Full Moon Features: The Company of Wolves (1984)

Note: I’m on a tight deadline and unable to watch and review a new werewolf film this month. Instead, I’m re-posting this Full Moon Feature Classic on Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves in anticipation of co-star David Warner’s 80th birthday, which he’s celebrating July 29th. All the best, David!

In September 1984, Neil Jordan’s horror-fantasy The Company of Wolves was screened at the Toronto Film Festival and then went into general release in the UK, giving the Canucks and the Brits a jump on their Yank counterparts since we didn’t get it in the States until the following April. Based on the short story of the same name by Angela Carter, published in the collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Carter and Jordan’s screenplay for The Company of Wolves greatly expanded on its themes and gave Jordan a taste for the fantastic that he would revisit in such subsequent films as High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire, Ondine, and Byzantium. He has yet to make another werewolf movie, though, which is a major failing on his part.

More than just a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” with an emphasis on the psycho-sexual subtext, The Company of Wolves is also a tale about a young girl’s awakening sexuality — several tales, in fact. The film starts in modern day, where Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) dreams about a pack of wolves attacking her hated sister, then we enter her dream, which takes place in a fairy tale world, but never fully. Jordan periodically cuts back to Rosaleen tossing and turning in bed to remind us that everything we’re seeing is being generated by her subconscious. (In a way, it would make an excellent double feature with Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, which came out around the same time.)

The well-qualified cast is headed up by Angela Lansbury as Rosaleen’s granny, who tells her stories full of warnings about men whose eyebrows meet and wolves that are hairy on the inside, with David Warner as her father, who’s at a loss with his daughter in both the real and the dream world. Other recognizable faces include An American Werewolf in London veteran Brian Glover as the father of a neighbor boy who takes a liking to Rosaleen (who, of course, has no time for him), Graham Crowden as a kindly old priest, Kathryn Pogson as the young bride in one of Lansbury’s tales, who marries traveling man Stephen Rea, who “answers the call of nature” one night and doesn’t come back, an uncredited Jim Carter as the man she marries in his stead, and an uncredited Terence Stamp as the Devil, who appears in a flashy car to tempt a young man in the forest. If that last part doesn’t seem to make sense, remember it’s in a story being told by a girl in her own dream. With all the different levels of fantasy and reality, things are bound to get a little mixed up.

Since this was first published in 2014, The Company of Wolves stubbornly remains without a domestic release to supplant the bare-bones DVD put out by Hen’s Tooth Video almost two decades ago. The film is currently streaming on Kanopy under the Shout Factory banner, though, so maybe they have designs on putting out their own edition. They just don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to do so.

Full Moon Features: A Creepshow Holiday Special: “Shapeshifters Anonymous”

For the would-be writer of werewolf stories, it can be the worst feeling in the world to get wind of a forthcoming film or novel or come across a short story that uses the same premise they’ve been working on. For me, this happened when I read the Christmas-themed werewolf anthology Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, published in 2008, and J.A. Konrath’s story “SA,” short for “Shapeshifters Anonymous.” This was close enough to the “Lycanthropes Anonymous” from my in-progress werewolf novel that I soon abandoned it in spite of the fact that Konrath’s group was for werebeasts of all types, some of which were deliberately ludicrous. (A were-tortoise?) The result was more tongue-in-cheek than I had been going for, but I still felt that I had been beaten to the “werewolf support group” punch.

The jokey tone carries over to the story’s television adaptation, 2020’s A Creepshow Holiday Special, making it the show’s second werewolf episode after season one’s “Bad Wolf Down.” The key difference is this one has more time to stretch out, allowing writer/director Greg Nicotero to stay as faithful to Konrath’s story as possible. It opens with the visibly nervous Robert Weston (Adam Pally) arriving at St. Argento’s for its weekly “Shapeshifters Anonymous” meeting and, after trying the previous week’s password (“Landis,” naturally), bribing his way in with a box of baked goods. The regulars are understandably leery of this newcomer, especially since he claims to be the notorious “Naperville Ripper,” but as the first half of the special unfolds he gets to know the motley assemblage of therianthropes, as chapter president Irena Reid (Anna Camp) calls them, and they get to know him.

Seems perky schoolteacher Irena is a were-cheetah (appropriate since she’s named after Simone Simon’s character from the original Cat People), the gruff Scott Howard (Pete Burris) is the aforementioned were-tortoise (so don’t read anything into the fact that he’s named after the protagonist of Teen Wolf), would-be ladies man Andy McDermott (Frank Nicotero) is a were-boar (cue the jokes about him being a real pig), and Ryan (Derek Russo) is a total mystery since he never speaks and nobody even knows his last name. The odd one out, then, is Phyllis Allenbee (Candy McLellan), who’s actually a furry with a hippo persona, but she considers the others her “people” and they clearly reciprocate since they accept her more readily than Robert. He proves to be on the level, though, and they’re unconcerned about his carnivorous nature since his victims have all been bad people who had a werewolf attack coming to them. (And the werewolf movie in-jokes keep coming since the Ripper’s victims are given as Waldemar Daminski [sic], Tony Rivers, and Ginger Fitzgerald.)

