Invariably when I’m interviewed I’m asked about werewolf movies. Which ones do I like? Why are there so few good ones out there? Will any of my books be turned into movies? The other day my wife rented a flick called Big Bad Wolf and we watched it last night. Because of that steaming pile, I’ve decided to write a bit about werewolf movies today.
- The Company of Wolves — This is the king of all werewolf movies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it, but each time I do I discover something new. Neil Jordan’s direction of Angela Carter’s stories is deep, metaphorical, dreamy and extremely captivating. This is a werewolf movie for people who think.
- The Howling — Only the first one. This is one of the few movies that kind of freaked me out as I watched it alone in the dark in the early days of the VCR. Not as deep as The Company of Wolves, but it does rely on plot despite its groundbreaking special effects. I have to say, though, that I absolutely do not like the stop motion animation inserted into the DVD release. At all.
- Dog Soldiers — The best modern werewolf movie. No CGI! No one jumping around on wires! Lots of characterization, lots of gore, excellent pace and some of the best lines ever in a beastie flick. The strong British accents were a little hard to follow at first, but that only makes it better on the second viewing.
- The Wolf-Man — It’s flawed, but there’s no discounting the pathos created by Lon Chaney Jr. and its influence on so many werewolf movies that came after it. How a man walking upright on the balls of his feet leaves wolf tracks is beyond me, but this is the patriarch of the pack and a must-see.
- Ginger Snaps — I had to warm up to this one, as certain elements were a little too close to home, but once I did I really liked it. There’s plenty of gore to keep modern viewers watching, but the movie has a strong story and makes you care about the plight of the sisters. And, really, the scene where Ginger is trying to cut off her tail? Classic!
- Ginger Snaps Back — I really like this one, and can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with it, but it falls just short of making it into the upper echelons. Maybe it’s simply that, plotwise, it’s too close to the first one in just a different setting, but then it’s that frontier setting that really draws me to it.
- Bad Moon — A good, solid flick without much to really distinguish it, but I enjoy it a lot. And it’s almost kid friendly. My youngest son loves the scene where the werewolf uncle gets back at Thor by peeing on his dog house. There’s really nothing wrong with this one (unless you want to nitpick dates about the full moon), but it isn’t quite strong enough to be higher on the list.
- Wolf — Jack Nicholson as a werewolf publisher and the eternally gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer as his love interest. How could this possibly go wrong? Apparently director Mike Nichols thought the best thing about being a werewolf was having the ability jump really, really high. In slow motion. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a werewolf movie.
- Werewolf of London — It’s older than Lon Chaney’s The Wolf-Man, and is a damn fine film, but just doesn’t make that much of an impact. No doubt that’s why Universal Studios made another, completely different werewolf movie so soon after instead of just going into sequel mode with this one. Still well worth watching.
- Underworld: Rise of the Lycans — No silver nitrate or solar bullets here. Granted, I’ve only seen this one once, so I may be overrating it, but I really liked it. It seemed more believable than the two Underworld films set in the modern world.
- An American Werewolf in London — The humor grates on me. Yeah, there are some funny scenes. There are some creepy scenes. For some reason, I don’t like the horror/comedy mix in this one. I love it in Return of the Living Dead, but not here. Still a decent flick, just far from my favorites.
- The Curse of the Werewolf — A fine effort by Hammer. The lore is different and has some holes, but the atmosphere is typical Hammer and Oliver Reed as the werewolf does a good job. It’s very enjoyable, but not great.
- Big Bad Wolf — In 2007 this thing won the Worldfest Houston Silver Award for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Film. Was there really nothing better offered in 2006, or was writer/director Lance Dreeson the only one to enter? Beast actor Richard Tyson tries really hard to be what Jack Nicholson should have been in Wolf, but it’s too obvious he’s impersonating a, umm … real actor. The werewolf cracks Freddy Krueger jokes and looks like an adolescent Bigfoot. A look at the DVD cover should tell you all you need to know about this one.
- Dark Wolf — Words cannot even begin to describe this one. How bad is it? Even a lesbian scene can’t save it. The worst werewolf movie ever, I believe. There’s a scene where a young white woman transforms and halfway through it the human-in-makeup scene changes to a bad video game animation, then back to human actors, where our Aryan babe has somehow become a black chick with dreads. Watching fresh wolf crap steam on a cold day is more entertaining and less insulting to your intelligence.
- Monster Dog — Alice Cooper is no actor. The king of shock rock, but no actor. This one’s aka Leviatan, maybe in hopes a fancy foreign name will make people forget what it really is. Bad, bad, bad. They say this is only good for fans of Alice, but I’m a big fan of Alice and werewolves and I’ll never watch this one again.
There’s a list of 15 flicks, made up mostly of middling stuff. I didn’t even touch on “gems” like Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory and Werewolves on Wheels. Things like that are on a completely different level. So, do you agree with my assessment? What are your favorites, and which are the worst you’ve seen?
Finally, as to my own work being filmed … I wrote a script for Murdered by Human Wolves and a young director in another state liked it and said he wants to film it, but that was two years ago and nothing’s been done. So, I would have to say no, there is not currently any plans to film The Werewolf Saga. I can hope, though, and, of course, hope that if it happens it’ll be one of those upper level efforts.