Welcome to the Hotel Transylvania, Dracula’s (Adam Sandler) lavish five-stake resort, where monsters and their families can live it up, free to be the monsters they are without humans to bother them. On one special weekend, Dracula has invited some of the world’s most famous monsters – Frankenstein and his bride, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, a family of werewolves, and more – to celebrate his daughter Mavis’s 118th birthday. For Drac, catering to all of these legendary monsters is no problem – but his world could come crashing down when one ordinary guy stumbles on the hotel and takes a shine to Mavis.
Two exceptional Wolfman posters. On the left, a beautiful new version of the original 1941 classic ‘The Wolfman’ starring Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Ralph Bellamy; and on the right, new artwork for the 2010 remake of the same name starring Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins.
So after trashing ‘Skin Walkers’ last week I was asked for a good example of a werewolf movie… so here’s another list of the Good, Okay and Avoid… Starting with six Good ones:
An American Werewolf in London (1981). Written and Directed by John Landis, this is the best werewolf movie by some distance. Frightening, funny and featuring the best transformation scene ever filmed. The film follows two American backpackers, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) who are holidaying in rural England. Following an awkward visit to a village pub called ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’ they wander over the moors and are attacked by a wolf. Jack is killed but David survives and is troubled by disturbing dreams and visits from his dead friend Jack. I love this movie; it’s an all-time favourite of mine and generally considered a classic of the genre. There’ll be a more extensive review soon. Unsurpassed.
The Company of Wolves (1984). Directed by Neil Jordan and starring Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury and a host of British thespians. This fantastical gothic-horror film looks at the underbelly of the Red Riding Hood fable. Jordan has always maintained that it is not a horror film and to call it so would be misleading the audience. It’s a stylish, bizarre, dark and beautiful fairytale teeming with symbolism and imagery. It also features one of the more original and unusual transformation scenes. I love this film and you can read a full review on this site posted 3/05/11.
Dog Soldiers (2002). Writer/Director Neil Marshall’s first feature, Dog Soldiers follows a squad of British soldiers led by Sergeant Harris (Sean Pertwee) on a training mission in the Scottish Highlands. They are being stalked by a Special Ops Squad and something far more dangerous. As they make their escape from the unseen foe they stumble across a zoologist called Megan (Emma Cleasby) who seems to know a little too much about what is hunting them. This is a really great fun, the action is brutal and the werewolves are exceptional considering the tiny budget.
The Howling (1981). Directed by Joe Dante and famous for the effects work by Rob Bottin who got the job after Rick Baker left to work on ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (A very good decision). The movie follows journalist Karen White (Dee Wallace) as she is attacked by a serial killer, she suffers amnesia and is sent to ‘The Colony’ by her therapist Dr. Waggner (Patrick MacNee) to recover. However all is not what it seems there… The lack of budget in certain scenes is glaringly obvious (Animated sex-silhouette.!?!) but overall the film is great fun and worth a viewing.
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). Hammer classic starring Oliver Reed as Leon Corledo, the werewolf. Set in 18th Century Spain for a change, this is a different take on the werewolf myth and is a lot of fun. A beggar is teased and imprisoned by a cruel nobleman; the nobleman’s wife is thrown into the same cell 15 years later and raped by the beggar… she gives birth to a cursed child who is raised by a local family. Soon enough town animals are found dead and the townsfolk go on the hunt for a wolf… Great fun and Reed really sinks his teeth into the role.
The Wolfman (1941). The Universal classic starring Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, the cursed Wolfman of the title. Revisiting his ancestral home, Talbot is bitten by a wolf while visiting a local Gypsy camp where his bleak future was foretold by an old Gypsy fortune teller. This is classic Universal style fun with exceptional Wolfman make-up. Chaney reappeared in several sequels, some with other classic Universal monsters but this is his best.
Four okay werewolf movies:
Wolfen (1981). Based on Whitley Strieber’s novel and directed by Michael Wadleigh. The movie follows New York Cop Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) who is investigating a series of murders in his district, he slowly comes to realise that they have been committed by an inhumanly strong animal of some sort. The movie takes a slightly different look at the wolf folklore; here they are Wolfen, not wolves. It features a good cast, particularly Finney and Edward James Olmos and some quite bloody kill scenes. Overall a pretty decent effort.
The Wolfman (2010). Upon returning to his ancestral home for his brother’s funeral, actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) is bitten and cursed by a werewolf. He subsequently falls for his brothers fiancé Gwen (Emily Blunt) and realises that his father (Anthony Hopkins) is stricken by the same curse and is responsible for his brother and mothers deaths. Not as bad as the reaction to it on initial release, Del Toro’s vanity project hence his miscasting features some of the best make-up ever by Rick Baker. The transformation scene alone is worth watching the movie for, utilising a terrific blend of traditional make-up and CGI for the best scene. Overlong but fun.
