Full Moon Features: The Werewolf Movie Class of 2011

Since the last full moon of 2021 is upon us, I figured I’d look back at a trio of werewolf films from a decade ago that I haven’t covered yet because, well, the werewolves aren’t in them very much. In fact, one of them is about an actress who has merely been cast in a werewolf movie, which we don’t actually get to see in production.

The first one out of the gate — or out of the dog house — is Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, a horror comedy based on a long-running Italian comic book that runs into its first problem by casting Brandon Routh as the title character, a long-retired New Orleans-based paranormal investigator who takes a break from his mundane divorce work when a real whopper of a case drops in his lap. Routh’s voice-over narration is supposed to sound detached and ironic, but too often it feels like he’s audibly digging his elbow into our ribs, trying to convince the viewer that whatever he just said is the most hysterical thing ever, probably because it has something to do with vampires, werewolves, or zombies. (Those are the three main monster types represented in the film. There are also passing references to ghouls, but they don’t really figure into the plot.) The vampires all answer to Taye Diggs’s grandstanding Vargas while the leader of the werewolf clan is Peter Stormare’s Gabriel (whose second, played by pro wrestler Kurt Angle, is named Wolfgang, har har). As for the zombies, they come into play when Dylan’s assistant Marcus is bitten to death by one, which gives Sam Huntington (Being Human‘s resident werewolf) the opportunity to play a different kind of creature of the night. As comic relief goes, though, he’s really annoyingly high-strung.

I haven’t gotten into the plot at all, which revolves around Dylan’s reluctant investigation into the death of an importer who had recently come into possession of an artifact coveted by vampires and werewolves alike. In true noir fashion, the man’s daughter becomes Dylan’s love interest pretty much by default, which gives him a chance to open up about his tragic backstory. It’s an attempt to lend a little gravitas to a story that involves side trips to zombie body shops, fast food joints, and support groups, but Routh can only do so much emoting. And director Kevin Munroe falls back on repetitive fight scenes, one of which is preceded by Kurt Angle growling “It’s dyin’ time.” That’s fairly redundant, though, because by the time that line is spoken, anybody still watching will have long since declared this dog dead in the water.

Next up is the mumblecore drama Silver Bullets, not to be confused with the similarly titled Stephen King adaptation. Written and directed by Joe Swanberg, who is known for churning out films at a rapid clip — or rather, he was at the time this film came out — Silver Bullets was a long time coming since its production was unusually protracted. Shooting began in late 2008 and he didn’t complete the film until early 2011, when it premiered at South by Southwest. Furthermore, he essentially shot and edited two different versions before settling on a story that satisfied him, about a young actress who gets cast in a low-budget werewolf film.

Kate Lyn Sheil stars as Claire, the actress in question, who’s thrilled to be playing the younger version of June (Jane Adams), an insecure actress who shares the prologue — and her worries about putting on weight — with Sam (indie fixture Larry Fessenden, who later auditions for a role in the film). For her part, Claire’s relationship with her boyfriend Ethan (Swanberg, playing a frustrated filmmaker) deteriorates after he casts her best friend Charlie (Amy Seimetz, also the film’s producer) as his girlfriend in the low-budget drama he’s shooting concurrently with her werewolf film. Meanwhile, Sheil’s director Ben (Ti West, essentially playing himself) clumsily puts the moves on her, which she’s slow to rebuff. Even if they go no further than a little kissing on the mouth, the damage has been done.

Lastly, we come to Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, which was released in the spring of 2012 but had its premiere at Austin’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival the previous December. (If nothing else, Harry Knowles’s fall from grace in 2017 has spared any further films from the ignominy of having their premieres at a festival with such a dumb name.) Rather than talk about the plot, though, which should be common knowledge at this point, let us focus on its werewolf, surely one of the best-looking specimens ever to grace the silver screen (however briefly).

I don’t know what totem in the cabin’s basement would have activated it, but I’m sorry it wasn’t chosen because I definitely would have enjoyed seeing more of this ferocious beast in action. Then again, it does get some of the best moments in the final act, even taking a bite out of the so-called “final girl” because that’s just the sort of thing it would do. Werewolf movies don’t have final girls. Whatever else it does, The Cabin in the Woods gets that.