Full Moon Features: Project: Metalbeast (1995)
Five years ago, when the theme of the inaugural issue of Werewolves Versus was announced as being “The 1990s,” I determined the way to tackle it was to review a film from that decade without the benefit of the IMDb or Wikipedia, relying only on my hazy memories. The film I chose was 1995’s Project: Metalbeast and after re-watching it for this month’s Full Moon Feature, I found my memories were mostly accurate, even if I didn’t know the names of most of the actors or behind-the-scenes personnel. In fact, the only ones I did remember were actor Barry Bostwick (who plays the film’s slimy human villain) and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder (who gets the “and _ as the MetalBeast” credit). Sorry, top-billed Kim Delaney!
I should also extend my apologies to co-writer/director Allesandro De Gaetano, but only if he apologizes to me first for bringing 2010’s Neowolf into the world. Then again, he may have done that simply to make his first werewolf film look better in comparison. One thing both films have in common is Eastern Europe as the source of their lycanthropy. In Neowolf, it was the eponymous rock band. Project: Metalbeast, on the other paw, opens in 1974 with a U.S. Military Intelligence infiltration of a Hungarian castle in the Carpathian Mountains.
Given the code name “Operation Lycanthropus,” its objective is the retrieval of a sample of werewolf blood for the purpose of creating a “superior combat agent.” That’s precisely what rogue operative Butler (John Manzilli) wants to be and why he has no compunction about letting their werewolf blood donor attack his partner, allowing him to get the drop on it. Back at the U.S. Secret Ops Center, though, Butler gets impatient with all the incessant testing (who cares if the blood has an extra chromosome, will it turn him into a bloodthirsty beast or not?) and recklessly injects himself with what’s left of the sample he took. In short order, he gets what he wants, but when he transforms and start mauling the medical staff, his smug superior Miller (Bostwick) plugs him with three silver bullets and has his body sent down to cryonics, where he spends the next two decades on ice. “This little experiment just gets more and more interesting, doesn’t it?” Miller asks no one in particular before the fade to black.
When the story picks back up in 1994, the “New U.S. Secret Ops Center” is being used for the development of an experimental synthetic skin by Dr. Anna de Carlo (Delaney), who keeps running into the problem of the skin hardening. That’s not an issue for Col. Miller, though, who gets himself put in charge of the project and provides de Carlo’s team with a test subject that’s more than just human. “These scientists don’t know it,” he tells Butler’s frozen popsicle of a corpse, “but they’re going to give you a skin of steel. You’ll be indestructible and under my control.” Of course, why he thinks the metal-skinned lycanthrope he shot 20 years earlier will be inclined to take orders from him is a real mystery. I guess he hopes Butler will let bygones be bygones.
As is often the case in werewolf movies, all it takes is for the silver bullets that killed the monster to be removed for it to come back to life. Unfortunately for de Carlo’s team, this occurs after they’ve covered most of Butler’s body with synthetic skin, resulting in his transformation into the MetalBeast when the full moon rises. As I wrote in my Werewolves Versus review, “There’s lots of running through dark hallways and warehouse space, gunfire galore, and even an explosion or two.” I also compared to Miller to Paul Reiser’s duplicitous company man in Aliens (an obvious antecedent), but it took this re-watch to remember how gruesomely Miller dies at the MetalBeast’s claws. Before he does, though, he straightens his tie and smooths down his hair. He’s fooling himself if he thinks he’s going to leave a good-looking corpse, but the effort is noted.
Thomas Jane, Jay Mohr & Sean Patrick Flanery run around the yard under a “Hunter’s Moon”
Hunter’s Moon from Lionsgate! Coming to digital and DVD in March! Starring Thomas Jane and two of the guys from Suicide Kings! Another entry in the “werewolf threatens people in a house” genre of films! It’s like Dog Soldiers but without the guns and the complaints about missing the football match! I’m so exhausted by this stuff!
