Full Moon Features: Wolf Girl (2001)
A good 13 years before American Horror Story co-creators Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy set the show’s fourth season in and around a freak show, there was 2001’s Wolf Girl, which is set in and around a freak show. Instead of Jessica Lange as a Marlene Dietrich-like entertainer, this one’s owner, Harley Dune, is played by Tim Curry, who doesn’t have to act like anyone other than himself to be convincing. His main attraction — and he knows it — is Tara the Wolf Girl (Victoria Sanchez), who suffers from hypertrichosis, but otherwise is a completely normal, reasonably well-adjusted young woman. Then Dune’s traveling anachronism rolls into a town where Tara runs afoul of a quartet of teenage bullies who have nothing better to do with their time than come up with ways to humiliate her while she’s trying to work.
It’s not a total wash, though, since she meets a shy boy named Ryan (Dov Tiefenbach) who offers to help her out since his mother (Lesley Ann Warren), a cosmetics researcher, is secretly working on an experimental depilatory serum. While Tara appreciates its effectiveness, especially when her body hair starts falling out in clumps in the shower, the side effects she keeps from Ryan — headaches, violent daydreams, aggressive behavior — are more troubling. As to why she starts to act more like an animal the less she looks like one, that’s a question for screenwriter Lori Lansens and director Thom Fitzgerald, who pad out the running time with risque sideshow acts, including two full songs performed by Grace Jones as half-man/half-woman Christoph/Christine.
Sprinkled throughout the film are passing references to recent wolf attacks, which began before Tara’s arrival, so it’s not like the townspeople can suspect her of them, as well as glimpses of the not terribly threatening-looking beast itself. There’s also a scene where Dune’s right-hand man, Fingers Finnian (Jordan Prentice, who later popped up in a memorable cameo in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges), invokes the Freak Code, thus raising the specter of Tod Browning’s Freaks. Once Tara gets a taste for revenge, though, she proves more than capable of taking care of herself.
The Incomparable podcast considers Ginger Snaps
I have a fractious relationship with Jason Snell‘s long-running nerd culture podcast, The Incomparable. I like Jason and a lot of the people who guest on the show, and they often talk about familiar and beloved books, films, or other media in so-called geek culture… but all too often, they end up dunking on things near and dear to me. It’s been over three years and I haven’t quite forgiven them for going in so hard on Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel Aurora. So I was a little nervous when I saw they were covering 2000’s Ginger Snaps, considered by many (including myself) to be one of the best werewolf movies ever made.
It’s almost Halloween and we’re watching a horror movie! As recommended by Steve Lutz 475 episodes ago, it’s a Canadian tale of girls becoming women, and women becoming wolves: “Ginger Snaps.” We discuss parallels to “Buffy”, connections to “Orphan Black”, and ultimately whether this film can live up to its feminist aspirations or if it’s yet another case where a girl is punished for becoming a woman—er, werewolf.
How did this strange, funny, weird little Canadian werewolf film fare under the scrutiny of a panel of people who gladly spend 96 minutes analyzing every frame from Star Wars trailers? Hear for yourself, and may you come away as satisfied as I was at the conclusion – and equally as delighted to hear Jason’s squeamish reaction to Ginger’s tail.
Werewolf Vlogger Colin answers the big questions for new werewolves
(image: Hired Goons)
“When one door closes, another leading to a multiverse opens.” This is an example of the wisdom that nascent werewolves (or the werewolf-curious) can expect from A Werewolf in Australia‘s lycanthropic host, Colin. The line, delivered in a spot-on lifestyle-vlogger cadence and setting, is Colin’s attempt to rationalize the consumption of some other-worldly meat as an example of an ethical werewolf diet. Colin’s a vegetarian, you see, but he really, really wants to eat meat. Like, a lot. Maybe even humans. So he finds… a workaround.
A Werewolf in Australia is a weekly YouTube comedy series written and directed by Pearce Hoskinson, co-founder of creative filmmaking agency Hired Goons. It stars Sam Monaghan as a cuddly (but dangerous [but also prone to weeping in his car]) werewolf of eighteen months, who struggles to make sense of the supernatural world he now inhabits.
Each episode explores different tips for surviving as a werewolf. It’s a very DIY kind of production – we’ve made most of the props and costumes ourselves or modified existing costumes. We’ve made it as an affectionate love letter to werewolves and are hoping to find other fans of werewolves who might enjoy it.
Underneath the bright and cheerful vlogger trappings (edited to remove all natural pauses, carefully-staged bookshelf background, phrases like “okay. guys, let’s get into it!”) there’s a thread of darkness that’s played just straight enough to create a real sense of danger. What happened on (and to) Colin’s date in episode two? It’s not what you think. It’s worse.
