Author: Craig J. Clark

Craig J. Clark hasn't seen every werewolf movie ever made, but he's working on it (the complete list of the ones he's seen so far is here). He has been a contributor to Werewolf News since August 2011, when he wrote about his deep and abiding love for John Landis's An American Werewolf in London. Since then, his Full Moon Features have appeared every time the moon has been full and bright. His non-werewolf reviews can be found at Crooked Marquee and on Letterboxd.

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.

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.]

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.

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.

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.

Full Moon Feature: Alpha Wolf (2018)

This month marks a milestone of sorts since this is my 100th Full Moon Feature for Werewolf News. To mark the occasion, I could revisit an old favorite (like An American Werewolf in London, which I covered in my very first column eight years ago) or take stock of everything I’ve seen and learned in the time I’ve been contributing to this fine site. Or I could eviscerate some half-assed werewolf movie I found streaming on Amazon Prime. Yeah, that’s more like it.

This month’s half-assed werewolf movie is Alpha Wolf, which has one up on its low-budget brethren since director Kevin VanHook has a recognizable star in Casper Van Dien (also one of the film’s producers), who has come down in the Hollywood hierarchy since his days appearing in such A-list genre fare as Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. In Alpha Wolf, he plays Jack Lupo (not the film’s most egregious character name, but it’s close), who is introduced driving out to the proverbial cabin in the woods with his wife Virginia (Jennifer Wenger) and her dog Larry (as in Talbot). Their destination: her aunt’s cabin, which has sat vacant since her uncle was killed in the standard “two hunters get brutally slain by some shaggy, half-seen monster” prologue.

The cabin is the kind of place where there’s no cell reception and they need to fire up the generator if they want electricity. In other words, the perfect place to patch up a shaky marriage or get savaged by some hairy beast. This happens about a quarter of the way into the film, after the obligatory sex scene where Van Dien shows off more of his body than his co-star. Likewise, Jack reveals the kind of man he is when, having been bitten on the arm by the beast that just jumped through the window, he runs off (shades of the cowardly husband in Force Majeure), leaving Larry to come to Virginia’s rescue. In the process of chasing the monster off, though, Larry gets bit himself. And what do you think happens when a dog is bit by a werewolf? Have no fear. Alpha Wolf has the answer.

The film also has an answer for why everyone in the isolated rural community where it’s set behaves so strangely knowing. From Big John, owner of the general store, and his brother, Sheriff Carradine (whose names combine, Voltron-like, to form one of the werewolf actors in The Howling) to Doc Howard (who has the same surname as a certain Teen Wolf), who examines Jack’s wound and tells him “life for you is about to change,” they all know what the score is from the start.

None is more smug about it, though, than the neighborly Reed Oliver (yes, screenwriter Wes C. Caefer went and took the name of the star of The Curse of the Werewolf and just reversed it), who arrives on their doorstep after Virginia has boarded up all the windows and doors and proceeds to bend her ear about the duality of man and how Jack has been given “The Gift” when all he’s really been given is the ability to turn into a creature (“What you might call a werewolf,” he says patronizingly) that looks a lot like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. As played by Patrick Muldoon (a fellow Starship Troopers vet), Reed is about an insufferable as they come, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who the couple’s fuzzy visitor was. Similarly, when Virginia points out the coin jar full of silver dollars upon their arrival at the cabin, that all but guarantees they’ll be put to some use before the credits roll.

Full Moon Feature: Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (1961)

The Italian horror cycle, begun in 1957 with I Vampiri, a.k.a. Lust of the Vampire (directed by Riccardo Freda with an uncredited assist from cinematographer Mario Bava), was in full swing by the time 1961’s Lycanthropus came along. Retitled Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory when it was dubbed into English and released in the US two years later — on a double bill with the Boris Karloff vehicle Corridors of Blood — it is precisely as cheesy as you would expect a film about a wolf man terrorizing a girls’ reformatory to be. Instead of a straight-up horror film, though, what director Paolo Heusch (credited as Richard Benson) and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (fresh off 1960’s The Vampire and the Ballerina) cooked up is more akin to a murder mystery, with reform school girl Priscilla (Barbara Lass) determined to find out who clawed her best friend to death. (Quoth Priscilla: “Mary was just assassinated. No one will convince me she was torn up by wolves.”)

