Category: Reviews

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Full Moon Features: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

I was too young to catch any of the films from the ’80s werewolf boom on first run (though I did see Teen Wolf and The Monster Squad on television plenty of times to make up for it). Accordingly, I had to wait until the following decade to see my first werewolf on the big screen, an honor that didn’t fall to Jack Nicholson in Mike Nichols’s Wolf, but rather to Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was released 30 years ago and to this day boasts one of the most impressive-looking wolf-men ever to grace the silver screen.

Oldman’s Dracula adopts an array of guises over the course of the film’s two hours (at least a dozen by my count), but the one that stands out for obvious reasons is the hirsute wolf-man he transforms into during his journey from Romania on the doomed Demeter and, upon his arrival in England, uses to dash to the home of the flirtatious Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost), who visibly enjoys being ravished by him. This may seem like an embellishment on the part of screenwriter James V. Hart, but it’s actually consistent with the character created by Stoker, whose Dracula could take many forms, including that of a wolf. I’m pretty sure he made up the part about Winona Ryder’s Mina Murray being the reincarnation of Dracula’s long-lost love Elisabeta, though. Besides, that’s frighteningly close to Fright Night territory (another film with a vampire that transforms into a wolf).

The wolf motif actually comes in right at the top in the form of Dracula’s stunning red armor, which he dons while defending his country from the invading Turkish hordes (and earning the nickname Vlad the Impaler) in the mid-15th century. Upon learning of the death of Elisabeta, Dracula renounces God, declares “the blood is the life and it shall be mine,” and lets out a final howl of anguish before the title comes up. The action then shifts to London, 1897 (the year Stoker’s novel was published) and finds law clerk Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) being dispatched by his firm to handle the affairs of a certain Transylvanian count. His journey to Dracula’s castle is memorable, in particular the ride through the Borgo Pass, during which his coach is chaperoned by a pack of wolves. “Listen to them, the children of the night,” Dracula says when Harker is unnerved by their howling. “What sweet music they make.” (This is one of the few lines of dialogue carried over from Tod Browning’s 1931 adaptation, in which it’s mentioned that Dracula can take the form of a wolf, but we never see him do it.)

As in Stoker’s novel, Hart’s screenplay conveys much of the exposition in the form of letters, diary entries, captain’s logs, telegrams, and so forth. While Reeves’s readings are slightly stilted as a result of his shaky British accent, Anthony Hopkins (quite possibly the most robust Van Helsing in screen history) tears into his voice overs with relish. And he’s neatly matched by Richard E. Grant as lovelorn asylum director Dr. Seward, who loses Lucy to Cary Elwes’s Lord Holmwood (who in turn loses her to Dracula), and Tom Waits as his star patient, the batshit insane Renfield. “I shall have to invent a new classification of lunatic for you,” Seward says, getting closer to the truth than he realizes.

While it spends more time than necessary on the romance between Mina and her dapper “Prince Vlad,” Bram Stoker’s Dracula remains a visual feast. This is thanks in no small part to director of photography Michael Ballhaus, visual effects director Roman Coppola, and costume designer Eiko Ishioka, who won an Academy Award for her efforts. And considering how much work went into transforming Oldman into an old man and a wolf-man and a bat-man and everything in between, that Best Makeup Oscar (awarded to special makeup effects creator Greg Cannom and his team) was also well-deserved.

Full Moon Features: Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (1972)

Thanks to the efforts of Paul Naschy, Spanish horror cinema of the late ’60s and early ’70s was awash in films pitting horror icons like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man against each other. One of the trend’s bandwagon-hoppers was Jesús Franco, who was in the habit of cranking out eight films a year on average in all kinds of genres and under multiple pseudonyms. Hardly a recipe for quality, but somehow I doubt that was what he was going for.