As of this post, there are four episodes out, with one more on the way next week. I’ve only had time to watch the first two, and both were easily “I would pay for more of this” funny. The parody of vlogger tropes is spot-on, the production is great – DIY costumes and all – and, most importantly, it’s funny, smart werewolf content. Let’s get into it!
“Peleja no Sertão” is an animated werewolf brawl in the Brazilian backcountry
(image: Warriors / Peleja no Sertão)
Sometimes a pothole is more than just a pothole, and all you have is a stick. That doesn’t make any sense right now, but after you watch this animated short from Brazil’s Warriors animation team, it will make sense. You’ll have forgotten all about the pothole and the stick, though, because of the werewolf. The very good werewolf.
Peleja no Sertão (which translates roughly to “fight in the backcountry”) relies heavily on CG rendering for anything that isn’t a character, but the characters themselves are hand-animated in a way that I find expressive and extremely appealing. The story itself is basically a Tales from the Crypt vignette, which isn’t an insult – it’s all we need to set up an extended fight against an especially well-designed quadrupedal werewolf, and a fantastic transformation scene. You can watch it right here:
When it came out in 2016, Peleja won some awards, and the team behind it is now working on their next project, which you can see and support on Patreon.
I learned about this animation on Twitter a few weeks ago, but I lost the tweet – if you shared this with me, please @ me at @WerewolfNews and I’ll credit you.
Creepshow “Bad Wolf Down” Review
(image: Shudder Creepshow S1E2)
The Creepshow reboot is all-horror streaming service Shudder’s newest offering, and they didn’t waste any time getting to the werewolves with episode 2’s first story, “Bad Wolf Down”.
Set in WW2 France, the tale follows four American soldiers on the run from Nazi troops. Taking refuge in an abandoned jail, they discover a pile of gnawed-on corpses and a strange, yellow-eyed woman locked in a cell. As the enemies close in, the trapped men make a desperate deal with the woman – she passes on her lycanthropic curse in exchange for a silver crucifix to end her own life. The three freshly inducted werewolves then proceed to tear through the unsuspecting Nazis like a chainsaw through cupcakes.
Nazis and werewolves are a theme that has come together surprisingly often, most likely because of Hitler’s wolf obsession, with many fictional tales using Mengele’s horrific tortures as a setting for mad science, something that is of questionable taste. Heroic werewolves are seen less often, with Robert McCammon’s novel The Wolf’s Hour and its shapeshifting super-spy being a notable example. And of course, our own AQ’s zine Werewolves Versus put out a special charity issue, Werewolves Versus Fascism.
Writer/director Rob Schrab (Scud: the Disposable Assassin, Monster House, The Sarah Silverman Program) is best known for his comedy, and “Bad Wolf Down” has its slobbery tongue very firmly in cheek. The cinematography has strong comic book sensibilities, switching from gritty browns to vivid red during the werewolfy bits in a distinct 80’s style. The script is fast paced and rather bare bones, and sprinkled with Easter Eggs for werewolf movie fans. Especially enjoyable is how each soldier transforms into a different type of wolf – classic Wolf Man, quadrupedal hellhound in the style of An American Werewolf in London, and the towering, long-eared biped that became the new gold standard in The Howling.
One thing that might cause fans to grumble are the transformations, which are rendered as a series of still pictures. However, this fits with the general style of the show cutting away to comic panels. The drawings are well done, and considering we get two suits, a full and two partial make-ups, and plenty of practical gore effects (genre fav Jeffrey Combs as the Nazi commander gets a particularly gruesome demise), realistically the budget had to give somewhere.
Overall this is a fun stylistic throwback to the slightly cheesy anthology shows of the 80’s like Monsters, Tales From the Crypt and Tales From the Darkside.
Full Moon Feature: Dark Moon Rising (2009)
When presented with a film like 2009’s Dark Moon Rising, it’s hard to know quite where to begin. Also known as Wolf Moon — and not to be confused with 2015’s Dark Moon Rising, which is a different movie altogether — it raises a big red flag by virtue of the fact that it has a running time in excess of two hours. In all my years of watching werewolf movies, there has only been one other that has topped two hours and that was Mike Nichols’s Wolf. (Even the director’s cut of Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman managed to come in under two hours.) In the case of Wolf, the extended running time was somewhat justified because the film doubled as a sharp character study. Dark Moon Rising, on the other hand, is stocked with shallow characters who are exactly what they appear to be on first glance and never develop beyond that. And since there are only seven characters of any note — and two of those are glorified cameos — that means they have a hell of a lot of water to tread between them.
