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.
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.