I realize I’m far from the first person to take Franco to task for his overuse of zooms, but 1972’s Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (also known as Drácula contra Frankenstein) features an overabundance of zooms. I’m tempted to think he used them as a substitute for dialogue (there’s only about six or seven lines spoken in the first half of the film), but that would imply that Franco employs them to convey information visually when the fact of the matter is he leaves things so vague and ambiguous that for the longest time it’s impossible to figure out who many of the characters are or what their motivations could be. Dracula (Franco regular Howard Vernon) attacks a girl in the middle of the day (presumably because they didn’t have the budget for night shooting), and some random guy (Alberto Dalbés, later revealed to be Dr. Seward) is summoned to examine the body, then goes for a long ride in his carriage until he happens upon Dracula’s castle, finds the bloodsucker at rest and stakes him. Through the magic of editing, the undead vampire becomes a dead bat and the doctor’s stake changes its size and shape, after which Seward quits the castle, a job well done. Then, and only then, does Franco give somebody — in this case, gypsy girl Amira (Geneviève Robert) — a line of dialogue, and it is to herald the arrival of the film’s second title character.

Indeed, Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price) and his mute servant Morpho (Luis Barboo) move right into the castle without even consulting a real estate agent — and with The Monster (Fernando Bilbao) in tow. (“Here, I shall be able to work and triumph,” Frankenstein declares.) The mad doctor wastes no time installing his equipment, but doesn’t bother with any lights, preferring instead to reactivate his heavy-lidded creature (whose stitches look painted on). The Monster’s first job is to abduct a cabaret singer before she can sing a second number, although anybody could have done because all Frankenstein does is drain her blood, pumping it into a glass bottle and drowning a live bat, which then turns into the revived Dracula. Morpho then gets to engage in a little light necrophilia before stuffing the singer’s body into an oven, after which the still-slumbering Dracula is returned to his coffin for safe keeping.

Meanwhile, two coffins over, a heretofore unseen female vampire (Britt Nichols) emerges and puts the bite on Amira because lesbian vampirism was really big in the early ’70s. Then Frankenstein and Dracula are driven to Seward’s house, where his daughter Maria (Paca Gabaldón) freaks out and has to be given a sedative, thus rendering her helpless when Dracula is sicced on her. Now vampirized, Maria is abducted by The Monster when Seward foolishly takes her out riding, and, now paired up with Dracula, they interrupt an aristocratic couple in the throes of passion, curiously choosing same-sex partners for themselves. The aristocrats are then delivered to Frankenstein, but we don’t find out what his plans are for them because Franco cuts away to Seward being rescued by the gypsies, at which time the well-informed Amira unloads the biggest info dump in the whole picture.

It seems Amira — now a vampire, but apparently not the kind who bites people, unless she does that off-screen — has been spying on Frankenstein and knows all about his plans for world domination. She also believes Seward will be able to set things right and that he won’t have to do it alone. “When the full moon appears and the wind clears the sky, the werewolf will come to help you,” she tells him. “The battle will be bloody, but you will win in the end.” And sure enough, with one reel left to go in the picture, a shaggy-looking Wolf Man (an actor credited only as Brandy) does appear on the night of the full moon to do battle with The Monster for all of one minute. Meanwhile, Frankenstein is menaced by and kills the female vampire and, thoroughly peeved, dispatches Dracula and Maria while his scratched-up Monster watches. (There are no more signs of the Wolf Man, so I guess The Monster killed him off-screen.) He also fries his creation and disappears, thus sparing Franco from having to deliver an actual confrontation between the two men of science when Seward arrives on the scene, too late to actually do anything. Guess Amira was just whistling “Dixie.”

Full Moon Features: The Munsters & Werewolf by Night (2022)

This year’s Spooky Season (which, like Christmas, seems to start earlier and earlier all the time) has brought with it two werewolf-related streaming premieres. The more prominent of the two is the long-awaited introduction of ’70s-vintage lycanthrope Jack Russell, a.k.a. Werewolf by Night, to the Marvel Studiosverse, but the first out of the gate was Rob Zombie’s revamp of corny ’60s sitcom The Munsters, which debuted on Netflix the last week of September.

Unlike Bryans Fuller and Singer’s unsuccessful Mockingbird Lane pilot, which aired once in 2012 when it wasn’t picked to go to series, Zombie’s update of The Munsters goes back to the time before Herman and Lily Munster were married. Heck, it goes back to the time before Herman was even created, as it opens with mad scientist Dr. Henry Wolfgang (Zombie regular Richard Brake, doing a wicked Vincent Price impression) and his hunchbacked assistant Floop (Lost alumnus Jorge Garcia) robbing graves for the parts Dr. Wolfgang needs to make “a perfect physical specimen.” While that’s being assembled, Zombie introduces The Count (Daniel Roebuck) and his daughter Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie), who’s first seen on a date with Count Orlock (Brake again, this time playing the title character from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), along with Lily’s “idiot brother” Lester (Tomas Boykin), a werewolf indebted to vindictive gypsy fortune teller Zoya (Catherine Schell).