If the opening narration is anything to go by, this is the story of a girl named Amy (Ginny Weirick), the virginal daughter of an overprotective Nevada rancher (Chris Mulkey) who falls in love with a handsome drifter named Dan (Chris Divecchio) who just so happens to be cursed to periodically turn into a hairy beast (which looks a heck of a lot like the X-Man Beast when we finally get a good look at him about a third of the way into the picture). Actually, the two of them don’t hit it off at first because he’s a total jerk to her, but then he stops being a jerk and later comes to her rescue when she naïvely accepts a ride from a stranger who attempts to rape her. It is then that Dan reveals he’s been following Amy around since the day they met, which she rightly identifies as stalker behavior, but they still go through with the standard-issue “falling in love” montage that is only slightly marred by his vision of slashing her face with a hairy paw. That’s only the beginning, though, because in the very next scene he goes full-on wolf-man, terrorizing an old couple in a truck and bothering some livestock and killing a dog before getting scared off by the shotgun-toting Crazy Louis (the part the late Sid Haig was born to play).
The next morning, Dan wakes up in the desert, clad only in torn jeans (kind of like The Hulk) and gets a ride back into town, whereupon he drives Amy out to the desert so he can spill his secret, bluntly saying, “I’m a fucking werewolf,” then chaining himself up so he can’t hurt her. He breaks the chain as soon as he changes, though (through the magic of morphing), but doesn’t harm her, which inspires them to go to a psychic to find out what the deal with him is. The psychic tells them he’s cursed (no duh) and that his father must be killed if he is to be freed from it. (She also tells them, “Goodbye. Please don’t let out the kitty,” when it’s time for them to go.) This, by the way, is the perfect time to bring up the dark, mysterious stranger (played by top-billed Max Ryan) who kills his way through several states on his way to Pahrump, Nevada. (Can’t imagine who he could be.) (Also, Pahrump, Nevada, is totally a real place that neither I nor the filmmakers made up.)
In the role of the clueless sheriff who can’t understand how a wolf could kill a horse while walking upright like a man, co-writer/director Dana Mennie cast Maria Conchita Alonso, one of six lucky cast members who are listed as co-producers in the opening credits. (I’m guessing this means they didn’t get paid up front.) The last piece of the puzzle is provided by Billy Drago as a man on the trail of Dan’s father who fills in Amy’s father and the sheriff (who once had a thing for each other, don’tcha know) on his backstory. Meanwhile, Amy’s father tries in vain to keep her and Dan apart, even pulling a gun on him at one point, but he’s happy to have the young werewolf on his side when the time comes for the final showdown with his old man. (Crazy Louis gets in on this as well, allowing Haig to let rip with lines like “Let’s go kill some shit” and “All right, you fuzzy-ass motherfucker” when he goes mano-a-mano with the big, bad wolf.) Why Dan has to walk off into the sunset after it’s all over was lost on me (after all, his father was killed, which is what I thought had to happen for his curse to be lifted), but as it’s been a decade since this came out, I don’t think we’ll be getting a Dark Moon Rising 2 (or a Wolf Moon 2, for that matter) to clarify it.
No haunted house or cursed castle is complete without this bust of “The Hound”
(image: Art of Kurt)
This 17.50 inch polystone sculpture by Kurt Papstein for Level52 Studios is the perfect addition to any empty plinth in your shadowy hallway or bare space between dread grimoires in your library. I also think it would look amazing on my rickety $30 Ikea shelf, but then, I’m not a wealthy insane baroness who lives in a dilapidated castle, so I have to make compromises.
The Hound is a super-sized new addition to the Busted Series by Level52 Studios. Sculptor Kurt Papstein has managed to capture the untamed ferocity of this nocturnal nightmare in stunning detail from its bright, ruthless eyes to its gaping maw and flowing mane. Add this beast to your collection, and you’ll have to do a double take when stepping into the room. Maybe this time it IS lunging at you!
Standing at a truly massive 17.5” tall and produced in polystone, this finely crafted creature arrives in Level52’s signature premium packaging. The Hound will make an excellent watchdog to guard your other collectible treasures.
The werewolf queen of Chaos Costumes featured on Nice Content
You’ve almost certainly seen Blair Ondrla’s work online. Her incredible werewolf queen costume surfaces every so often on Twitter and in convention photos, and her cloven hoof shoes regularly make the rounds on Facebook – her self-described “hoof empire” has escaped the realms of cosplayers and furry and reached the world of the normies. She’s really, really good at what she does, so it’s no surprise she was the subject of a short feature on YouTube, which you can watch below.
