Next month, horror streaming service Shudder is premiering a new anthology film, and at least one shot in the trailer indicates we have some werewolf action on the way!
In “Scare Package” seven directors each showcase a different sub-genre of horror, all set in a world where “cell phones magically stop working and help is always a minute too late.”
Chad Buckley is a horror aficionado [who] spends his days at his struggling genre video store arguing with his only regular customer, Sam. When an unsuspecting applicant shows up, Chad begins to teach him about the rules of horror and his video store at large, much to the chagrin of Sam. During Chad’s on-boarding process, we weave in and out of different hilarious horror shorts, each one geared at a different set of horror tropes. As this new applicant learns the ropes, he begins to suspect Chad of something sinister, but we quickly learn that he may have a secret of his own.
Is Chad the werewolf, or the applicant? Or does he appear in one of the seven shorts, as listed on the VHS cassettes in the poster?
There’s no way to know without watching, since the official website follows Horror Movie Promotion Protocol 4: “only post promo photos of your human actors looking scared or vaguely spooky”. Nevertheless, this looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun!
If you have access to Shudder, you can watch Scare Package beginning June 18th.
When I reviewed Paul Naschy’s 1983 film The Beast and the Magic Sword in 2018, I wrote that it was “only a matter of time before a company like Mondo Macabro or Scream Factory” got around to giving the film its first release in the States. As it turned out, Mondo Macabro was the one that stepped up, putting it out on Blu-ray in February in an edition that includes a variety of special features to please just about any Naschy fan.
In brief, The Beast and the Magic Sword finds Naschy’s signature werewolf character, Polish count Waldemar Daninsky, traveling to 16th-century Japan in search of a cure for his lycanthropy, which is the result of a curse placed on one of his ancestors by a witch. As Naschy points out in the 13-minute introduction included on the disc, this was his second Spanish/Japanese co-production following 1980’s Human Beasts and the one where he was given the largest canvas on which to paint Waldemar’s story. Calling it “a truly unique experience,” he relates how the Japanese crew went the extra mile for him, building sets and making props and costumes to match the era the story was set in (despite the fact that all of their standing sets, which he was perfectly willing to use, were from the following century) and even having a sword made with silver because that’s what the script specified. As a result, the attention to detail makes The Beast the most handsomely mounted entry in the series and the one Naschy was justifiably most proud of.
With a running time close to two hours, it’s also Waldemar’s longest screen adventure, giving NaschyCast hosts Rod Barrett and Troy Guinn ample time to provide a comprehensive commentary. After ten years of doing a podcast devoted to all things Naschy, they really know their stuff, and the enthusiasm they share for the man and his work comes through loud and clear. The same goes for Gavin Baddeley, author of the FrightFest Guide to Werewolf Movies, who contributes a 32-minute interview that puts Naschy’s entire career in perspective. Illustrated with clips from nearly all of Naschy’s werewolf films and trailers, this is an excellent primer for anyone who’s never seen one and is curious about where to start.
The last bonus feature on the disc is The Smile of the Wolf. Directed by Javier Perea, who was able to interview Naschy before his death in 2009, the 46-minute documentary covers his career, decade by decade, from the 1960s to the 2000s. If anybody can speak authoritatively about his work, it’s the man himself. This alone makes Mondo Macabro’s release worth a look, as is the fact that the remastered print looks amazing. Besides, where else are you going see a werewolf fight a Bengal tiger?
Mythological memories from shooting an ultra-low-budget werewolf movie
Editor’s note: this is a guest post from Dominik Starck, actor in and co-producer of Iron Wolf, this month’s Full Moon Feature. My thanks to Dominik for taking the time to write this, and for sharing the photos that accompany this post!
“It’s about a Nazi-werewolf”, the voice on the phone revealed to me. Pause. “I know what you’re thinking,” the voice continues. No, you don’t.
It’s early 2012 and I’m on the phone with producer Nico Sentner, whom I’ve met on the set of the German slasher SIN REAPER, starring one of my favorite genre actors, Lance Henriksen. Sentner and I got along well, ultimately bonding over our common love of Henriksen and some of the same genre movies. I mentioned to him that I’m looking into making movies, not just writing about them (I was a film critic at the time).