A minor character from the series who only appeared in one episode (season one’s “Herman’s Rival,” in which he creates a crisis by borrowing money from Herman, leading Lily to believe they’re broke), Lester plays a minor role in Zombie’s film as well, but it’s a pivotal one since it is through him that Zoya gets the deed to the Count’s castle and evicts them, forcing newlyweds Herman and Lily to move from Transylvania to sunny Hollywood, California, where they end up at a familiar address. It remains to be seen whether Zombie will be called upon to do a sequel, but if he does one can only hope enough time will have passed for them to have produced their own adolescent troublemaker werewolf, Eddie.

As for Werewolf by Night, since it’s a Marvel Studios “Special Presentation,” it only runs 53 minutes (48 without credits), but writer-director Michael Giacchino stakes out his own territory within the MCU by evoking the look of black-and-white Universal horror films (complete with fake reel changes) while simultaneously throwing in splashes of blood and severed limbs. (That’s the “Intense Violence” that earned it a TV-14, along with the “Strong Coarse Language” — i.e. somebody says the word “shit” once.) Gael García Bernal stars as everyone’s favorite non-terrier Jack Russell, who infiltrates a secret society of monster hunters that has gathered to see who will take possession of the legendary Bloodstone, which its former owner’s widow, Verussa (Harriet Sansom Harris), would rather not see pass on to his estranged daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly).

A deliberate departure from “the known universe, with its heroes and marvels,” Werewolf by Night shares with fellow Disney Plus stablemate Moon Knight the fact that it takes its time getting to the part where the title character actually puts in an appearance. (“It’s time for you to show yourself,” the vindictive Verussa says, and not a moment to soon.) And while Jack Russell’s transformation into his nocturnal alter ego is accomplished in silhouette (so as not to stretch the budget too much), it’s not long after that Giacchino gives the viewer a good look at him in all his fuzzy glory, short-lived as it is. If this is laying the groundwork for further adventures for Jack and his fellow darkness-dwelling denizens, then it’s about as solid as we could have hoped.

Full Moon Features: Hard Rock Nightmare (1988)

“Some call him Lucifer. Some call him Satan. I call him Master.” These words are spoken over a black screen. Their speaker is then revealed to be the jocular grandfather of a petrified boy named Jim, who’s rooted to the spot while Grandpa tells him, “Creatures who drink blood and can become wolves are real!” His joshing has dire consequences, though, because after he declares himself a “creature of the night” and says he’ll come back to kill Jim and his whole family, the young lad takes matters into his own hands and drives a wooden stake through the old codger’s heart when he lies down to take a nap. “What have you done? He was only joking,” cries Jim’s grandmother, but it’s too late. The traumatized boy has blood on his hands and has had a lifetime belief in vampires and werewolves instilled in him.

All this happens (in black and white, no less) in the first two and a half minutes of 1988’s Hard Rock Nightmare, which are quite honestly the best — and best-acted — two and a half minutes of the film. The remainder follows young adult Jim (Martin Hansen), an up-and-coming rock star, and his band, the Bad Boys, as they take his uncle’s Winnebago to the family farm left to him by his late grandmother (who apparently had no hard feelings about the whole murdering-her-spouse deal) so they can rehearse their repertoire (including the hard-rocking title song) without bothering the neighbors, who have called the cops on them three times in the space of a week.

Jim’s fellow noisemakers are his best friend Charlie (Greg Joujon-Roche) on guitar, perpetually stoned bass player Sammy (Robert D. Peverley), full-of-himself drummer John (Bryan Kovacs, who can’t mime along with the backing track to save his life), and nerdy keyboardist Paul (Tom Shell), who wears large, Trevor Horn-like glasses, and a single earring. Along for the trip are sound guy Tim (Gary Hays), Jim’s supportive girlfriend Sally (Lisa Guggenheim), Sammy’s petite squeeze Connie (Nikki McQueen), and Sally’s friend Tina (Annie Mikan), who’s hung up on Charlie but insists she’s not a groupie. And waiting for them at the farm, where they arrive on the night of the full moon, is a hairy creature that walks on two legs, has razor-sharp claws and fangs, and a sense of timing that is impeccable. (It claims its first victim after Tim, having tried to wheedle a hand job out of a reluctant Tina, says, “All I wanted was a little head,” at which point he is immediately beheaded with a single swipe of a paw.)

