Category: Film, Television & Music
Craig J. Clark — Nov. 3rd 2017
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Some college students head into the woods under some flimsy pretext and get picked off one by one by a POV camera that knows the terrain better than them. In the new indie Lycan, the pretext is that the six students are working on a group project where their vaguely defined assignment is to “recreate a moment of history,” and between the title and the fact that the landmark they’re looking for (on horseback, no less) is the supposed grave of the Werewolf of Talbot County (get it?), it’s reasonable to assume that whatever is stalking them is a werewolf. Then again, the opening title does specify that it’s “A FILM Based on a TRUE LEGEND,” so the chances of anybody in it actually sprouting fur and fangs before going on their co-ed killing spree land squarely between slim and none, and slim isn’t liking its chances.
Set in the year 1986 for no discernible reason (although it does allow writer/director Bev Land and co-writer Michael Mordler to shoehorn in references to Sixteen Candles and Mr. T with impunity), the film announces its intentions with two solid minutes of a naked, overweight farmer having vigorous sex with a prostitute, followed by his discovery that something has killed his chickens and his dog and is about to do the same to both of them. On the other side of the opening titles, a history prof with a prickly sense of humor (played by Vanessa Angel, previously known to me as the Soviet snow bunny Dan Aykroyd cozies up to in Spies Like Us) sets things in motion by throwing six Breakfast Club types into one group and addressing them all by name so the viewer knows which characters they’ll be following and what their defining traits are.
The one that doesn’t fit into the John Hughes mold is Kenny (Parker Croft), the Bolex camera-toting horndog pothead whose character seems modeled more on Jamie Kennedy in Wes Craven’s Scream than, say, Judd Nelson’s “criminal” Bender. As for the others, Irving (Craig Tate) is definitely the overachieving “brain” of the group, putting him in Anthony Michael Hall’s shoes. Baseball player Blake (Jake Lockett) is the Emilio Estevez “athlete” equivalent. Stuck-up rich girl Blair (Rebekah Graf) and her dutiful sorority pledge Chrissy (Kalia Prescott) have to split the Molly Ringwald “princess” role between them. (Blair even makes multiple references to the debutante party she doesn’t want to miss.) And bringing up the rear is social outcast Isabella (Dania Ramirez, also one of the film’s producers and a contributor to its story), who’s working the Ally Sheedy “basket case” angle something fierce but needs more than a simple makeover to fit in.
Unsurprisingly, Isabella is the character we learn the most about, including that she lives on a farm with an older woman she calls “mama” (Gail O’Grady, who made her screen debut as “Victim in VW” in the pilot for the ’80s Werewolf TV series) who isn’t her real mother, she takes medicine for some unspecified condition, she sleeps in the barn, and she has a fairy tramp stamp (which is tastefully revealed by Land, who incidentally is also Ramirez’s husband). Furthermore, when the group sets up camp for the night, she repurposes her own childhood trauma by relating how her actual parents were slaughtered in the very same woods when she was eleven as a campfire story, which none of the others pick up on. Soon after the party turns in (with Irving having been drugged by Kenny, who intended to roofie Chrissy), one of them is dragged out of their tent by something with enormous claws and the game is afoot (or aclaw, as it were).
Even in the light of day, the boobs falls prey to various traps, with one getting his foot caught in a coyote trap, another stepping in one that leaves him hanging upside-down from a tree, and a third falling into a pit (and pulling the fourth down into it with him). Finally, the survivors make it to Isabella’s house, where they’re greeted by a couple of not-terribly-intimidating-looking wolves and their number is further reduced by a booby-trapped piano. (Don’t ask.) There follows one of the most blatantly foreshadowed reveals ever, a poorly choreographed fight to the death, and an unnecessary flash-forward to the present day, when Kenny’s Bolex is happened upon by a little girl. Based on the footage he got and the condition it will be in after being out in the elements for three-plus decades, I don’t foresee anyone making a Blair Witch-type feature out of it.
A. Quinton — Oct. 20th 2017
I consume more podcasts than any other media, and this week I was delighted to find two of my favourite shows discussing werewolves.
First up is a Sawbones episode about every werewolf’s best friend, the full moon. Sawbones is a medical history podcast that examines all the “odd, weird, wrong, dumb and just gross” things humans have done to themselves and each other in the name of medicine. In this latest episode, hosts Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin explore the full moon’s connection to lunacy, rumours of crowded hospital ERs, and – of course – lycanthropy.