Those who haven’t read Konrath’s story may wonder why “Shapeshifters Anonymous” is set at Christmastime and potentially be blindsided by the bizarre turn it takes in it second half. Since that’s the part where the members of the group shift into their hairy (and, in Scott’s case, scaly) shapes to defend their turf from an outside threat, though, the patient viewer may find it to be an ample reward for their indulgence. No need to wait until the holidays to enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

Full Moon Features: Mom (1991)

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

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

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

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

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

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

From ComingSoon.net:

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

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

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

I love that this werewolf is just… chilling

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

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

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

10 Weird & Cool Werewolf Items on Etsy

After a year of being cooped up, everyone with an Etsy shop has gone bonkers. These 10 items, all discovered and sent to me by my wife Tandye, explore a broad range of Etsy’s increasingly wild “werewolf zone”.

Werewolf RPG Miniature from Creature Armory

This is a 3D render of a tabletop RPG miniature that you can have “printed in high quality resin” in a variety of sizes. I’m not usually big on the flesh-ripping style of werewolf transformation, but this is cool.

The Wolf Pack werewolf & hellhound history paper goods collection

A gift-wrapped collection of historical werewolf ephemera. If you’re going to repurpose royalty-free text and images from the past, this is how you do it!

Three Wolfman Moon art print

2008’s finest meme, recapitulated lycanthropically. Artist Kyle Morton has rendered two classic werewolves and added his own (superior?) interpretation, which you can have for yourself as a 10×15″ print.

Monster print oven mitts

There’s only one werewolf in the pattern of these monster oven mitts, but he’s being taken for a walk by a little witch girl. You can’t argue with that. Don’t even try.

Werewolf Playing Cards

Writes the artist: “I spent my time in quarantine developing my very own set of playing cards. The Kings are Werewolves, the Queens are Vampires, the Jacks are Villagers.” Enough said!

Tabletop Shadow Puppet Theatre

This portable multi-piece shadow puppet theatre has 17 characters and a dozen backgrounds – enough to re-enact many of the classic fairytales. If you brought this into my house, many of those stories would receive shocking re-interpretations that involve the Wolf having dinner.

Horror High! Werewolf Linocut Print

“A hand-printed 13x13cm linocut of a chill stoner werewolf” is my activation phrase, and what happens when I get activated? I smoke a lot of weed and play Scott Pilgrim on my Switch until I fall asleep. I think this werewolf would do the same.

Anatomically correct werewolf figurine

I want to say right at the top: this is a very cool hand-made 31cm-tall posable werewolf figurine. Great fur, cool face, and I even like the big fluffy tail, which is unusual for me. But it is billed as “anatomically correct”, which means it does have a penis. I don’t know why you would include that level of accuracy in a figurine while only putting four fingers on each of its hands, but here we are. And there it is.

Oleana the Werewolf Queen

This is another 3D-printed werewolf miniature, but unlike the one at the top of this list, she’s calm and composed. According to her description, if you fuck with her friends, she won’t stop until you’re dead. I respect all of this, even if I do think a werewolf holding a weapon is like wearing two hats at once.

Werewolf Nerd Gold Enamel Pin

Last but certainly not least, here is a 4cm x 4cm hard enamel lapel pin that appears to have my face on it. It’s not actually me, but as an aspirational werewolf with perpetually worried eyebrows and nerdy frames, I feel well-represented. Of all the werewolf objets d’art in this post, this is the only one to currently reside in my Etsy shopping cart, and I am going to wrap up this post so I can go finish the purchase.

Full Moon Features: Beast Beneath (2011)

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

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

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

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

Anarchogoth’s Werewolf Union T-Shirt

Sometimes you just want a new t-shirt that supports your lycanthropic brothers, sisters, and non-binary comrades. Anarchogoth provides “ad hoccultism for the esoteric prole” and his store has a variety of killer designs that espouse “black on black on black on black flag and against all authority”. Of particular interest to me, and probably to you: Industrial Werewolves Of The World.

One Big Unholy Union of Wolf and Man!

“You have nothing to lose but your humanity” reads the product page, and it’s a phrase that makes my shaggy heart sing. The design is available on a variety of products if you don’t need a shirt. Purchases support what seems like a very cool art/design project, as well as the IWW and other excellent causes.

Thanks to friend of the site Sylv for the link!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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