Good thing for Priscilla she has no shortage of possible suspects. There’s new science teacher Dr. Olcott (Carl Schell), who arrives in a cloud of mystery; the institute’s director Swift (Curt Lowens), who knows his secret; lecherous aristocrat Sir Whiteman (Maurice Marsac), who was being blackmailed by the murder victim; Peter Lorre-ish caretaker Walter (Luciano Pigozzi), who is used to doing Whiteman’s dirty work; and creepy-looking porter Tommy (Joseph Mercier), who has little to do apart from hang around and be a creepy-looking red herring. Once you get past the low-budget trappings and the lazy plotting (the first time we get a clear look at the werewolf, it’s easy to tell which character he is), this is actually a fairly entertaining movie. If it had been made a couple of decades later, it might have even delivered on its exploitation title (à la 2006’s Werewolf in a Womens Prison), but some things are better left to the imagination.

Full Moon Feature: Night Shadow (1989)

Another month, another Full Moon Feature. This month’s selection is 1989’s Night Shadow, a film I came by in a four-movie pack with Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, Raging Sharks, and Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep. (I guess you’d call that a surf-and-wolf combo.) I knew the film couldn’t possibly live up to its cover image, which depicts a man with a howling wolf’s head and hairy shoulders who’s wearing pants that have slipped down to reveal his underwear, but a werewolf movie is a werewolf movie is a werewolf movie…

Unless, of course, that werewolf movie is Night Shadow, which sends up its first red flag during the opening credits when it reveals that it’s “based on a concept and creature designed by Mark Crowe.” Not that I have anything against Crowe and his creature design work, mind you, but if this movie got made simply because he had a werewolf suit lying around, that’s not a good enough reason. I guess it was sufficient for writer/director Randolph Cohlan, though, who killed two birds with one swipe of the claw by making Night Shadow both his directorial debut and swan song. It was also one of the last films for veteran character actor Aldo Ray (as Gene Krebelski, novelty fish product salesman), and it was the last for special effects technician Rick Scott, who got the role of a lifetime — literally — as the bearded drifter with the gnarly fingernails who (shock! horror! puzzlement!) turns out to be a werewolf. (I often wonder why low-budget movies bother “introducing” actors if they’re only going to fade back into the woodwork.)

Actually, the star of the film is Brenda Vance, who plays successful TV anchorwoman Alex Jung, who chooses to spend her vacation in her sleepy hometown and finds she’s being stalked by a real creep who seems to have some kind of a psychic connection with her — that is, when he isn’t killing old men for their pickup trucks. While she’s home, Alex checks in with her brother Tai (Stuart Quan, credited as Dane Chan), a kickboxing handyman in a half-shirt, and makes time with old flame Adam (Tom Boylan), whose job as sheriff is complicated by the vicious mutilations that get dropped into his lap. Meanwhile, Tai pulls pranks on and with his two asshole friends Dean and Bruce (Kato Kaelin — yes, that Kato Kaelin — and Orien Richman), who are marked for death when they steal the drifter’s diary out of his stinky motel room.

Now, some people who lived through the ’90s will say it’s worth tracking this movie down just to watch Kato Kaelin get a metal pipe shoved through his chest by a hairy werewolf. Let me assure you, these people are wrong. If there’s any entertainment to be wrung out of this tedious monster movie, it can be found in the performance of Jeannette Lewis as unflappable county coroner Francis Stern. Not only does she deliver the requisite werewolf movie dialogue (“All of the victims were mutilated in exactly the same way. There are definite signs of an animal attack.”) like a champ, but she also says one of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard in any werewolf movie: “The woman’s head is missing, making identification very difficult.” I tell you, that’s Academy Award material right there.

Full Moon Features: Freaks of Nature (2015) and Slice (2018)

This month’s Full Moon Feature is a double since I’m covering a pair of films set in places where humans coexist with supernatural creatures. In Freaks of Nature, it’s Dillford, the “Home of the Riblet,” where humans, vampires, and zombies live side by side, with shock collars on the zombies to prevent them from chowing down on the human population and an uneasy truce keeping the humans and vampires from going at each other. Meanwhile, Slice’s Kingfisher is divided between humans and ghosts, but the town’s slogan — “A Great Place to Be Alive!” — is a real slap in the face to its 40,000 deceased residents. Of course, I wouldn’t be talking about either film if they didn’t also feature werewolves, but in both cases the hairy beasts feel like an afterthought, as if the screenwriters decided to throw in another monster at the last minute, which is pretty much when they show up in each film.

The protagonists of Freaks of Nature are high school students Dag (Nicholas Braun), whose hippie parents have long kept from him the fact that he’s a werewolf, newly turned vampire Petra (Mackenzie Davis), who gets labeled a slut for going “all the way” with one of the vamp bullies at their school, and put-upon nerd Ned (Josh Fadem), the smartest kid in school who deliberately gets himself bitten by a zombie after an uninspirational teacher shatters his dream of getting into a good college. Said teacher, who just so happens to be a vampire, also happens to be played by Keegan-Michael Key, one of a number of funny people director Robbie Pickering and screenwriter Oren Uziel don’t spend nearly enough time with.