A couple of months later I received this fateful call. Sentner was about to make an ultra low budget movie and offered me a small part in it. I’d also be able to serve as one of the producers. But here’s the hook; I wouldn’t have any creative control over it and, well, it’s about an effing Nazi werewolf. I told Sentner I’d have to sleep on it, but I’d call him back within 24 hours.
It sounded like trash from the get-go. Should this be my glorious entry into the industry? I had doubts. Huge doubts. I didn’t even get to see a script. On the other hand, I would never have forgiven myself for not taking the chance.
A couple of weeks later I was on set, playing the character of bandleader Spike Jones and showcasing my own favorite leather jacket. My gig only lasted a couple of days, one of them including a sex scene, a fight scene and my death scene. Laying on the dirty ground in freezing temperatures on a cold March night in Eastern Germany felt fantastic.
Jens Nier (co-director, -editor and –producer as well as werewolf performer) choreographed the little brawl I had with the homeless man (played by writer Marco Theiss). Training and shooting that was intense too – even though we later learned that one of the camera operators failed to get the best angle in focus so that the scene turned out to be nobody’s favorite.
To be honest it’s also pretty intimidating to be in front of a camera for the first time performing intercourse with a woman you just met. I got the script about three days before shooting started, read it, and scene 16 simply said “Spike and Jersey have hard sex in the basement” – Wait, what? Nobody said anything about a sex scene at any point!
Sentner assured me I’d be in good hands and shouldn’t worry about anything. His amused laughter should’ve been a warning sign. When I met my co-star Carolina Rath on set we asked director David Brückner how he intended the scene to be shot. His vision was to shoot in the dirtiest room of the old slaughterhouse we were filming in. The crew would put a half-way decent couch in that room for us to perform our relationship on. Obviously that didn’t make any sense. We skipped the couch and solved the issue in a different way.
I love horror movies and I have a huge affection for werewolf movies. Aside from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, my personal favorite might be GINGER SNAPS 2 (yes, the sequel, Elisabeth Perkins is just amazing in it). To be on a set filled with enthusiastic film students was great. It felt like summer camp (even though I never went to summer camp). I even wrote a scene because they were afraid the movie might turn out too short. It eventually got cut from the movie because it would’ve made the opening too slow.
When I was wrapped it was hard for me to leave. Fortunately, there was a chance for a surprise return. When the rough cut was done it was obvious that some things didn’t work, among them the ending. It was supposed to end on Spike’s girlfriend teaming up with his brother Leon (named after the protagonist in Hammer Film’s only werewolf movie THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF), defeating the beast and riding off into the sun dawn. The way it was shot and the missing romantic energy between the characters on screen made it unsatisfying and the producers thought about a way to fix this.
In low-budget filmmaking, you’re always looking for a simple way to exploit an asset one has access to and deliver on a horror cliché that’s a cliché because it works. Since Spike was the only lead character we didn’t truly see dying on screen it was fairly easy to bring me back for a cliffhanger ending. We shot these tagged on scenes months after principal photography in the director’s basement. It’s my favorite scene I did in the movie.
IRON WOLF uses a trash premise, feeds off of the Nazi-exploiting concept behind IRON SKY and is underfinanced as hell. It basically was shot with a bag of pennies and a roll of tape. That said, it was inspiring to make the movie, and I made some friends I collaborated with on later productions (like my hitmen thriller THE HITMAN AGENCY, that’s available on Amazon and Tubi).
The producers did their best to make the movie as good as possible in the very limited time before it had to be ready for the film markets. It’s never good to work against a ticking clock. But on the other hand; I’m friends with filmmakers that had a ten times higher budget on a short film with two people talking in a room. Making a good werewolf movie demands proper planning, shooting and time for post-production to make it as effective as possible, even on a budget. Take time for prep away and cut the time on post-production and you’re set for failing.
Werewolves are cool. And the saving grace of IRON WOLF is that even cheap werewolf-movies with trash concepts behind them are still better than boring cheap vampire movies.