The moon is more than just a big hunk of cheese. Actually, it’s not even really cheese. Did you think it was cheese? Wow, you know less about the moon that we thought. Dr. Sydnee and Justin’s history of all the things we blame the moon for is going to be extra super educational for you, huh?
Next up (and currently paused in my earbuds while I type this) is Lore episode 71, “Silver Lining”, in which writer / producer / narrator Aaron Mahnke visits the werewolves of 18th century France.
We’ve conquered much of our world, but even with all of our great cities and urban sprawl, there are still shadows on the edge. And it’s in the shadows that the greatest threats still exist—creatures from our darkest nightmares that threaten our feeling of safety. Which has led some to strike out into the dark and hunt them.
Lore is a phenomenal show about the true-life roots of monster myths and scary stories. This month it debuts in a new form – an Amazon Prime Video series that combines “dramatic scenes, animation, archive and narration” to re-visit classic episodes of the podcast. The fifth video in the series is an adaptation of Lore’s first werewolf-themed episode “The Beast Within”, which I wrote about in 2015. I’m not a Prime subscriber so I’m not sure how or when I’ll get to watch this, but the key art alone (the featured image on this post) makes me pretty sure I’ll love it when I do see it.
A. Quinton — Oct. 13th 2017
Werewolf News readers who’ve seen Andrés Muschietti’s stellar film adaptation of “It” know that it had one glaring omission, and now thanks to artist Carlos Huante we know why.
The tale’s eponymous monster wears a variety of shapes, each attuned to its prey’s deepest fears, its favourite (and most iconic) being that of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. In Stephen King’s novel and the 1990 made-for-TV adaptation, one of those shapes was that of a werewolf.
When the trailer for Muschietti’s film arrived earlier this year, I took a particular scene as solid evidence that we’d see another depiction of Werewolf Pennywise. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Muschietti’s decision to slightly modernize the story’s setting included a revamp of It’s fear-based forms, leading to the absence of a few “classic monsters” (including the werewolf) and the introduction of some new ones. Effective, but kind of a bummer for werewolf fans.
Today, this Instagram post by artist Carlos Huante – who’s been designing creatures for Hollywood features for nearly three decades – revealed that Werewolf Pennywise was under consideration for the 2017 adaptation, but was ultimately excluded when “the money people shot it down”. The drawing is part of a set of commissions done in relation to Huante’s latest art book, Rasca, and shows what he might have pitched if the money people had decided to allocate some of the film’s USD $35 million budget to a lycanthrope with pom pom buttons.
I’d like to think that Huante’s vision of Werewolf Pennywise might still make an appearance in the second film, due out in 2019. Considering the first film’s astonishing box office success (USD $604.4 million and counting), I doubt funding will be an issue.
Craig J. Clark — Oct. 4th 2017
As long as I’ve been a fan of John Landis’s landmark lycanthropus An American Werewolf in London (the subject of my very first Full Moon Feature six years ago), I’ve stringently avoided exposing myself to its late-arriving sequel for fear of tainting the original in my eyes. Released in Japan on October 18, 1997, and the U.K. on the 31st (fans in the States would have to wait until Christmas Day to feast their eyes on it), An American Werewolf in Paris can’t even be considered a proper sequel to London since they have no characters in common (this despite the opening title that says it’s “Based on Characters Created by John Landis”). At most, director Anthony Waller and screenwriters Tim Burns and Tom Stern (whose also co-wrote Alex Winter’s bizarro cult item Freaked) borrow some of the werewolf lore Landis invented for his film.
The main thing they play around with is the notion that a werewolf’s victims are doomed to return as the undead, but even then they muck it up (or at the very least muddy the waters) because Landis specified everyone in the werewolf’s bloodline had to die for them to stop walking the Earth. (This is why Jack is around to haunt David.) Here, only the werewolf that carried out the attack has to be destroyed, a challenging proposition since they all look exactly alike when transformed. Waller, Burns, and Stern also add a wrinkle about werewolves not being haunted if they eat their victims’ hearts. Furthermore, a werewolf can cure themselves by eating the heart of the one that bit them. Shockingly enough, with all the talk of heart-eating in this film, at no point does anybody — werewolf or otherwise — say “eat your heart out,” but then again, the script’s often ill-fitting humor runs more to physical gags than verbal jokes (one exception: the stiff in the morgue who moans, “A guy can’t rest in pieces around here”), so perhaps that’s just as well.
