Category: Film, Television & Music

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

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?”

Full Moon Features: The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)

January brings with it the Wolf Moon, so it’s appropriate that this month’s Full Moon Feature is The Wolf of Snow Hollow, which is set in a Utah ski resort town experiencing a sudden upswing in what appear to be werewolf attacks. (The subject gets danced around at first, but once the w-word is invoked 28 minutes in, it’s never far from anyone’s lips.) As if that wasn’t bad enough, Snow Hollow’s sheriff (played by Robert Forster in his final screen role) is in his “last quarter” due to a heart murmur, which the department is trying to keep the public in the dark about, and his son is feeling the stress of being his heir apparent, which is bad news for the hard-won sobriety he’s all but guaranteed to lose before all is said and done.

Following the standard introduction of a couple of vacationing city slickers renting a cabin in the woods only for one of them to be horrifically mutilated by something off-screen that leaves a giant paw print behind in the fresh snow, writer/director Jim Cummings goes about introducing his protagonist, John Marshall (who happens to be played by Cummings), leading an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. “If you can just focus and not let the monsters inside of you come out, if you can just concentrate on the 12 Steps,” he says shortly before losing his concentration and trailing off, a signal that he’s a man with a lot on his plate. In addition to keeping his father’s failing health under wraps, John is also taking charge of his college-bound daughter and worrying about the onset of ski season, the sole reason for Snow Hollow’s existence. (The Wolf of Snow Hollow takes place around Christmas, but this amounts to little more than window dressing.) As the unsolved murders pile up, though, and John becomes an unwelcome presence at successive funeral services, his grip on the situation and his sanity rapidly unravels.

All in all, this is not a bad set-up for a werewolf story, and Forster lends gravity to the role of the ailing sheriff, giving Cummings someone solid to play off of. The problem is most of the time Cummings’s performance is overwrought, his character’s hair-trigger temper causing him to mistake shouting at the top of his lungs and throwing things at people for shows of strength. Cummings also intercuts his werewolf attacks with the subsequent investigations, which catch John at his most frazzled and disorganized. Next to him, Riki Lindhome’s patient detective looks like Snow Hollow’s most capable and dependable law enforcement officer by default.

I’m probably making The Wolf of Snow Hollow sound worse than it is, but I’d be more inclined to give it a break if Cummings had a better handle on the mystery aspect. Since he tips his hand early on by showing the second attack being carried out by a hulking wolf creature, the only question that remains is who the monster is when there isn’t a full moon out, and one obvious red herring aside, the viewer isn’t presented with any likely (or even unlikely) suspects. And when John does show up on the killer’s doorstep, the realization that Cummings has lifted his climax straight out of The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t make it go down any easier.

“Zombieland: Double Tap” Deutch attached to dog-walker werewolf movie “The Hound”

As reported by Deadline and shared with me by reader Avery G., we have another potential werewolf movie in the pipeline. Zombieland: Double Tap‘s Zoey Deutch loved Lisa Duva‘s script The Hound so much that she’ll be starring and producing the feature for Searchlight.

The story follows a timid dog-groomer, Callie (Deutch), who after being bitten by a mysterious stray dog, she’s forced to wrestle with dark, new desires as her body goes through unexpected changes.

Justin Kroll, Deadline

So, no direct mention of werewolves, but “bitten by a weird dog”, “dark desires” and “unexpected changes” are themes so common to modern werewolf movies that they might as well be boilerplate text in press packages. I hope Deutch’s enthusiasm prevents studio execs from sanding off whatever weird edges Duva’s script has. I would love for this to be a black comedy that leans hard into body horror territory!

Full Moon Features: WolfWalkers (2020)

Arriving at the end of a year that has been fairly dire on all fronts, Cartoon Saloon’s WolfWalkers comes as a blast of fresh air. The latest feature from the animation studio behind The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, WolfWalkers is of a piece with them since it is steeped in Irish folklore and revels in the traditions of hand-drawn animation.

Its story, devised by co-directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart and fleshed out by screenwriter Will Collins, has the simplicity and directness of a fairy tale. Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneafsey), the headstrong young daughter of hunter Bill (Sean Bean), has moved with him to the walled city of Kilkenny, Ireland, where he is employed by the autocratic Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) to hunt the wolf pack that threatens their ever-expanding outpost of civilization. Of course, the wolves wouldn’t be a problem if the humans weren’t so intent on encroaching upon their enchanted forest.

This enchantment comes by way of the WolfWalkers, a mother and daughter who can communicate with the wolves and become wolves themselves — but only while they’re asleep. They also have mystical healing powers which work on ordinary wounds but not WolfWalker bites, as Robyn discovers after she’s bitten by the semi-feral Mebh (newcomer Eva Whittaker), who’s responsible for keeping the pack in line while her mother searches for a new forest for them to move to.

Without being heavy-handed about it, WolfWalkers dramatizes the conflicts of civilization versus nature, Christianity versus paganism, even the English versus the Irish. (Robyn and her father are outsiders in the country and the townspeople never let them forget it.) And it does so with fluid animation, dynamic characters, and some of the most breathtaking action sequences this side of a Hayao Miyazaki film. Best of all, it’s about people who become wolves when they go to sleep. Sounds like a dream come true.

The (Disappointing) Beast Within

I didn’t see 2020 werewolf movie Beast Within despite it being the 3rd most popular Canadian film on the country’s VOD platform a month after it came out. I probably won’t ever see it because apparently it just wasn’t very good. It’s a “which one of us is the werewolf” mystery with weird musical choices, poor acting, sloppy editing, and a premise that might have worked better if the filmmakers hadn’t played it straight? That’s a familiar refrain around here.

