Category: Reviews

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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.

Full Moon Features: Blood Moon (2021)

When Blumhouse inaugurated its “Into the Dark” series of standalone horror films on Hulu in 2018, there was no guarantee it was ever going to tackle lycanthropy. It finally did, however, with 2021’s Blood Moon, the finale of its second (and so far final) season. Written by Adam Mason & Simon Boyes and directed by Emma Tammi (best known for 2018’s prairie-set psychological horror The Wind), Blood Moon follows a mother and her young son as they move to a desert community in hopes of finding a quiet place to settle down. Privacy is of primary concern for Esme (Megalyn Echikunwoke) since her son Luna (Yonas Kibreab) is a werewolf and needs to be locked in a cage once a month — a trait he inherited from his absent father — but getting the locals to play along is another matter.

Esme’s main order of business once they’ve rented a house (which naturally has to have a basement) is ordering the materials she needs to build a cage strong enough to hold Luna when it’s his time of the month. She also takes a job as a waitress at the local watering hole, with the stipulation that there’s one day out of every month that she absolutely cannot work, the dinner rush be damned. Her boss Sam (Joshua Dov) is reasonable enough about the arrangement, but he’s one of many men in town who sees the headstrong single mother as a potential conquest. That includes odious sheriff Barlow Townes (Gareth Williams), who’s not above throwing his weight around to assert his manhood.

That’s decidedly not the case with friendly neighborhood hardware store owner Miguel (Marco Rodríguez), who takes a genuine interest in Esme and doesn’t snoop around even though he’s well aware the building materials she’s getting (and paying for on installment) aren’t for keeping chickens. When the full moon arrives, Luna dutifully gets into the cage, and Esme retires to the front porch with a dart gun to keep vigil. Their first month in town passes without incident, save for the infection Luna develops that requires a trip to the hospital (where Esme has to think fast to prevent them from taking a sample of his blood), but there are complications the next full moon when Esme is talked into taking a lunch shift and Luna sneaks away to a birthday party he’s been invited to by a well-meaning Miguel.

When they don’t make it back to the house before nightfall, Luna escapes and goes on a rampage he has no memory of when Esme finds him the next morning. Luckily, the authorities are baffled by the mutilated livestock and blame it on a mountain lion, which puts the brakes on Esme’s instinct to immediately pull up stakes, but she knows all about the dangers of getting too comfortable.

Naturally, everything comes to a head after Esme and Luna have been in town long enough for her to consider enrolling him in public school, something that’s never seemed like an option before. That goes right out the window when a series of unforeseen events results in Esme’s arrest by Townes, who’s been itching to haul her in. Her pleas for him to lock Luna in a cell fall on deaf ears, though, and when the boy wolfs out he makes short work of the town’s entire police force. It’s a pity, then, that Tammi skips over Luna’s change, but considering his werewolf form is literally just a wolf, that’s just as well. A full-on transformation sequence clearly wasn’t in her budget.

Full Moon Features: The Man and the Monster (1959)

When selling your soul to the Devil, it pays to be as specific as possible about the terms, otherwise Lucifer will feel duty-bound to screw you over in the most inconvenient and ironic way they can think of. In the Mexican horror film El Hombre y el Monstruo a.k.a. The Man and the Monster, mediocre concert pianist Samuel Magno (Manning in the English-language version) learns this the hard way when he offers up his soul, saying, “I want to play as no one else has ever played,” not realizing how much latitude he’s giving the Great Deceiver. True, Samuel does get to be “the greatest musical genius in the world,” but every time he sits down at the piano and plays, he transforms into a savage beast with hairy claws and a fur-filled face to match. Kinda throws a damper on any concert tours he had lined up in his head while completing his transaction with Satan.

Produced in the early days of the Mexican horror boom of the ’50s and ’60s, The Man and the Monster opens with an unnamed woman crashing her car and seeking help at a run-down mansion to which she’s drawn by the sound of piano music. As she approaches the door from which it is emanating, a raspy voice exhorts her to unlock it, which she does because “The Howling Man” episode of The Twilight Zone wouldn’t be made for another year and therefore couldn’t serve as an object lesson for her. Director Rafael Baledón doesn’t show what becomes of her immediately, though. That’s for the next driver on the scene, press agent Ricardo Souto (Richard Sandro in the English dub), to discover when he investigates the crash and finds the woman lying nearby with claw marks on her face. He, too, goes to the mansion for assistance, but is brusquely turned away by an old woman with a black cat who gives him the silent treatment.

