CHUD.com’s Jon Abrams waxes philisophical in a fantastic essay about why werewolf movies basically stink. He suggests (rightly, in my opinion) that while every genre, sub-genre and niche in film has its diamonds in the rough, werewolf movies are fundamentally lacking.
Every major strain of genre filmmaking, whether it be the war movie or the alien invasion/science fiction movie, the time travel movie or the samurai movie, the Western or the boxing movie or the comic book movie or the vampire movie – all these have their few-and-far-between classics that make sitting through all the more inferior efforts worthwhile. The exception is the werewolf movie.
I’m inclined to agree with him. Other than An American Werewolf in London, which was great more for its horror, humour and effects than its story, can anyone name a truly excellent werewolf film– one that doesn’t require a real effort to appreciate?
The werewolf is a fantastic metaphor for so many aspects of human life that we’re afraid to address directly: loneliness, rage, indecision, lust, repression, self-loathing. On a more positive plane, werewolves are also mirrors of our connection to the natural world, the duality of spirit (or higher intelligence) and flesh (or animal instinct). Says Abrams:
Werewolf stories are… about loneliness… the loneliness of being different, of thinking different, of having done different – and terrible – things. An interesting cinematic treatment of werewolves, to me, would be to consider the beast as the Travis Bickle, or perhaps the William Munny, of movie monsters.
There’s a whole library of excellent stories that could be told with a werewolf avatar– tales that could connect with viewers on a level far more profound (and yes, Hollywood, more profitable) than the standard pathos-heavy gore-fests filmmakers have been serving us since the days of Watuma. The technology for representing werewolves on-screen has certainly improved over time, but the imagination and creativity of the storytelling has stagnated. As the cost of filmmaking continues to drop, here’s hoping that this depressing and frustrating trend makes a change for the better.