If it ever comes across the desk of werewolf movie poison-eater Craig J. Clark and he says it’s worth checking out, I may reconsider, but for now, its trailer and its weirdly desolate Instagram account (that features a prominent misspelling of the movie’s tagline) are enough to warn me away.

Beast Within is directed by Chris Green & Steven Morana, and stars Steven Morana, Holly Deveaux, Ari Millen, and Colm Feore. You can rent or buy it on Amazon or Youtube.

Full Moon Features: Scare Package (2019)

As Werewolf News previously reported, there are werewolves in the horror anthology Scare Package, a Shudder Original that got some festival play last year before making its streaming debut in June ahead of its release on home video last month. And as a horror anthology with six individual segments and a time-consuming wraparound story that morphs into a seventh — which is by far the longest — this package has so little time to devote to its werewolf story that the actual werewolves in it amount to little more than afterthoughts.

Befitting its home on a horror streaming service, Scare Package goes all in on over-the-top gore leavened with goofy dialogue and a heaping portion of meta humor, especially in the opening segment about a creatively frustrated “cold opener” who wants to be a real character without understanding the implications of that in the genre he works in. When this turns out to be a script called “Cold Open” that the passenger in a car is telling the driver about and the driver’s response is “I just don’t know about all the meta stuff, you know,” that’s a fairly clear indication that the rest of the film will be more of the same.

Ranging from the obvious to the ridiculous to the nonsensical, the segments in Scare Package are a mixed bag, many of them playing around with multiple genre tropes while repeatedly returning to the same, familiar slasher beats that were thoroughly beaten to death during its ’80s heyday. One of the few that doesn’t go there is “M.I.S.T.,E.R.” because director Noah Segan and his co-writer Frank Garcia-Hejl have their sights set elsewhere.

It starts unpromisingly enough in a bar where a patron (played by Segan) is having his ear bent by a cliche-spouting bartender. Retreating to the men’s room, he spies a flyer put up by a group calling itself Men in Serious Turmoil, Establishing Rights! Investigating further, Segan tracks the group down to a pet shop where they meet in the back room after hours to air out their petty grievances with women. Eager to hook their latest recruit, the group’s leader (played by Garcia-Hejl) invites Segan to join them that night at a secluded location where they can be as masculine as they want to be, but he has other things in mind.

Suffice it to say, if you’ve ever wanted to see hateful MRA types transform (some of them only partially) into werewolves and get killed off in quick succession in a variety of ways (as one of the film’s creators says on the commentary, “So much of this movie was coming up with interesting ways to kill people”), this nine-minute short should scratch that itch. Just don’t expect its conclusion, which takes a wild swing into a completely different subgenre, to be remotely satisfying. Chasing “M.I.S.T.,E.R.” with a self-proclaimed “post-modern feminist slasher revenge body horror” film was probably a good call, but the most consistently amusing segment in the whole film is the Fourth of July-themed “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV – The Final Kill.” One segment can’t redeem an entire anthology, though.

Full Moon Features: Hunter’s Moon/Hubie Halloween (2020)

It’s rare for the full moon to fall on Halloween, as it does this year. This one is also the Hunter’s Moon, which so happens to be the title of a new werewolf movie that came out earlier this year. What a pity, then, that it’s short on scares and suspense and long on irritating characters. Chief among them is Juliet Delaney (Katrina Bowden), daughter of Thomas and Bernice (producer Jay Mohr and Amanda Wyss), who leave Juliet and her two younger sisters alone in the isolated country house the family has just moved into while they go away on a business trip. What their business is eventually becomes clear, as does the reason why they’re not afraid to leave their daughters alone with three local miscreants prowling about and a sheriff (Thomas Jane doing a ludicrous accent) who has a conflict of interest when it comes to upholding the law.

Hunter’s Moon gets off on the wrong foot with a pre-title sequence in which a young woman is drugged by a psycho killer (the prominently billed Sean Patrick Flanery) who buries her in the woods and is immediately taken out by an unseen growling creature. (This is why his house — “the Ellsbury place,” as the locals ominously call it — was on the market for the Delaneys to snap up.) This opening eventually ties in with the main story, but writer/director Michael Caissie takes his time with the reveal, just as he waits until the last ten minutes to show his monster in full and even longer for someone to actually name it. This kind of coyness is to be expected to some extent, but not every werewolf movie needs to be plotted like a mystery for the characters to solve and fewer still should be built around a twist that can be spotted coming a mile away. The alternate title of Hunter’s Moon is The Orchard. I recommend picking something else to watch this Halloween.

That something else shouldn’t necessarily be Hubie Halloween, though. The latest product of Adam Sandler’s ongoing multi-picture deal with Netflix, Hubie is most notable for featuring Steve Buscemi as a lycanthrope, making this the fourth time he’s played one if you count the Hotel Transylvania movies. Here he’s Walter Lambert, the new neighbor of Sandler’s Hubie Dubois, latest in the long line of socially awkward naifs who are too good for this world that he’s played over the years. This incarnation is a lifelong resident of Salem, Massachusetts, where he’s in his element as a lover of all things Halloween, but also the constant butt of people’s jokes. (He even has to dodge a variety of objects thrown at him while he rides around town on his bicycle, one of the film’s few genuinely amusing running jokes.)

After his introduction, Walter tells Hubie that if he should ever hear strange noises coming from next door not to investigate, setting up the scene later on when Hubie does just that and finds evidence of Walter locking himself in his basement — as well as a feral-looking Walter himself. Before that, he’s also been seen boarding up his windows and doors and piling furniture up against the front door as the full moon (which falls on Halloween, naturally) approaches. After his escape from the basement, Hubie next encounters Walter in the woods, where his sole sign of physical transformation is his extremely hairy arms. Those expecting him to completely wolf out will come away as disappointed as I was.