The monster’s first appearance, incidentally, doesn’t occur until after the band has had their first rehearsal and Jim has received a cryptic phone call from his long-dead Grandpa, prompting him to go for a walk to clear his head. Subsequent attacks are also timed to Jim’s periodic disappearances, putting suspicion on him when, having discovered the phone is out of order, the gang sends two of their number to the RV to try to raise someone on the CB, and two others to the local Ranger Station, which Jim’s Uncle Gary (Troy Donahue, the most experienced actor in the cast) knows will be deserted since he made a call from his office in the city while the band was en route and found out the ranger is away at a wedding. (“They’re up there all alone,” he says, to himself as much as anyone else.)

By the time Jim’s entourage has been effectively halved, he’s pretty far gone (it doesn’t help that his nightmares have gotten increasingly freaky), arming himself with a rifle and muttering about needing to make silver bullets for it. After Charlie comes face to muzzle with the beast and lives to tell the tale, though, the survivors concoct a plan to lure it out into the open and put it down for good. It’s only then that writer-director Dominick Brsascia (making his sophomore feature) gives viewers a full-body shot of his creature, which looks good enough that it probably could have stood to be featured more. The moment following the discovery of Tim’s headless corpse when Jim sits everyone down and tells them, “A wolf did this, a werewolf,” there’s no need to by coy about what they’re up against.

Hard Rock Nightmare is currently streaming on Shudder.

Full Moon Features: Wilczyca (1983)

Some things are such a novelty that it’s noteworthy when one encounters them in the wild. A Polish werewolf film is such a thing. A werewolf film set in a wintry landscape is another. Both are combined in 1983’s Wilczyca, also known as The Wolf or She-Wolf, which was released by Severin Films late last year as part of its well-curated folk horror collection, All the Haunts Be Ours. (It’s also streaming right now on Shudder for those who have the service.)

The title character is Mary (Iwona Bielska), wife of steward Casper Wosinski (Krzysztof Jasinski), who has turned to witchcraft during one of his long absences and curses him on her deathbed. “I’ll find you,” she hisses, clutching a wolf’s paw, and expires, after which Casper and his brother Matthew (Jerzy Prażmowski) hear a wolf howl in the distance. So far, so lycanthropic. Duly unnerved, Matthew is intent on staking Mary while they’re taking her to the cemetery and does so at the grave site. (He also calls her a witch, which means screenwriter Jerzy Gierałtowski and director Marek Piestrak are playing fast and loose with their monster lore.) It clearly doesn’t take, though, because it’s not long after — when Casper has moved away to go to work for a count he fought alongside “during the insurrection” — that he spots a she-wolf and mutters, “What the devil? She’s found me…”

The visitations from Mary — not only in what Casper takes for granted is her wolf form, but also in his daydreams — continue when he is charged with looking after the count’s property and his wife Julia (also played by Bielska) when he’s forced to flee the Hussars. And while the count is away, the countess definitely will play — not only with a Hussar officer from her past (seen in a flashback feeding a caged wolf to impress her and getting his hand bitten for his troubles), but also with Casper, whom she teases coquettishly. As the she-wolf (which is described as “no ordinary wolf” and “as big as a calf”) shows no signs of leaving him be, Casper begins to think Mary has taken possession of Julia, a belief bolstered by the scene where he shoots the wolf, follows its bloody trail, and finds Julia at the end of it with a freshly injured hand. Only then is the need for a silver bullet cast in holy water mooted, and since only one is made, that means Casper has to make it count.

Since Piestrak opted not to go the wolf-man (or -woman) route, this saved his crew from having to go overboard on the makeup effects. Instead, they ladle on the atmosphere and period trappings, which serve to heighten the drama when the time comes for Casper to act. Even if the results aren’t horrific in the traditional sense — one obvious lift from The Omen aside — Wilczyca provides a window into another world and culture.