There are plenty of how-to videos online, and I’m glad this wasn’t one of them. I enjoyed the close-up meditative shots of the resin and other materials, and it was cool to see her applying makeup and horn prosthetics in a manner that emphasized the artistry of the process. The video weirdly omits any direct links to Ondrla’s work, so allow me: Etsy, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! It’s too late to order anything for Halloween, but
Russ Turk’s “Hungry Werewolf” mask embodies the spirit of 80’s cartoon menace
This werewolf mask by Russ Turk is a real-world manifestation of what I loved about every werewolf I saw in 1980s Saturday morning cartoons. The wild fur, the beady yellow eyes, the big ol’ snout… this is precisely the kind of beast who menaced Egon and the boys in The Real Ghostbusters and ensured the werewolf’s place in my heart.
Before we go any further, yes, as of the time of this post, there’s one – and only one – left for sale. If you love the look of it as much as I do and you have $450 USD to spend, go, quickly!
When Russ first shared photos of this mask’s predecessors on the Latex Mask Central Facebook group back June, I immediately wanted to know more. Russ was kind enough to email me some more photos and some details about how each one is made.
This particular werewolf mask took 4 days to sculpt, one day to make the mold, 3 days for the latex to dry, and an afternoon to paint. The hair application took about 4 hours. The teeth were sculpted and molded separately and cast in resin. I glue them into the mouth of the mask after the mask is painted, but before the hair is applied.
There was no particular inspiration for the werewolf, it’s just a hodgepodge of werewolves I’ve seen in movies and magazine over the years. The main thing I wanted to portray was a scary expression on its face and a big mouth filled with sharp teeth.
I’d say the result is a success, and again, I’m delighted by how precisely it nails the vibe of “werewolf who kills people but who will be defeated by four teenagers and their dog in the third act”.
Russ is a genuine talent – he just won Best New Vendor at Maskfest 2019 – and I’m so happy that he’s using his abilities to create masks with such cartoonish character and real menace. You can see more of his work on Etsy and Instagram.
Full Moon Feature: Alpha Wolf (2018)
This month marks a milestone of sorts since this is my 100th Full Moon Feature for Werewolf News. To mark the occasion, I could revisit an old favorite (like An American Werewolf in London, which I covered in my very first column eight years ago) or take stock of everything I’ve seen and learned in the time I’ve been contributing to this fine site. Or I could eviscerate some half-assed werewolf movie I found streaming on Amazon Prime. Yeah, that’s more like it.
This month’s half-assed werewolf movie is Alpha Wolf, which has one up on its low-budget brethren since director Kevin VanHook has a recognizable star in Casper Van Dien (also one of the film’s producers), who has come down in the Hollywood hierarchy since his days appearing in such A-list genre fare as Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. In Alpha Wolf, he plays Jack Lupo (not the film’s most egregious character name, but it’s close), who is introduced driving out to the proverbial cabin in the woods with his wife Virginia (Jennifer Wenger) and her dog Larry (as in Talbot). Their destination: her aunt’s cabin, which has sat vacant since her uncle was killed in the standard “two hunters get brutally slain by some shaggy, half-seen monster” prologue.
The cabin is the kind of place where there’s no cell reception and they need to fire up the generator if they want electricity. In other words, the perfect place to patch up a shaky marriage or get savaged by some hairy beast. This happens about a quarter of the way into the film, after the obligatory sex scene where Van Dien shows off more of his body than his co-star. Likewise, Jack reveals the kind of man he is when, having been bitten on the arm by the beast that just jumped through the window, he runs off (shades of the cowardly husband in Force Majeure), leaving Larry to come to Virginia’s rescue. In the process of chasing the monster off, though, Larry gets bit himself. And what do you think happens when a dog is bit by a werewolf? Have no fear. Alpha Wolf has the answer.
The film also has an answer for why everyone in the isolated rural community where it’s set behaves so strangely knowing. From Big John, owner of the general store, and his brother, Sheriff Carradine (whose names combine, Voltron-like, to form one of the werewolf actors in The Howling) to Doc Howard (who has the same surname as a certain Teen Wolf), who examines Jack’s wound and tells him “life for you is about to change,” they all know what the score is from the start.
None is more smug about it, though, than the neighborly Reed Oliver (yes, screenwriter Wes C. Caefer went and took the name of the star of The Curse of the Werewolf and just reversed it), who arrives on their doorstep after Virginia has boarded up all the windows and doors and proceeds to bend her ear about the duality of man and how Jack has been given “The Gift” when all he’s really been given is the ability to turn into a creature (“What you might call a werewolf,” he says patronizingly) that looks a lot like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. As played by Patrick Muldoon (a fellow Starship Troopers vet), Reed is about an insufferable as they come, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who the couple’s fuzzy visitor was. Similarly, when Virginia points out the coin jar full of silver dollars upon their arrival at the cabin, that all but guarantees they’ll be put to some use before the credits roll.