Category: Film, Television & Music

Believe it or not, there are werewolf movies other than “An American Werewolf in London”.

Full Moon Features: The Howl of the Devil (1988)

This month’s Flower Moon is also a Super Blood Moon, so I’ve chosen a film that is appropriately bloody for this month’s Full Moon Feature. While Paul Naschy’s El aullido del diablo, a.k.a. The Howl of the Devil, isn’t strictly a werewolf film, it does include a brief appearance by his signature character, Waldemar Daninsky, one of many monsters he appears as over the course of what turns out to be a particularly perverted psycho-sexual odyssey. Naschy’s most monstrous character, though, is the decidedly human Hector Doriani, a failed stage actor living in the shadow of his dead brother Alex, a horror star of the ’70s who killed himself in 1981 — coincidentally the same year the last successful Waldemar Daninsky film, The Night of the Werewolf, was released.

Holed up in his spacious country house, the pitiful Hector propositions his comely maid Carmen (Caroline Munro), who repeatedly resists his advances. Frustrated, he gets his kicks by sending his chauffeur Eric (Jesús Franco regular Horward Vernon) out to pick up young women so he can play twisted sex games with them while dressed up as such villains as Rasputin, Bluebeard, and Fu Manchu. After each has been paid off by Eric and sent packing, though, they’re knifed to death by a figure in black wearing a creepy mask and leather gloves. Meanwhile, Hector’s nephew Adrian (played by Naschy’s son Sergio) has an active imaginary life in which he interacts with various classic movie monsters. This gives Naschy the chance to not only dust off Waldemar’s fangs and fur, but also get made up as Frankenstein’s Monster (which Adrian calls “Frankie”), Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera, and Quasimodo, who says of Waldemar, “He’s dealing with destiny, like all of us.”

There’s a note of resignation in that, as Naschy knew his days of making horror films at a rapid clip were behind him. (In the mid-’70s, he was writing and starring in as many as seven a year.) It’s not surprising, then, that he went out of his way to make sure he could play as many monsters as possible in this, which he deemed “a modest homage to Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Jack Pierce” and the Universal horrors he fell in love with as a child. A film like The Howl of the Devil can’t get by on nostalgia alone, though, hence the gory slasher-type murders and the moments where Eric is seen performing black magic in an attempt to summon Alex and compel him to cross the barrier of death and rejoin him and Adrian. That Eric doesn’t consider what he would look like after spending seven years in the grave proves how shortsighted he is.

As for Adrian, while he reveres his dead father and watches his films at every opportunity, the walls of his bedroom are not only festooned with photographs of Alex in his various monstrous disguises, but also posters for Rambo: First Blood Part II and An American Werewolf in London. Considering it was the latter’s innovative makeup effects that left Naschy’s own efforts in the dust, it’s not for nothing that Adrian tells Waldemar to his furry face that he’s “the best and most tragic of them all.”

Full Moon Features: Mom (1991)

Mother’s Day is two weeks away, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better werewolf movie for this month’s Pink Moon than 1991’s Mom, one of a number of films hailing from the early ’90s centered on sons dealing with their suddenly monstrous mothers. From New Zealand came Peter Jackson’s 1992 opus Braindead, released in the US as Dead Alive, about a zombie outbreak spawned by a mild-mannered young man’s domineering mother. It was followed by the homegrown Ed and His Dead Mother, a 1993 horror-comedy starring Steve Buscemi that landed more on the comedy end of the scale. Preceding both, though, was Mom, in which the proud mother of a TV news reporter is turned into a flesh-eating monster by a bite from the transient who takes up residence in her spare room.

When she’s introduced, Emily Dwyer (Jeanne Baker) is about the sweetest old lady you can imagine, but she’s suffering from empty nest syndrome since the only way she can see her son on Christmas Eve is by watching his news broadcast and her daughter is just a distracted voice on the telephone. Still, she makes a point of filling her modest house with decorations, with the most important one being the “ROOM TO LET” sign in her front window. This draws the attention of drifter Nestor Duvalier (Brion James), who turned into a monster and viciously murdered a pregnant girl in the film’s opening, so the viewer knows he’s bad news even if she can’t see through his bogus “blind man” routine. She also ignores such classic warning signs as her dog growling at him and the fact that he can smell something burning in the kitchen from his room. (Later on, he even refers to the “heightened sense of hearing” he has thanks to his “condition.”)