Full Moon Features: Wild Country (2005)

If the ever-dwindling number of halfway decent werewolf movies I have to choose from is anything to go by, it won’t be long before I run out of Full Moon Features to write about. (Considering I’ve watched 172 of the cursed things over the past 14 years, it’s a miracle I’m still finding ones that are even watchable.) This month’s selection is Wild Country, a wee wisp of a film (it runs 67 minutes, 73 with credits) that earns points for using practical creature effects, but loses them straight away because they’re so damned silly-looking. (According to the IMDb, their design was based on the four-legged monster wolf from An American Werewolf in London, but one thing writer/director Craig Strachan forgets is that John Landis shows David Kessler in his fully transformed state only sparingly, and never in the full light of the last 20 minutes of this film. Lesson: If you’re going to take cues from a classic, make sure you learn the right things from it.)

The supernatural angle aside, Wild Country is a straightforward story of survival, populated by barely sketched-in teenage characters played by unseasoned actors who do little to make the viewer care about which order they get picked off. Right at the top, Strachan introduces his predetermined Final Girl, 16-year-old Kelly Ann (Samantha Shields), who gives birth to a baby that is immediately whisked away and given to a childless couple. Six weeks later, Father Steve (an underused Peter Capaldi) picks her up so she can take part in an overnight church youth club hike on the heath. Her companions: her best friend Louise (Nicola Muldoon), bully David (Kevin Quinn), his runty younger brother Mark (Jamie Quinn), and unexpected addition Lee (Martin Compston), who just so happens to be the boy that got her into trouble. On the way to the drop-off point, Father Steve regales his charges with the story of Sawney Bean and his clan of inbred cannibals (which previously served as the inspiration for Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes), but once the youths are on their own, they find there’s something even more terrifying out there, and it’s fast and covered in fur.

Strachan throws viewers a curve by letting the kids have a couple run-ins with a feral-looking shepherd (Alan McHugh), a likely suspect to turn out to be the werewolf right up until the moment he becomes its first victim. There’s also a fair bit of business about a baby boy Kelly Ann and Lee find in an abandoned castle, thus giving her a second chance to be a mother. Overall, though, it’s just a lot of running and yelling and dropping mobiles and the like until the twist ending that anybody with half a brain should be able to see coming a mile away. Still, at least it gives Peter Capaldi something else to do. Did I mention he’s grossly underused?

Full Moon Features: Wolf Children (2012) & Tales of the Night (2011)

What happens when a young woman and a lanky werewolf fall in love? Why, they make Wolf Children, of course! Co-written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, the 2012 animated feature only spends about 20 minutes on the courtship of university student Hara and the Wolf Man of her dreams, who works as a mover. In that time, they meet (in one of her courses, which he is auditing unofficially), get to know each other, share their secrets (his is the real whopper, as you might imagine), and build a life together. That includes having children, but not long after the birth of their second he gets himself killed, leaving Hara alone to care for their feral offspring and forcing her to move out of the city, away from all the prying eyes and meddling social workers.

Of course, even in the country with no neighbors for miles around, Hara and her children — tomboy Yuki and shy boy Ame — are the subject of gossip, and she has to prove herself capable of putting in the work before they’ll teach her even the rudiments of farming. She also has to get used to the idea of letting her children go out into the world because it isn’t long before Yuki is insisting on being allowed to go to elementary school, which Hara only agrees to after making her promise not to wolf out in front of the other children. As for Ame, he learns a valuable lesson when he comes face to face with a timber wolf in captivity and finds it has no wisdom to pass on to him. That, he surmises, is what happens when you let human society keep you caged up. No wonder he ultimately chooses a different path for himself.

Considering how much leeway animation gives filmmakers, especially when it comes to realizing tricky things like character transformations, it’s surprising how few animated films there are about werewolves and shapeshifters. What’s not surprising, though, is how the small number that do exist are dominated by family-friendly fare like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, WolfWalkers, and the Hotel Transylvania series. They’re also rarely the focus of the stories, with a rare exception being Michel Ocelot’s 2011 French anthology Tales of the Night, which is bookended by tales of transformation, the first of which is called “Night of the Werewolf.”