Thomas Jane (The Mist) and Jay Mohr (Suicide Kings) star in this chilling home invasion horror thriller. When their parents leave town, three teenage girls decide to throw a party in their new country home. But when a gang of dangerous local boys with sinister intentions turn up, the women are forced to not only defend themselves from the evil inside of the house but an unseen bloodthirsty predator that is hunting them one by one outside of the house.”
This does not sound like ground-breaking cinema, nor does the trailer really help:
I am just not excited about this, but the grizzled presence of Thomas Jane might just elevate this out of direct-to-digital purgatory. Here he’s putting out big “secret werewolf” / “werewolf enabler” vibes, but even if he’s just a grizzled cop who knows how to prep a house for a siege, I’d watch him sneak around a garden in the dark for a few hours. Why not?
Werewolf effects corner: The werewolf shots from the trailer definitely show someone in a practical suit, which you love to see, but the end of the trailer does that “staccato shot of snarling jaws” thing, showing a mask with a skin texture like a no-bake cookie with fangs.
Hunter’s Moon will be available on March 24th.
The balance of monster & human is perfect in this Neal Harvey werewolf mask
Lurking in Facebook’s Latex Mask Central group continues to pay off. First I learned about Russ Turk’s “Hungry Werewolf” mask, and this week I discovered what may well be the best latex werewolf mask I’ve ever seen. Collector (and former werewolf mask maker, but more on that later) Paul Gill posted some photos of this snarling rat bastard of a lycanthrope, created by Neal Harvey of Rubber Gorilla. I contacted Paul privately and he was kind enough to provide more of his photos and some background on the mask.
Let me say right away that this is a werewolf mask that Neal makes and will sell to you, but you cannot succumb to poor impulse control and simply put it in an online shopping basket. According to Paul – who, may I remind you, figured out the secret because this is his mask you are looking at in this post – one can purchase this mask two ways: go to a convention where Neal is selling them, or ask him nicely through his Facebook page. I would be trying the latter approach if I hadn’t just made a purchase that depleted my monster acquisition funds for the next three years.
The monstrous mix of human and lupine features on this mask really appeals to me. Consider the long, lupine muzzle, the nearly-human ears, the incisors, and the blank eyes: a combination of features that underscore the werewolf’s subsumed, but still present – if vestigial – humanity. This is far more evocative to me than “a wolf’s head on a human body”, and I love seeing it executed so well.
Paul, by the way, is not just a collector – he used to make werewolves, too, under the name GDS-Fx, most famously for crowdsourced werewolf movie Bonehill Road, for which he crafted articulated werewolf heads. His site has many examples of his work, which I also quite like – his werewolf gloves, in particular, are something I would like to Have and Own – but he’s stopped selling his masks. He’s still obviously big into werewolves, though, and I’m grateful to him for sharing his time and these photos of his new Neal Harvey mask.
Extra Mythology’s explainer video on how to become a radical Romanian monster
Start your day with some charmingly-delivered background on Romanian folklore! This Extra Mythology video on the pricolici and the strigoi explains how to become one of these proto-vampire-werewolf monsters: be a real asshole, then die! Okay, there are a few other steps involved, but the video explains them, and then you get to spend your nights eating sheep and terrorizing little kids. Sign me up!
Extra Mythology is an offshoot of the wonderful Extra Credits project. You can see more Extra Mythology material by supporting their Patreon. You’ll learn a lot, which is its own reward, but it’s probably worth it just to get access to more of Joseph Maslov‘s artwork. Look at these:
Werewolf film “Teddy” ready to rampage across southern France
The person over at Dread Central whose job it is to keep an eye on film sales and production company web sites has found a good one – Ludovic & Zoran Boukherma’s werewolf movie Teddy, currently being sold as a WTFilms project.
France, Pyrénées. Twentysomething Teddy lives in a foster home and works as a temp in a massage parlor. Rebecca, his girlfriend, will soon graduate. A scorching hot summer begins. But Teddy is scratched by a beast in the woods: the wolf that local angry farmers have been hunting for months. As weeks go by, animal compulsions soon start to overcome the young man…
That may not be the most engaging synopsis, but the film won the Junior Prize for Best Screenplay at Les Prix du Scénario 2019, and the writers/directors – who are brothers – cite a love of Stephen King, instilled in them by their mother.
Monsters saved us from being bored to death as teenagers. Our mother, a fan of Stephen King, taught us about them since we were toddlers. So monsters became our friends, we imagined them walking in the desert streets of our small village.
As someone who read my mom’s copies of Cujo and The Drawing of the Three as a kid in the early 90s, that’s a background that appeals to me on a personal level. Also? Can I admit something? Any film that’s sold with a promo image like this is one I want to see. I like my werewolves gnarly, monstrous, and practical. I hope Teddy gets sold soon!
Full Moon Features: Silver Bullet (1985)
After 1981, the other big year for werewolf movies in the ’80s was 1985 since it saw the release of Ladyhawke (a werewolf film in all but name), Fright Night (which I’ll be covering in a few months), the comedic Teen Wolf, the laughable Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, and Silver Bullet, which isn’t strictly speaking a horror comedy, but it’s a creature feature that opens with the legend “Dino De Laurentiis Presents,” which all but guarantees there will be plenty of unintentional laughter before the closing credits roll.
Directed by Daniel Attias, who made only one feature before jumping to the small screen, Silver Bullet was written by Stephen King and based on his own novelette Cycle of the Werewolf, which covered a whole year of werewolf attacks in a small town. For the film version, he compressed the timeline to just a few months (from late spring to Halloween night) and did away with the conceit of having each attack fall on a different holiday (which was patently unrealistic, but King would be the first to cop to that). And the film wastes no time getting to its first laugh-inducing moment, which comes 3:27 in when a drunken railroad worker’s head rolls in a hysterically funny fashion. The requisite opening jump scare thus taken care of, King then gets down to the business of introducing his characters.
Top-billed is Gary Busey, who plays Red, the frequently drunk and unrepentantly vulgar uncle of crippled pre-teen Marty (Corey Haim) and his resentful older sister Jane (Megan Follows, who intrusively narrates the film, which takes place in 1976, from the present day). In a fantastical touch that must have seemed like a good idea on paper, Marty is equipped with a gasoline-powered motorized wheelchair called the Silver Bullet, which Uncle Red upgrades to a zippier model about halfway through the film — all the better to outrun the marauding werewolf in their midst. Since he’s the “cool uncle,” Red is the one adult Marty is able to confide in after he has a run-in with the hairy beast, although Red is understandably skeptical until the moment he’s face to face with it himself. The film also features Everett McGill as the local reverend, who quickly runs out of words of comfort as the bodies start piling up, Terry O’Quinn as the harried sheriff trying to get to the bottom of things, and Lawrence Tierney as a bartender with a baseball bat called “The Peace Maker” (which gets commandeered by the werewolf in one of the few moments where the filmmakers deliberately set out to get a laugh and succeed).
Of course, the real star of a werewolf movie should be its werewolf and the one in this film — which was created by Oscar winner Carlo Rambaldi — is a pretty sad specimen. It’s not a good sign that the second big laugh in the film comes when the werewolf reaches into the frame (12:02 in) and its hand looks more like it belongs to a hairy ape. Other unintentionally comic moments are the greenhouse grab (24:50), the posse of werewolf hunters that is suddenly revealed to be in waist-deep fog (40:15), the multiple-casket funeral service (41:56), the confusion (“Is that a bear?” I initially thought) when the creature is seen reflected in the water (54:19), the shot that I like to call “Reverend Five O’clock Shadow” (1:08:00), and — last but not least — the werewolf’s Kool Aid Man entrance at the climax (1:28:36). (Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t have it growl out an “Oh, yeah!”) Maybe I would be more forgiving had I seen this when it first came out, but coming to it later in life, I’m afraid I can only shake my head in unabashed bemusement.
[Silver Bullet is now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in a collector’s edition with two commentaries (one by Attias, the other by producer Martha De Laurentiis), and interviews with some of the actors and technicians who worked on the film. Notably absent is King, who had a busy year filmwise in 1985 between scripting this film and Lewis Teague’s Cat’s Eye and prepping his directorial debut, the infamous Maximum Overdrive.]
“It” director Andrés Muschietti to adapt “The Howling” for Netflix
Muschietti was on hand in Hollywood last night to moderate a panel with the cast of Underwater following a press screening of the film. In speaking directly with That Hashtag Show, he confirmed that he will indeed be working on the upcoming Flash movie for DC in 2020… The big news, however, is that after Flash, he teams up with Netflix for a new adaptation of The Howling. (He had previously indicated a desire to do a remake of the horror classic; he’s now confirmed that he will.)
Muschietti put together a far better adaptation of It than I thought possible, even if Chapter 2 got a little goofy at times. I would love to see his take on The Howling, which is a classic werewolf novel and a film franchise with great roots and a dog shit legacy. Netflix has shown that they can field some great fantasy/horror adaptation series (I’m partway through The Witcher and loving it) – here’s hoping they give Muschietti the space he needs to effectively revive the Colony and its lycanthropic denizens.
Oh, and Andrés? If you’re looking for a creature fx shop to handle your werewolves, may I recommend Adrien Morot and his team? He was handcuffed to a weird creature design during Howling Reborn back in 2012, but if you look at the work he wanted to do, I think you’ll agree he deserves another shot.
FrightFest Guide to Werewolf Movies
Since 2000, FrightFest has become the UK’s largest and most respected horror movie festival, and are now venturing into publishing with their Dark Heart of Cinema series of movie guides. Werewolf Movies is the fourth (after Ghost, Monster, and Exploitation movies, and I for one am happy werewolves were featured before those limelight-hogging vampires or zombies), and proves to be as helpful as that one smart but weird friend of yours who’s seen every horror movie ever produced when it comes to sorting the mongrels from the Best in Show. And even if you are that weird friend, you’re liable to discover some rarities you’ve never heard of before.
After an introduction from Neil Marshall, director of the fan-favorite gorefest Dog Soldiers, author Gavin Baddeley gives us an intro to cinematic lycanthropy, and then a lengthy essay on the history of the werewolf. This is where most authors trip up, repeating error-ridden nth-hand versions of stories or blatantly making shit up, but this is practically worth the price of admission alone. Comprehensive and accurate, he explains how the concept of werewolves has been influenced by politics, religion, the natural world as it evolves over time. For a general public that is often familiar with only the most overused tropes (silver bullets and full moons are extremely recent additions to werewolf lore), this is an excellent introduction. This is followed by a chapter on non-lupine shapeshifters, and speculation on why movie werewolves are so often the “underdogs” compared to other monsters.
The special effects budget required to put even a minimal werewolf onscreen is a hurdle for entry-level filmmakers, and even big-budget productions can struggle to produce a convincing beast, so there are far fewer films featuring them than lesser monsters like vampires, zombies, ghosts or nominally human slashers. We’re lucky to get one or two new werewolf flicks a year; hoping that they’re worthy of intense analysis or anything more than popcorn fodder is almost too much to ask for. Nevertheless, over the years there’s been a couple of solid genre classics amid the pack, and even the most incompetent, incoherent or downright goofy werewolf flick can be enjoyable if you’re in the right frame of mind. A werewolf movie guide doesn’t suffer quite the same rapid obsolescence as another subject might, but they also require an author with insight, a clever turn of phrase and a vast tolerance for cheese to tackle the roughly 200 entries.
Baddeley isn’t just some rando with an opinion. A journalist and fiction author with decades of experience and an admirable infatuation with lupine cinema. His skill shows in how he doesn’t fall victim to the tired trope of snarking the many awful films he must have sat through, which can get juvenile and tiresome to read. Even without the use of a cutesy rating system like “three out of five full moons”, he gives a concise recap and fair evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses which runs from a paragraph to two pages, depending on the meatiness of the entry. Each review is illustrated with large stills, posters, and other art which considering the full-color printing on heavyweight, slick paper, gives the book as a whole a heft and expensive feel.
As always, there are a few errors and quibbles – for example, Stan Winston’s work on The Monster Squad is incorrectly attributed to Rick Baker, the generally well-liked Bad Moon (the first werewolf film to use computer morphing effects in its transformation scene) is overlooked, and Baddeley uses “Oriental” rather than Asian, a term considered offensive when applied to people, although this may be a British quirk that sounds off to an American reader.
Full Moon Features: 2019’s Secret Wide-Release Werewolf Movie
It speaks poorly for the marketing of this summer’s Annabelle Comes Home (somehow the seventh feature in “The Conjuring Universe,” because every film franchise now has to have its own universe for some goddamn reason) that I didn’t even get wind that there is a werewolf in it until it was slinking out of theaters. (Aside to movie marketing people: If you tell the general public there is a werewolf in your movie, the werewolf people will turn out for it.) The werewolf in question, called “The Black Shuck” and based on a legend hundreds of years old, is described as “a hellhound that possessed a man in England” and is a case that the Warrens — demonologist Ed (Patrick Wilson) and clairvoyant Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) — investigated in the mid-’60s.
Writer/director Gary Dauberman (making his directorial debut after writing three previous Conjuring spin-off films starting with 2014’s Annabelle) doesn’t show anything of the actual investigation, though, apart from an old book in the Warren Artifact Room (where they display all their haunted and cursed objects) and the case file in their office. That’s because the bulk of the film takes place in the early ’70s, one year after the Warrens have taken possession of possessed porcelain doll Annabelle and installed it in a case made of chapel glass in which, Lorraine declares, “The evil is contained.” The case also comes with explicit instructions that it never be opened, but if signs like those were heeded, movies like this wouldn’t exist.
The bulk of the film also takes place without Ed and Lorraine since they’re conveniently out of town, leaving their morose ten-year-old daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) with babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), who has asthma so Dauberman can build a suspense sequence out of a race to retrieve her inhaler. Of course, she wouldn’t need it if her snooping friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) didn’t invite herself over and snoop around, breaking into the Artifact Room and letting Annabelle out of her case. Called “a beacon for other spirits” by Lorraine, Annabelle does indeed call in some backup to help wreak havoc on the Warren household and its inhabitants.
Of primary interest to readers of this site is The Black Shuck, which materializes out of the swirling mist that surrounds the house to menace Bob (Michael Cimino, not the director), a guitar-slinging neighbor who has a serious crush on Mary Ellen. In light of its stated m.o., I figured the creature would possess Bob, but it does not. In fact, it does little more than chase Bob into a chicken coop and traps Judy in a car, staying in the shadows to such an extent that it’s genuinely puzzling that the production bothered making a full-body suit for it, but at least it gets shown off in the “Behind the Scenes” featurette included on the disc.
As far as the werewolf’s scant screen time is concerned, it’s comparable to what the other malevolent visitors get, chief among them The Ferry Man, a bride in a cursed wedding dress, and a soul-sucking demon. In a way, Annabelle Comes Home is the Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed of The Conjuring Universe, with Annabelle as the least frightening part of it. Then again, the real Annabelle was a Raggedy Ann doll (seen briefly on TV while Mary Ellen is watching The Dating Game), so if the producers of this film had gone for verisimilitude, it could have been even less creepy.
Werewolf & Wolfman Paws by John Pinkerton
Ohio artist John Pinkerton makes all kinds of sculpted monster collectibles under the name The Monster Sandbox. My wife Tandye brought two of his creations to my attention – he’s one of her favourite artists – and I loved them so much that I ordered both of them before I wrote this post.
The Werewolf Paw is a 10″ replica werewolf hand that perfectly represents what I wish my hands looked like when the moon is full.
The highly detailed paw seamlessly combines sculpted fingers and claws with dark fur, to create a realistic looking piece that looks like it came straight from a taxidermist!
The Wolfman Paw is a more “classic” interpretation of a lycanthropic paw, with shorter fur and an ISO standard plaid sleeve.
Inspired by old tales of lycanthropy, this handcrafted sculpture of a Wolfman Paw brings legend a step closer to reality for fans and collectors.