The breaking point comes when Emily tries to force some of her home cooking on Nestor in spite of his protestations that he always eats out, whereupon he transforms and puts the bite on her. In short order, they’re preying upon Los Angeles’s homeless population together and her son Clay (Mark Thomas Miller) finds himself in the awkward position of reporting from her crime scenes. (“My mother just quietly and deliberately killed a man and ate him,” he says after witnessing one of their nocturnal outings. “That kind of blows all the old rules to hell, don’t you think?”) On top of this, his girlfriend Alice (Mary McDonough, late of The Waltons) is pregnant, so even after Nestor is taken out of the picture (stabbing him with knitting needles doesn’t work, but burning him to a cinder does the trick), Clay fears for both her and their unborn child. Locking Mom up in her room is only a temporary solution, though, and over time his attempts to hide her condition from the world grow increasingly desperate.

While watching Mom, it quickly becomes apparent that its story may have been better served had it been done with more of a satirical edge, but first-time writer/director Patrick Rand plays things fairly straight. He even includes your standard subplot about the police (represented by harried lieutenant Art Evans, who played a similar role in Ruthless People) investigating a series of animal-related attacks around town. (“Fingerprints?” asks one of his detectives. “For that, you would need fingers,” he replies.) About the only novel twist is the ambiguity surrounding what kind of creature Nestor is. “Vampire, werewolf, ghoul — it’s all the same,” he says, but his monstrous form is hairy enough to qualify as the middle one for our purposes. As for dear old Mom, the only time she’s seen fully transformed is in one of Clay’s nightmares, but the intermediate stage of her make-up is more than a lot of current werewolf films attempt, so I won’t knock it.

“Werewolves Within” teaser trailer & poster hints at a fun werewolf whodunnit

Werewolf movies are generally bad. Movies based on video games are generally extremely bad. These things are known. What, then, am I to make of Werewolves Within, an upcoming werewolf movie based on a 2016 Ubisoft PlayStation VR game of the same name?

From ComingSoon.net:

The film, written by Mishna Wolff (I’m Down) and directed by [Josh] Ruben, centers on the small town of Beaverfield as a proposed gas pipeline creates divisions within the town and a snowstorm traps its residents together inside the local inn, with newly arrived forest ranger Finn and postal worker Cecily teaming up to try and keep the peace and uncover the truth behind a mysterious creature that has begun terrorizing the community.

“A bunch of people all trapped somewhere while one of them, secretly a malevolent force, kills them off one at a time” is such a well-worn trope that there’s literally a party game about it, which inspired the video game that inspired this movie. It’s a whodunnit framework used approximately one million times in werewolf media, most recently to poor effect in The Beast Within. Even Timothy Dalton had a turn at it in a Tales from the Crypt episode. As a basis for a screenplay, its only narrative hooks are “guess who the werewolf is” (it’s always the least-likely person) and “will the werewolf prevail” (no). It’s formulaic to a fault. The success or failure of such a film rests on the shoulders of its characters, who have to be charming and interesting enough to make a weary werewolf-loving audience care. If you would like to know how often I think this is successful, please re-read the first sentence of this post.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the teaser trailer for Werewolves Within reveals a bunch of distinctly rendered oddballs, all running around clutching guns and screaming while their dogs get eaten, and their friends get mauled in bed. I want to see these people get eaten (or eat other people). Of course, I want to see the werewolf (or werewolves) triumph at the end, but this time, the journey to my likely disappointment seems like it’ll be fun.

I love that this werewolf is just… chilling

Speaking of the werewolves, what do they look like here? True to form, each shot in the trailer cuts away just before the werewolf is revealed, but the game is obvious in its commitment to the bipedal monster design we know and love. Hopefully, the film follows suit. In the meantime, those of us who freeze-frame trailers in search of a beastly money shot might derive some satisfaction from the film’s teaser poster.

“This movie is an homage to my love for Hot Fuzz, the Coen Brothers, and Arachnophobia,” writes Ruben. As references go, these sound promising. The trailer for Werewolves Within does not promise a lycanthropic Knives Out, but it does show a high level of self-awareness and delight at its own premise. If it turns out to be at least as entertaining as Timothy Dalton’s big surprise at the end of Werewolf Concerto, I’ll be happy.

Werewolves Within premieres in theatres on June 25th, followed by a VOD and digital release on July 2nd.

Full Moon Features: Beast Beneath (2011)

It’s the Worm Moon, but this month’s Full Moon Feature has nothing to do with them (and precious little to do with actual werewolves, to be honest.) Rather, it’s 2011’s Beast Beneath a.k.a. The Legend of Griffith Park (at least, that’s the title at the end of the closing credits). And that’s not its only alternate title since it’s basically a reworking of director Julian Higgins’s 2007 debut The Wrath. No matter what it’s called, though, it’s pretty lousy, and it committed the crime of stealing 90 minutes of my life. Sure, I arguably would have spent it watching a different crappy werewolf movie, but this is one of the absolute worst I’ve seen since I set off on this journey over a decade ago. It’s enough to make even the most dedicated lycanthropologist wonder whether it’s all worth it. Still, I soldier on, hoping I’ll find another gem or two before I pack it in. (Needless to say, this isn’t one of them.)

As far as I can tell, the main additions to The Wrath are the prologue, in which an unwary couple making out in the park are attacked by an indistinct creature, and the framing device of a father (Mike Agresta) telling the story of the curse of Griffith Park to his alleged teenage son (Phillip Agresta) while they’re camping out there. (Incidentally, this is the first film I’ve seen that goes out of its way to trumpet the fact that it was shot in Griffith Park, a haven for low-budget monster movies going back to the ’50s.) It all starts in the 19th century with Don Antonio, a Mexican immigrant and wealthy landowner on his deathbed whose estate is stolen by the greedy Don Coronel with the help of his shady lawyer and a crooked judge. All three are cursed by Don Antonio’s blind daughter, though, and before they can split up the spoils they’re all killed, one of them at the claws of a hairy beast whose existence is never explained.

Fast-forward to the present day, when Don Antonio’s great grandniece Angelina (Kristina Morales) and her boyfriend Derek (Daniel Bonjour) find a map inside one of her old family heirlooms. Unable to read it, they take it to language arts professor John Diaz (Kurt Sinclair), who claims he needs a couple days to brush up on his Castilian. In the meantime, Angelina and Derek head to Griffith Park to do some snooping and run into bearded hippie pirate homeless guy George (Bertie Higgins, who co-wrote the screenplay with the director and produced the film and wrote the music). George tells them of the “devil monster dog” on the loose, which Derek promptly hits with his jeep, but apparently it isn’t spoiling for a fight and lets them investigate a spooky cave unmolested. Before they make too much headway, though, they’re ejected by a passing park ranger and meet up at a Bob’s Big Boy with Derek’s cinematographer buddy Zhan Foo (Roy Vongtama), who offers to take a crack at translating the map.

Meanwhile, having made short work of it himself, Prof. Diaz tries to beat them to the punch but only manages to get himself, his intern, and the park ranger killed. Does the same fate befall Angelina, Derek, Zhan, and Homeless George? No, it does not. In fact, they continue to go untouched by the hairy beast (because it’s Don Antonio’s pet) and make off with the Don’s treasure without a hitch. One year later, Angelina, Derek, and Zhan are shooting a film called (wait for it) The Wrath and Homeless George has bought a boat and is sailing the Caribbean decked out like the pirate he’s always wanted to be. That just leaves the father and son in the framing story to be attacked by the monster, which they promptly are. I wonder if that’s the part of the story that is “partially based on actual events.” I guess I’ll never know. Frankly, to find out would be beneath me.

NECA Toys teases “American Werewolf in London” Kessler-wolf figure

Last week, NECA’s Twitter account (hi, Randy) posted a photo of what looks like a collectible figure version of the Kessler-wolf from An American Werewolf in London. The accompanying text is from a relevant Creedence Clearwater Revival song. You know the one.

AWiL figures are cursed, and not in the fun “grow claws” kind of way. As Bloody Disgusting reports, this isn’t the first AWiL werewolf figure to be teased by a collectible company, but none of the other figures ever made it to market. NECA certainly has the chops to do a good job making and packaging the figure, but can they get it into the hands of customers?

NECA is known for producing high-quality figures from beloved horror and sci-fi franchises, but lately, they’ve also gained a reputation for accepting pre-orders through toy sellers, and then just kinda missing their projected release dates. Often by months, with no official acknowledgement. As with so many delayed or cancelled things, Covid is likely to blame, but no one likes waiting in silence for a thing they bought while simultaneously being teased with new things to buy. I have friends who are still waiting for figures that were ordered in 2020, and I’m checking daily for a shipping notification on a figure that was meant to be out in January or February.

When can people buy this NECA American Werewolf in London figure? What will it cost? How big is it? Will other characters from the film appear as figures as well? No one knows, and frankly, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for more info. You can ask Randy about it, and if he’s had a good breakfast, he might respond.

“Walpurgis Night” promises all practical effects in a “sleek new” wolfman movie

Last week, filmmaker and makeup effects artist Eric Yoder launched an Indiegogo campaign for Walpurgis Night, a “disturbing new twist to the classic werewolf story”. This is the continuation of a vision that started with his successful 2019 Kickstarter campaign for The Legend of El Hombre Lobo.

The main thing this time around is the emphasis on practical effects to realize the wolfman and the wolfman-associated carnage. “There won’t be any CGI in this film,” the campaign page promises. “EVERY EFFECT WILL BE PRACTICAL!! This includes over FOUR transformation scenes: each more horrifying than the last.”

The design and implementation of the werewolf effects are displayed prominently in the campaign video and still images, and I will say, under the copious amounts of glycerine drool, I like what I see.

Walpurgis Night is a “loving tribute and reimagining” of the Waldemar Daninsky story.

A wealthy couple, Imre and Justine, are visiting the deep forests of Romania and find themselves at the mercy of Waldemar Daninsky, THE WEREWOLF. The wolf terrorizes the countryside, killing anyone in its path. But Waldemar desperately seeks a cure to his lycanthropy. After a horrific tragedy strikes, Waldemar and Justine travel to London to seek the help from of Dr. Jekyll’s grandson. But when the full moon rises… The werewolf becomes loose in London! Justine and Jekyll must quickly find a way to end this horrible curse.

The campaign offers the usual range of rewards for backers, from tip jar to a copy of the completed film to a starring role. You can also get a “custom werewolf mask” or a “costume”, but I didn’t see any specifics about what those mean, exactly. Yoder’s a very talented monster maker, though, so I imagine the rewards will be pretty impressive.

I am excited at the prospect of practical effects, especially in the execution of werewolf creature design and transformation scenes. I am less excited that these effects are in service of another “tribute to monster films from the past”. I appreciate that it’s easier to focus on your show-stopping creature effects if you’re dropping them into a story where much of the narrative is ready-made, but I can guarantee that Paul Naschy references are not what most modern werewolf fans are looking for.

Then again, it’s clear from the El Hombre Lobo Kickstarter text that Yoder is a huge Naschy fan, and he firmly believes in the value of modernizing Waldemar Daninsky’s story. This campaign has already reached 115% of its funding goal in its first week, so the promise of “a disturbing new twist” to a story from 50 years ago is certainly appealing to some! I will likely back this for the sake of the creature effects. If you want to jump on board, the campaign will be running until March 17th.

Full Moon Features: Lone Wolf (1988)

In retrospect, I probably should have saved The Wolf of Snow Hollow for this month’s Snow Moon, but there’s enough snow in the Colorado-set Lone Wolf to pick up the slack. Released at the end of a decade that delivered a bumper crop of iconic werewolf movies, it’s a film made with a great deal of enthusiasm, if not a lot of skill, with most of the supporting players delivering broad, community theater-level performances and the leads running the gamut from robotic to wildly overacting.

The premise is that the town of Fairview has been beset by a rash of gruesome killings that the police have blamed on a pack of wild dogs, but the viewer knows it’s a werewolf from the start. Right after the cheap-looking opening titles, there’s a scene of a couple making out in a car on a wintry night that ends with the guy (who’s drunk, so he has it coming to him) going off in a huff and being slaughtered by a monster that gets an extreme close-up so there’s no doubt whatsoever about its existence. The girl who left him out in the cold, by the way, is Julie (first-billed Dyann Brown), who doesn’t find out the fate of her would-be paramour until the Neighborhood Watch meeting that’s crashed by his distraught father. “How could a pack of wild dogs do this?” he wails, and top cop Sgt. Patrickson (James Ault) doesn’t have a good answer because there have been two other, equally baffling killings in the interim and he’s done little more than berate detective Cominski (Michael Parker) over his inability to get to the bottom of things.

One of the characters screenwriter Michael Krueger presents as a potential suspect is recent Chicago transplant Eddie (Jamie Newcomb), the lead singer of an unnamed bar band that performs hard-rocking songs with generic titles like “Let It Rock,” “Rock You All Night,” and “Raised on Rock ‘n’ Roll,” but the most germane one is “Misunderstood” because Eddie sure is. Since his parents were mysteriously killed, he’s moved in with his Aunt Trudy and Uncle Jack, who browbeat him for staying out late, violating his parole, and not going to school where he’s taking a course in computer programming along with every other major character. These include put-upon nerd Joel (Kevin Hart — no, not that one), stuck-up mean girl Deirdre (Ann Douglas), and her eye-rolling sidekick Colleen (Siren), plus the sundry ski-jacketed preppies who periodically have their throats torn out.