This, as it turns out, is the domineering mother of Samuel (top-billed Enrique Rambal), who is actually the person Richard (Abel Salazar, brother of screenwriter Alfredo Salazar) is in town to see since he’s making arrangements for the debut of Samuel’s protege Laura (Martha Roth). For some reason, the tortured musician hopes this will be the means of his salvation, but his monstrous side has a way of asserting itself, especially when he hears a particularly sinister piece of music. Rambal is convincing as both title characters, since the pathetic Samuel and his aggressive alter ego operate independently of one another, a true split personality. Once his m.o. has been established, though, the action grows repetitive, with only a change of venue to the concert hall to spice things up. There is a nice scene near the end, however, when Samuel has vowed never to play again and is browbeaten into doing so by a girl who regrets being so insistent.

Full Moon Features: The Werewolf Movie Class of 2011

Since the last full moon of 2021 is upon us, I figured I’d look back at a trio of werewolf films from a decade ago that I haven’t covered yet because, well, the werewolves aren’t in them very much. In fact, one of them is about an actress who has merely been cast in a werewolf movie, which we don’t actually get to see in production.

The first one out of the gate — or out of the dog house — is Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, a horror comedy based on a long-running Italian comic book that runs into its first problem by casting Brandon Routh as the title character, a long-retired New Orleans-based paranormal investigator who takes a break from his mundane divorce work when a real whopper of a case drops in his lap. Routh’s voice-over narration is supposed to sound detached and ironic, but too often it feels like he’s audibly digging his elbow into our ribs, trying to convince the viewer that whatever he just said is the most hysterical thing ever, probably because it has something to do with vampires, werewolves, or zombies. (Those are the three main monster types represented in the film. There are also passing references to ghouls, but they don’t really figure into the plot.) The vampires all answer to Taye Diggs’s grandstanding Vargas while the leader of the werewolf clan is Peter Stormare’s Gabriel (whose second, played by pro wrestler Kurt Angle, is named Wolfgang, har har). As for the zombies, they come into play when Dylan’s assistant Marcus is bitten to death by one, which gives Sam Huntington (Being Human‘s resident werewolf) the opportunity to play a different kind of creature of the night. As comic relief goes, though, he’s really annoyingly high-strung.

I haven’t gotten into the plot at all, which revolves around Dylan’s reluctant investigation into the death of an importer who had recently come into possession of an artifact coveted by vampires and werewolves alike. In true noir fashion, the man’s daughter becomes Dylan’s love interest pretty much by default, which gives him a chance to open up about his tragic backstory. It’s an attempt to lend a little gravitas to a story that involves side trips to zombie body shops, fast food joints, and support groups, but Routh can only do so much emoting. And director Kevin Munroe falls back on repetitive fight scenes, one of which is preceded by Kurt Angle growling “It’s dyin’ time.” That’s fairly redundant, though, because by the time that line is spoken, anybody still watching will have long since declared this dog dead in the water.

Next up is the mumblecore drama Silver Bullets, not to be confused with the similarly titled Stephen King adaptation. Written and directed by Joe Swanberg, who is known for churning out films at a rapid clip — or rather, he was at the time this film came out — Silver Bullets was a long time coming since its production was unusually protracted. Shooting began in late 2008 and he didn’t complete the film until early 2011, when it premiered at South by Southwest. Furthermore, he essentially shot and edited two different versions before settling on a story that satisfied him, about a young actress who gets cast in a low-budget werewolf film.

Kate Lyn Sheil stars as Claire, the actress in question, who’s thrilled to be playing the younger version of June (Jane Adams), an insecure actress who shares the prologue — and her worries about putting on weight — with Sam (indie fixture Larry Fessenden, who later auditions for a role in the film). For her part, Claire’s relationship with her boyfriend Ethan (Swanberg, playing a frustrated filmmaker) deteriorates after he casts her best friend Charlie (Amy Seimetz, also the film’s producer) as his girlfriend in the low-budget drama he’s shooting concurrently with her werewolf film. Meanwhile, Sheil’s director Ben (Ti West, essentially playing himself) clumsily puts the moves on her, which she’s slow to rebuff. Even if they go no further than a little kissing on the mouth, the damage has been done.

Lastly, we come to Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, which was released in the spring of 2012 but had its premiere at Austin’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival the previous December. (If nothing else, Harry Knowles’s fall from grace in 2017 has spared any further films from the ignominy of having their premieres at a festival with such a dumb name.) Rather than talk about the plot, though, which should be common knowledge at this point, let us focus on its werewolf, surely one of the best-looking specimens ever to grace the silver screen (however briefly).

I don’t know what totem in the cabin’s basement would have activated it, but I’m sorry it wasn’t chosen because I definitely would have enjoyed seeing more of this ferocious beast in action. Then again, it does get some of the best moments in the final act, even taking a bite out of the so-called “final girl” because that’s just the sort of thing it would do. Werewolf movies don’t have final girls. Whatever else it does, The Cabin in the Woods gets that.