The wraparound segments consist of an old animator and his two young helpers, Théo and Annie, who propose story ideas to each other and then decide which parts they’re going to play, how they’re going to be costumed, and so forth. So, for example, when Théo says, “Let’s suppose I’m a werewolf,” the ensuing discussion results in a story about a young loup-garou who becomes engaged to the older of two sisters who proves her lack of worth by betraying him the moment she learns his secret. Happily, the younger sister is able to restore him to his human form and even accepts him for the part-time beast that he is. From there, Ocelot travels to the Caribbean, the Aztec empire, an African village and the mountains of Tibet, doubling back to medieval France for “The Young Doe and the Architect’s Son,” in which a young woman is cursed by an ogre of a sorcerer when she refuses to marry him. When the young lover who helped her escape from his clutches believes she’s been turned into a doe, he seeks the help of a fairy, but the solution turns out to have been right under his nose the whole time.

One thing that helps Tales of the Night stand out is its distinctive look, which recalls Ocelot’s early work with silhouette animation. Even if he’s using computers to bring his characters to life, when the results are this charming it doesn’t matter how the magic is accomplished. And his habit of highlighting ancient stories and legends of different cultures is a handy reminder that everything old can be made new again with a dash of creativity.

Full Moon Features: Mad at the Moon (1992)

In light of this month’s Total Lunar Supermoon Eclipse, it would be sweet if I had a totally super Full Moon Feature to share with you. Alas, this is not the case. Following the uptick in werewolf movies in the ’70s and ’80s, the ’90s found the hairy beasts on a brief decline before rallying in the new millennium. Part of this may be due to lackluster efforts like 1992’s Mad at the Moon, which premiered 30 years ago this month at the Seattle International Film Festival before landing on video, where it has spent decades misleading people into thinking it’s more about werewolves than it is.

In fact, the film is nearly half over before there’s even an inkling that there’s anything lycanthropic afoot, which means the viewer has to wade through nearly an hour of bookish Jenny Hill (Mary Stuart Masterson) mooning over unshaven drifter Miller Brown (Hart Bochner) while her meddlesome mother (Fionnula Flanagan) tries to broker a match with reclusive and socially awkward farmer James Miller (Stephen Blake). There’s some novelty to the Old West setting, but when a prostitute sees how Jenny pines after Miller Brown and advises her to “get on with it,” it’s impossible not to agree that the film as a whole needs to hurry up and get to the part where co-writer/director Martin Donovan reveals which one of his characters goes a little “mad” when the moon is full.

Unfortunately, the moment of truth when it comes is decidedly underwhelming, as is the resolution of the limp love triangle after Jenny’s mother goes to Miller Brown with “a business proposition” — namely, that he’ll stay with Jenny and “protect” her the next time the full moon comes around. Of course, that’s the night both men go out of their way to look presentable, which in James’s case goes a long way toward making him more attractive to his wife, so however things shake out, she’s sure to be content with whoever is left standing at the final curtain. If only the audience cared one way or the other.

Full Moon Features: The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)

The IMDb doesn’t give an exact release date for it — the best it can do is May 1972 — but as we’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of Andy Milligan’s infamous The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!, I figured it was about time I tackled it in this column. As catchy as its present title is, The Werewolves Are Here! started out as a movie about a brood of bickering lycanthropes called The Curse of the Moon, but when producer William Mishkin got wind of Willard‘s runaway success he had Milligan literally throw some rats into the story, hence The Rats Are Coming! They’re not integrated very well, though, so to reflect this I’ll deal with the werewolves first and then haphazardly toss in the rats later on.

The whole shebang takes place in England around the turn of the 20th century, and Milligan restricts most of the action to the Mooney estate, where ailing patriarch Pa Mooney (Douglas Phair) holds sway over his five adult children. His favorite is natural born troublemaker Monica (Hope Stansbury), who hates everything and everybody and delights in tormenting her imbecilic brother Malcolm (Berwick Kaler), who is first seen tussling with a couple of roustabouts who proceed to light him on fire on his own front lawn. The most responsible of the bunch is eldest sister Phoebe (Joan Ogden), who looks much older than her stated age of 39, followed closely by the level-headed Mortimer (Noel Collins). The household is thrown into a tizzy, however, by the return of prodigal daughter Diana (Jackie Skarvellis), who went away to Scotland for medical school and came home with a husband, painter Gerald (Ian Innes). Naturally, she hasn’t told him that she comes from a family of werewolves, but that’s just as well since Malcolm doesn’t want him in the family anyway. Even talking about the subject is enough to give him an attack that he needs a shot to recover from.