In the years following the production, there was actual talk about another IRON WOLF. While Sentner’s focus was on more Nazi exploitation in a prequel movie I pitched a true sequel about Spike struggling with his curse while looking for his big love Jersey. Meanwhile, she fully embraces her inner beast. Once they reunite they’d go full “Bonnie & Clyde in Furs”. We all moved on at this point. I worked a lot in action films, wrote a lot of screenplays and am in development on a completely different supernatural thriller. But there’s a part of me that still would like to make that sequel.
There are many more tales to tell and lessons learned in filmmaking, but for now, I have to finish this article. It’s already getting dark. And the moon is rising.
Dominik Starck – the actor who starred in and also co-produced this month’s Full Moon Feature, Iron Wolf – reached out on Twitter in response to Craig’s frank assessment of the film, and he was very cool! He also let us know about another, shorter werewolf film he helped produce: Morbach Monster Terror, based on an urban legend about an American military base in Germany with a lycanthrope problem. You can watch it for free on YouTube right now!
I agree with Craig’s review on Letterboxd – this one works because it’s short and to the point. The werewolf effects are better than serviceable for an ultra-low-budget affair, and I really wasn’t anticipating the final scene. This was all done on a single night, and Starck has offered to share some stories about that night. I for one would love to hear them!
I’ve seen it reported that this month’s Super Pink Moon is going to be the biggest full moon of 2020. In keeping with that, I wish I had a good werewolf movie to write about, but instead I’ve got 2013’s Iron Wolf. Following in the paw prints of Project: Metalbeast, the German-made Iron Wolf also followed closely on the heels of the previous year’s Iron Sky, which was about Nazis biding their time on the dark side of the moon following the defeat of the Third Reich. Iron Wolf stays decidedly earthbound, however, opening with a 15-minute pre-title sequence set in Germany in 1945 as the Russian army (i.e. kids playing dress-up) is bearing down on a Nazi research facility (guarded by some other kids playing dress-up) where the obligatory mad scientist Dr. Müller (Urs Remond) is hard at work on “the most powerful weapon in the entire war” — a werewolf that has been trained not to attack soldiers in German uniforms. “All right, gentlemen,” says Major Schilling (producer/executive producer Nico Sentner), the officer in charge of the program. “Create a whole army of these… creatures. We have a war to win.” Within minutes, however, the compound is overrun, everyone who knows what’s what is shot, and Müller’s sole success (a gypsy werewolf that has had its genes spliced with a German shepherd) is locked away for 65 years.
There follows a five-minute title sequence during which a homeless man (played by screenwriter Marco Theiss) tools around the facility with his shopping cart and decides to hunker down in front of the room where the werewolf has been locked away and is somehow still alive and kicking after six and a half decades without a meal. That presents itself when the story jumps ahead to the present day (i.e. three years later), when famous punk rocker Spike Jones (producer/co-executive producer Dominik Starck) arrives with his entourage to convert the building into the venue for a punk show to be headlined by his band, Scum of the Streets. Spike’s hangers-on — none of whom are bothered by the fact that he’s nicked his stage name from a famous bandleader — include his girlfriend Jersey (top-billed Carolina Rath), brother Leon (Roland Freitag), and upstart Trigger (Hannes Sell), who appears not to mind being named after Roy Rogers’s horse. He does mind Leon’s neo-Nazi past, however, and is at loggerheads with him right from the start, while his bandmate Todd (Michael Krug) is much more easy-going as long as the beer doesn’t run out. Also in the bargain is Todd’s girlfriend Lynn (Caterina Döhring), Trigger’s girlfriend Kate (Ildiko Preszly), and Sandy (Annegret Thalwitzer), a random girl Kate met at a club and brought along so the werewolf would have one more victim when Spike stupidly releases the monster from its prison.
It’s at this point that co-producer/co-editor/cinematographer/director David Brückner begins giving the viewer fleeting glimpses of his werewolf (which is played by producer/production manager/stunt choreographer/co-editor/co-director Jens Nier, who also cooked up the story with Sentner), which is eventually revealed to be a guy wearing a largely immobile werewolf mask in a tattered Nazi uniform. “You gotta give that to the Nazis,” says one of the characters. “When they did something inhuman, they did it thoroughly.” The same, however, cannot be said for Brückner and Nier, in spite of the copious blood and gore they throw into the mix (and all over some of the supporting players). They do make sure viewers know how many jobs they and their friends did on the film, though, by repeating most of the credits twice during the eleven-minute closing crawl. All the better to make sure you can avoid anything else they’ve work on.
