animals but whose home life isn’t all it could be. (His wife and son both feel neglected, and with good reason.) Then he gets bitten by an injured werewolf that’s brought to his clinic when it’s hit by a truck and, well, things start turning around for our man Wilbur. Not only does he develop a heightened sense of smell (along with the ability to transform into a large, hairy, ravenous beast at will), but he also becomes more assertive with his employees and attentive to his family. The only hitch is the series of apparent animal attacks that has been plaguing the city. The police detective on the case believes they’re the work of a man (“A disturbed man, but still a man.”) and somehow comes to suspect Wilbur, which puts him on the spot. After all, if he doesn’t remember everything he does when he’s a wolf, how does he know for sure that he didn’t do them?

Maybe I’m biased, but when I eventually caught up with Something with Bite on DVD, I found it to be one of Fear Itself‘s better episodes. Its take on werewolf lore is interesting (for instance, did you know there are vegan werewolves?) and Landis leavens the script with enough humor to keep it from getting too dark. I also like the design of the beast, which Dickerson is able to give a fair amount of screen time at the climax. Even in extreme closeup it manages to be convincing, which is quite an achievement given the budget constraints. Should Landis’s American Werewolf redo see the light of day, I hope to be able to say the same thing about the creature his special effects team conjures up.

UK werewolf film “Carnivore: Werewolf of London” is out in North America

A. Quinton — Dec. 23rd 2017

Writer/director Simon Wells‘s low-budget feature film is now available for purchase States-size from Amazon and Google Play. It stars Atlanta Johnson and Ben Loyd Holmes  (who also produced), plus this wooly, beady-eyed werewolf.

“Whilst trying to reignite their relationship at a remote cottage,” the promo copy reads, “Dave and Abi are stalked by a terrifying secret.”

I searched the trailer for hints as to what the secret could be, since the presence of a werewolf is right there in the title. Here’s my guess: the secret is that the poster art bears no relation whatsoever to the content of the film, which does not take place in London, and which seems like a thin story wrapped around excuses to have Johnson scream very loudly and show a fit Holmes with his shirt off.

Conduct your own investigation with the trailer here: