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.
A closer look at the Falling In Reverse “Popular Monster” werewolf
American rock band Falling In Reverse released a new single earlier this week. The video for “Popular Monster” depicts vocalist and hoodie fan Ronnie Radke succumbing to his inner demons, transforming into a werewolf, and annihilating his attackers (and, as implied in other scenes, many bystanders).
The eyes in the non-set photos kind of threw me, but it looks like they were removed on set and added back in with some glowing effects in post. This is a truly monstrous werewolf, and I think it looks awesome in the video! Check it out here:
It’s a weird feeling, knowing that there’s a band popular enough to get 800,000 views on a video in two days, but I’ve never heard of them. It’s because I’m 38, and instead of being part of the zeitgeist, I get to do things like go to tax accountant appointments. Many thanks to the Werewolf News readers who keep me posted on things like this!
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.