Other grown-ups who get short shrift in Freaks of Nature are Denis Leary’s asshole riblet plant owner, Bob Odenkirk and Joan Cusack as Dag’s “understanding” parents (who give him The Talk about the changes his body is going through), and Patton Oswalt as a doomsday prepper who’s ready for the coming apocalypse — whatever kind of apocalypse it turns out to be. His decision to let Dag, Petra, and Ned into his shelter in the midst of an alien invasion predictably backfires, but at least he can take comfort in having aided the only creatures — undead or otherwise — standing between Dillford and oblivion.

There’s no alien invasion to foil in Slice, just a conspiracy by a coven of witches to open the gate to Hell located in the basement of Perfect Pizza Base, which is suffering from a shortage of delivery people thanks to the mysterious killer targeting them. Since fugitive werewolf Dax Lycander (Chance the Rapper) is spotted at the scene of each murder, Kingfisher’s mayor (Chris Parnell) is quick to attribute them to him in a series of press conferences. This isn’t too hard to swallow since Dax fled town after the Yummy Yummy Chinese Cuisine Massacre, which claimed six lives, but has returned for reasons known only to writer/director Austin Vesely. (He certainly doesn’t seem too concerned about clearing his name.) Meanwhile, the first victim’s girlfriend (Zazie Beetz) tries to get to the bottom of things since the lead detective on the case is prejudiced against werewolves and therefore eager to pin it all on Dax without any evidence.

“What kind of werewolf are you?” Dax is asked when he’s taken into custody, and the answer turns out to be the kind that needs the moon to be full to wolf out, and when he does the change in his appearance is decidedly underwhelming. (See above. That his transformation back to human form mere minutes later is accomplished with CGI only adds insult to injury.) As in Freaks of Nature, the brightest spots in Slice’s supporting cast are filled by skilled comedians like Parnell and Paul Scheer (as the owner of the cursed pizza place who’s more concerned about the losses in sales than his employees’ lives). To paper over the copious holes in his script, though, Vesely throws in tons of narration by an eager newspaper reporter (Rae Gray) whose efforts to make sense of it all are ultimately beside the point in a film with lines of dialogue like “Godspeed, you Chinese food werewolf.”

Full Moon Features: Ladyhawke (1985)

Matthew Broderick was a year away from his signature role at the time, but there are many ways in which Phillipe Gaston — the pickpocket he plays in Ladyhawke who goes by the nickname Mouse — is Ferris Bueller transported back to the Middle Ages, substituting his one-sided conversation with God for Ferris’s fourth-wall-breaking asides to the camera. Phillipe talks so much, in fact, that his nickname should have been Motormouth, but that may have been too anachronistic, even for a film with a hard-driving synth-rock soundtrack produced by Alan Parsons.

Often cited as one of Ladyhawke’s biggest flaws, its score (composed by Andrew Powell, who did the orchestral arrangements for the Alan Parsons Project) is far from the film’s only problem. For starters, it’s the kind of medieval epic where all the soldiers’ tunics look brand new (or at the very least freshly cleaned) and their swords all gleam, a marked contrast with Paul Verhoeven’s down and dirty Flesh + Blood, which second-billed Rutger Hauer starred in the very same year. Hauer, incidentally, plays the film’s lycanthrope, a knight named Navarre cursed to live as a wolf by night while Isabeau, his lady love, is a hawk by day. In her human form, she’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer, whose sudden arrival on the scene stuns Phillipe almost as much as the wolf that makes its first appearance (and kills a peasant) the first night he is traveling with Navarre. “There are strange forces at work in your life, magical things that surround you,” he tells the knight the next day, but it is a while before he finds out precisely how strange.

The second night passes without any sight of the wolf (which is no great loss because it is, after all, just a wolf), but on the third day of their journey the hawk is shot with a crossbow bolt (did I mention that Phillipe and Navarre are being pursued by a tyrannical bishop played by John Wood who has dispatched his guards to capture/kill them?) and Phillipe is sent with the wounded bird to the ruined castle of a monk (Leo McKern) who knows all about their curse (“Always together, eternally apart”) and believes he knows how to break it. Alas, there’s a great deal of wheel-spinning to be done before that can occur, stretching the running time to two full — nay, overstuffed — hours.

Since Ladyhawke arrived in the midst of the decade when in-camera transformations were all the rage (even the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” indulged in them), it can’t help but be disappointing that director Richard Donner opts for simple dissolves or cuts between flashes of lightning to change Hauer into a wolf and Pfeiffer into a hawk and back again. That’s the difference between horror and high fantasy, though. No need to make the transition seem physically painful since Navarre and Isabeau are enduring the emotional cruelty of being kept apart.