In the day or so leading up to the full moon, Diana has plenty of time to get reacquainted with her family and exchange repetitive, exposition-laden dialogue with them. (With Milligan, there’s no detail so unimportant that it can’t be repeated five or six times, usually within the same scene.) Meanwhile, rightfully figuring out that something is amiss, Gerald tries to talk her into leaving with him, but she believes the (possibly normal, possibly not) baby growing in her womb will change his mind.

And now is the time during my review of The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! where I mention the scene where Monica heads into town to see a severely deformed man (Milligan, credited as Chris Shore) about buying a bunch of rats that have developed a taste for human flesh ever since they gnawed off his arm and part of his face while he was sleeping. Once Monica gets them home she starts talking to them and even names a few (“I think I’ll call you Willard,” she says to one. “You look just like a Willard.”), but when the one she names Ben bites her she stabs it to death and marches back to town to demand a refund. And that’s all for the rats in The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!

Finally, the day of full moon arrives and Diana takes her own trip into town to buy a pistol from a chatty old gunsmith (Milligan again, this time credited as George Clark) and sweet talk him into making some silver bullets to go. It also sees the introduction of Monica’s previously unseen best friend, childish neighbor girl Rebecca (Lillian Frit), who sticks around just long enough to get the chop for knowing too much about the Mooneys. In the end, everybody reveals the secrets they’ve been hiding from everybody else for years and years, and every Mooney who’s cursed to turn into a werewolf does, starting with Pa, whose weak heart gives out after his transformation, both of which come as something of a shock to Gerald. Just when he thought he was finally being accepted into the family!

Full Moon Features: The Cursed (2021)

This month’s full moon abuts St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s only natural for me to tackle a werewolf film set in Ireland. It’s also natural that I made a point of seeing The Cursed — formerly Eight for Silver — in theaters last month in spite of the fact that I knew it would likely be out of them by the time the next full moon rolled around. After all, if I can’t be counted on to show up for opening weekend of a new werewolf movie, who can?

A film with atmosphere to burn and the patience to let the viewer soak it all in, The Cursed opens in 1917 in the trenches of World War I where an officer is rushed to a field hospital after getting shot, but the surgeon pulls out more bullets than went in — and the last one is made of silver. Coupled with the wounded man deliriously repeating a child’s nursery rhyme, this sparks a flashback to 35 years earlier, when an Irish landowner made a fateful decision regarding a caravan of Roma who had a legitimate claim on a parcel of land near his settlement.

All seems resolved when Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) has the camp torched, the men, women, and children shot while they flee, and an example made of two who don’t. A young man has his hands and feet chopped off and is hung up like a scarecrow. An old woman is buried alive clutching the set of silver wolf’s teeth she had fashioned by the camp’s blacksmith in anticipation of trouble. She also spends her dying breaths pronouncing a curse on everyone present, so it can’t come as too much of a surprise when, much like Freddy Kruger would two centuries later, a certain sinister scarecrow begins haunting the dreams of their offspring. And what of those silver teeth? Well, all it takes is for one of the boys (named Timmy, improbably enough) to dig them up and stick them in his mouth for all hell to break loose.

Seamus, in particular, is put out by this because his son Edward is the one bitten by Timmy and immediately falls ill. In short order, though, he’s up and about and running amok in the woods, much to the distress of his mother Isabelle (Kelly Reilly) and sister Charlotte (Amelia Crouch), who’s never in any danger since she’s alive and well in 1917 to look back on the strange events of 1882. For while writer/director/cinematographer Sean Ellis hasn’t fashioned a werewolf movie in the traditional sense, anybody who gets bitten by the silver teeth and survives turns into a monster, and anybody who’s injured by them and survives becomes a monster, and so on.

Ultimately, it takes the intercession of traveling pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) to tell Seamus and his people what they’re dealing with and order the silver teeth to be melted down and turned into bullets, an act of transformation that models those who have the misfortune to fall victim to its curse. Of course, as The Cursed demonstrates, there are some who deserve everything they get.