The trouble begins with the substitution of three college bros on a “daredevil tour” of Europe for the down-to-Earth David and Jack. Of the three, Andy (Tom Everett Scott) is the least aggravating, so naturally it falls to him to rescue distraught Parisian Sérafine (Julie Delpy) when she throws herself off the Eiffel Tower — which he was planning to do himself, only with a bungee cord attached to his feet. (This is the first of many poor special effects scenes that have failed to hold up, as if they were remotely convincing 20 years ago.) As for Andy’s buddies, Brad and Chris (Vince Vieluf and Phil Buckman), I guess he was given two so one could be werewolf chow while the other becomes a pawn of the werewolf cabal when its leader, Claude (Pierre Cosso), attempts to recruit the newly lycanthropic Andy, whose condition is poorly explained to him by Sérafine.
It turns out Claude likes to throw parties for American tourists, which he and his hand-picked goon squad proceeds to tear apart at the appointed time. Alas, these party scenes leave an opening for Waller to fill the soundtrack with ’90s alt-rock tripe by the likes of Bush, Better Than Ezra, Smash Mouth, Skinny Puppy, and Fastball. (Cake gets a pass because they’re Cake and their song is a cover of Barry White’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”) When you’re making the follow-up to a beloved film with an iconic soundtrack, the last thing you want to do is set a montage sequence to “Walkin’ on the Sun,” which goes completely against the spirit of the song choices in the original.
In spite of that lapse, Paris features a few deliberate echoes of London, including a pipe-smoking authority figure and the reality that the police are mostly clueless about the nature of the beasts they’re confronting. There’s even an homage of sorts to the Piccadilly multi-vehicle pile-up when Andy steals a car and almost immediately crashes it. One area where it doesn’t even attempt to follow in the first film’s paw prints, though, is the transformations, which are accomplished via rubbery-looking CGI. The fully transformed wolves are also digital creations, with the few practical effects reserved for extreme closeups. Instead of taking stock of this and realizing which effects were convincing and which were not, Hollywood doubled down on the ones and zeroes, believing that eventually technology would catch up to what Rick Baker accomplished with latex appliances and sheer ingenuity. Twenty years later, we’re still waiting.
A. Quinton — Oct. 2nd 2017
Lest you think the video for Ghosted‘s catchy ode to teenage horniness is merely an “awkward duckling makes good” story, there’s a shot during the protagonist’s “getting ready” montage of some Polaroid photos of handsome dudes with their faces obscured by blood-red ink.
This video’s got some seriously great werewolf effects and gore. Thanks to Somnilux for the link!
Craig J. Clark — Sep. 5th 2017
Some werewolf tales are liberal enough that their lycanthropes are capable of transforming several nights in a row — as long as the moon looks full enough. Such is the case with the 1972 TV movie Moon of the Wolf, in which sheriff Aaron Whitaker (David Janssen) goes head-to-head with the uncanny when an unknown creature with superhuman strength starts chowing down on his constituents.
Set on the Louisiana bayou in the quaintly named town of Marsh Island, which gives director Daniel Petrie a fair amount of atmosphere to work with, Moon of the Wolf provides Whitaker with any of a number of suspects. There’s backwoods hick Tom (John Davis Chandler), who is out hunting with his pa (Royal Dano) when he discovers the werewolf’s first victim. Then there’s the victim’s distraught brother Lawrence (Geoffrey Lewis), who didn’t like her messing around above her station. And Whitaker also comes to suspect the town doctor (John Beradino), who apparently got the young lady in question pregnant and was pushing her to get an abortion. Meanwhile he rekindles a long-forgotten crush on Louise Rodanthe (Barbara Rush), whose family founded the town way back when and who’s just returned from the big, bad city. This doesn’t exactly endear Whitaker to her overprotective brother Andrew (Bradford Dillman), but until he solves his mystery it’s not like he has a whole lot of time for romancing anyway.
For such a short film (it’s only 74 minutes), Moon of the Wolf sure takes its time getting to the werewolf attacks (or even hinting that the attacks are being carried out by a werewolf). Apart from an old man on his deathbed raving in French about the “loup-garou,” no one even suspects that they have a lycanthrope on their hands (except maybe for the old man’s superstitious nurse, who knows how to ward them off), which leads the gun-toting populace to organize a wild dog hunt (the results of which are kept tastefully off-screen). Of course, when the killer finally does show his hairy face (and hands, which come complete with black fingernails) it’s none too impressive, so there’s a very good reason why the filmmakers kept his identity under wraps. It’s just too bad they also kept the body count down. A couple more murders would have livened the proceedings up immensely.
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.