It may not strictly be a werewolf movie, but there’s a full moon on the cover of the Bloody Disgusting Presents release of 2010’s Outcast, which premiered ten years ago at the South by Southwest Film Festival, so it will make do for this month’s Full Moon Feature. There is, in fact, a creature called The Beast in it, but when we get a good look at it, there’s no denying that it is quite hairless, with glistening, rubbery skin. Then again, the werewolves in Ginger Snaps are also pretty rubbery, so one can’t be too particular.
At any rate, the film takes place in and around an Edinburgh housing estate, which overprotective mother Mary (Kate Dickie) and her sheltered teenage son Fergal (Niall Bruton) move into not expecting to stay very long. That’s partially because they’re travelers from Ireland, but mostly because they’re being pursued by the mysterious Cathal (James Nesbitt), who’s been endowed with magical powers and has a guide by the name of Liam (Ciarán McMenamin) to instruct him on how to use them. Good thing, then, that Mary knows some magic of her own, even if it isn’t much use when Fergal starts showing an interest in local girl Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge), who tries to bring him out of his shell, little realizing how much effort it takes him to stay inside it.
As much as I appreciate when a horror film puts a new spin on a familiar story, I do wish co-writers Colm McCarthy (who also directed) and Tom K. McCarthy hadn’t been so coy about it and simply made their monster a werewolf (or at the very least given it some hair). They also hint at a larger mythology with the character of the Laird (James Cosmo), who knows all that goes on in his domain and whose permission must be asked before Cathal and Liam can carry out their hunt. Maybe if the McCarthys had been a little clearer about how all the pieces fit together, the end result would be more satisfying. As it is, Outcast will have to remain a curious could have been.
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.
Hunter’s Moon from Lionsgate! Coming to digital and DVD in March! Starring Thomas Jane and two of the guys from Suicide Kings! Another entry in the “werewolf threatens people in a house” genre of films! It’s like Dog Soldiers but without the guns and the complaints about missing the football match! I’m so exhausted by this stuff!
Thomas Jane (The Mist) and Jay Mohr (Suicide Kings) star in this chilling home invasion horror thriller. When their parents leave town, three teenage girls decide to throw a party in their new country home. But when a gang of dangerous local boys with sinister intentions turn up, the women are forced to not only defend themselves from the evil inside of the house but an unseen bloodthirsty predator that is hunting them one by one outside of the house.”
This does not sound like ground-breaking cinema, nor does the trailer really help:
I am just not excited about this, but the grizzled presence of Thomas Jane might just elevate this out of direct-to-digital purgatory. Here he’s putting out big “secret werewolf” / “werewolf enabler” vibes, but even if he’s just a grizzled cop who knows how to prep a house for a siege, I’d watch him sneak around a garden in the dark for a few hours. Why not?
Werewolf effects corner: The werewolf shots from the trailer definitely show someone in a practical suit, which you love to see, but the end of the trailer does that “staccato shot of snarling jaws” thing, showing a mask with a skin texture like a no-bake cookie with fangs.
France, Pyrénées. Twentysomething Teddy lives in a foster home and works as a temp in a massage parlor. Rebecca, his girlfriend, will soon graduate. A scorching hot summer begins. But Teddy is scratched by a beast in the woods: the wolf that local angry farmers have been hunting for months. As weeks go by, animal compulsions soon start to overcome the young man…
That may not be the most engaging synopsis, but the film won the Junior Prize for Best Screenplay at Les Prix du Scénario 2019, and the writers/directors – who are brothers – cite a love of Stephen King, instilled in them by their mother.
Monsters saved us from being bored to death as teenagers. Our mother, a fan of Stephen King, taught us about them since we were toddlers. So monsters became our friends, we imagined them walking in the desert streets of our small village.
As someone who read my mom’s copies of Cujo and The Drawing of the Three as a kid in the early 90s, that’s a background that appeals to me on a personal level. Also? Can I admit something? Any film that’s sold with a promo image like this is one I want to see. I like my werewolves gnarly, monstrous, and practical. I hope Teddy gets sold soon!
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.]