As suddenly as the attacks start, though, they cease for an entire month, after which Joel uses his ace computer-modeling skills (“We’re not talking another WarGames here, are we?” Julie asks when he proposes hacking into the police department’s computer) to figure out that they all coincide with the full moon. This can lead to the only one conclusion and it’s one he takes seriously enough to melt down his father’s silver sports trophies to make silver bullets off-screen. (“Hey, look,” he quips. “This isn’t Michael J. Fox we’re dealing with here.”) Meanwhile, Eddie is less than heartbroken when Uncle Jack has his heart ripped out, one of many gruesome practical effects the film is littered with. By the time director John Callas gets around to his big transformation scene, though (after limiting sightings of the werewolf to half-second inserts during its attacks), all this does is reveal just how rubbery it is. Conversely, the most effective scenes are the ones where we only see the creature’s shadow as it creeps up walls and looms in the background. Definitely a case where less would have been more.

French werewolf film “Teddy” is back in festivals with a trailer and some goofy vibes

When friend of the site Avery Guerra recently linked me to Bloody Disgusting’s recent post about “Teddy”, my first thought was “wow, that French horror film with the cool poster that I mentioned a few years ago is back in the news!” Gang, I posted about Teddy in January 2020. The pandemic has wrecked my sense of time, and all I can do now is rotate low-polygon models of werewolves in my mind and listen to podcasts.

I digress. That 13-month-old post is still up-to-date in terms of synopsis and background, but “Teddy” has gathered a few more awards and has expanded its marketing a little with two teasers and a trailer. Its next appearance will be at EFM Berlin, which runs online March 1 – 5. I don’t see it on the screening schedule, but the “Screening Schedule is constantly updated… up until and during the market”, so if you somehow have EFM credentials, keep an eye out.

The trailer is basically a single scene from the film, and it was enough to make me write a second three-paragraph post about a film few people can actually see yet. The dialogue, the awkward characters, the shot composition… it looks like a werewolf movie by way of Napoleon Dynamite, and that makes me happy.

Cavitycolors launches new “Howling” apparel designs

Horror apparel company Cavitycolors is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic werewolf horror film The Howling with a new line of licensed clothing. Have you ever dreamed of wearing Eddie Quist on your legs? Now, your dreams can become… reality.

At a glance, they have a design by Sam Coyne that’s available on a unisex tee, a ladies tee and a baseball shirt, an alternate “werewolf hair” tee by Dismay Designs, sweat pants (art by Hillary White), and socks (art by Matt Skiff). I’m liking all these designs but I’m only really considering those socks.

You can see the whole category of products on the Cavitycolors site.

Werewolf fans are desperately seeking “Eight for Silver”

Eight for Silver is a new film written and directed by Sean Ellis. Described in its promo material as a “gruesome gothic spin on werewolf lore”, word from friends and reviewers is that it may be that rarest of creatures: a werewolf movie… with an actual, cool-looking werewolf… that’s also a good movie.

In the late nineteenth century, brutal land baron Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) slaughters a Roma clan, unleashing a curse on his family and village. In the days that follow, the townspeople are plagued by nightmares, Seamus’s son Edward (Max Mackintosh) goes missing, and a boy is found murdered. The locals suspect a wild animal, but visiting pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) warns of a more sinister presence lurking in the woods.

Unfortunately, I have not seen Eight for Silver (other than a few screengrabs and a story synopsis provided in private by a friend), and as of this post, there’s no way for anyone else in the public to see it, either. It premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it was on the schedule for a mere two screenings, accessible only to American audiences with $15 and the ability to sit down and watch the stream at the appointed time. There appears to be no press material other than what’s on the Sundance page – not even a trailer or poster. That it’s made such an impact on Werewolf Twitter despite the narrow window of visibility says much about its qualities!

I hope it picks up some awards and a North American distributor so those of us without a time machine and a VPN can buy or rent it. I complain a lot about the dearth of decent werewolf films, and I’m looking forward to supporting the seemingly great ones when they come along.

If you saw one of the screenings – or if you didn’t but you don’t care about some moderate spoilers – this 30-minute Q&A with Ellis, Alistair Petrie, and Kelly Reilly is worth a watch. Topics include the design decisions behind the werewolf, the decision to go with practical effects, the lucky breaks with location, English accents, film influences, nursery rhymes, and “why weren’t the werewolves hot?”