Wolf (1994). Directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jack Nicolson and Michelle Pfeiffer, Wolf is the Hollywood heavyweight entry on the list. It follows mild mannered editor-in-chief Will Randall (Jack) who is bitten by a wolf while driving home in Vermont. Shortly afterwards he is demoted by his new boss Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer) and replaced by Stewart Swinton (James Spader) who is also having an affair with Will’s wife Charlotte (Kate Nelligan). Will starts to become more aggressive, taking on the characteristics of a wolf. He enters an affair with Aldens daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer) and changes his life. Wolf treats the werewolf mythology seriously and quite cleverly; good fun.
Ginger Snaps (2000). A good movie by director John Fawcett, focussing on Ginger (Katherine Isabelle), a 16 year old obsessed with photographing scenes of death. Together with her younger sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) she makes a pact to kill herself when she has her first period, however that night she is bitten by a werewolf. Over the next month she goes through some body changes and her craving for blood intensifies. This is a really good, fun movie and was moderately successful which unfortunately meant a sequel and prequel followed.
…and four werewolf movies to avoid:
Skin walkers (2007). Reviewed yesterday. It’s an action film with werewolves and it’s rubbish. Avoid.
Twilight: New Moon (2009). Longer review coming soon. Directed by Chris Weitz this is a woeful follow up to Twilight. The werewolves are terrible CGI, their design and animation is cheap and immediately removes you from the movie when they feature on screen. Avoid.
Cursed (2005). Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson who should both know better, this is awful. Siblings Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) and Ellie (Christina Ricci) are scratched by an animal while trying to rescue the passenger of a car they hit. They start to develop wolfish traits and blah, blah, blah… avoid.
Van Helsing (2004). The worst movie on the list for so many reasons… A big budget and good cast wasted by a stupid script and awful CGI effects… avoid at all costs.
What a mess… Skin Walkers has a great looking poster and DVD cover but that’s where the quality begins and ends with this lycanthrope stinker.
According to a Navajo legend, a young boy will end the curse of the ‘Skin Walkers’ (Werewolves to the rest of us) when he turns thirteen on the third night of the red moon. The movie opens with a series of confusing scenes that are supposed to draw us into the story. They don’t, they’re shot without any original thought or creativity and all the ‘shocks’ are telegraphed. Well, what shocks there are, because for a werewolf movie there’s very little in the way of bloodletting or even a good transformation scene! It’s all gun play and more gun play, and just in case you missed that cool shot of the gun from a different angle, there’s more gun play. Everyone has a lot of guns. It’s an action movie with werewolves rather than a werewolf horror movie…
Timothy (Matthew Knight) is having bad dreams, are they premonitions or is he remembering something horrific from his past. Not that we care much anyway. He’s looked after by his single mum, Rachel (Rhona Mitra) and his extended family of his Nana (Barbara Gordon), his uncle Jonas (Elias Koteas), his cousin Katherine (Sarah Carter), Will (Tom Jackson) a Navajo for good measure and the local postman Doak (Lyriq Bent), and pretty much the whole town. His mum is human but the rest are all SkinWalkers and want the curse to end so they’ve been protecting him since he was born. They’re protecting him from the bad Skin Walkers who like being werewolves and therefore want to kill the boy before he turns thirteen.
The bad guys are led by Varek (Jason Behr) who is accompanied by Sonja (Natassia Malthe), Zo (Kim Coates) and Grenier (Rogue Johnston). They ride around like an outlaw motorcycle gang shot in slo-mo, have sex in slo-mo and generally do whatever they want. There’s a shoot out in town early on in the piece that’s just ridiculous and then there’s some chase scenes and more shooting. For all the shooting that goes on it takes a lot of shots to hit anyone… and there’s never a cop in sight.
There’s a decent scene where the bad guys in werewolf form attack a redneck bar and kill everyone, although it’s nowhere near as good as the bar attack from Near Dark. That’s about it though.
The movie was directed by Jim Isaacs and he loves to move the camera for no reason whatsoever. He should have spent more time with the scriptwriters, all three of them, to flesh out the story and dialogue a bit more.
At least the effects are done with traditional make-up rather than CGI and for that reason alone the movie deserves some points. However, even though the make-up is done by the Stan Winston Studio you get the feeling that Stan had his best guys on another project at the time. The werewolves look a little bit like ‘Beast’ in that horrible Beauty & The Beast TV show from a few years ago. As mentioned earlier there’s no transformation scene here..!
SPOILER ALERT. If you care and you shouldn’t, the cure is in Timothy’s blood. Varek is Timothy’s dad, he bites Timothy, is cured and happy families are reunited. They decide to put some of Timothy’s blood into bullets to ‘cure’ the remaining werewolves, which is hilarious as we’ve just witnessed these guys shooting a million bullets and missing everyone they aim at… it’s going to take a lot of Timothy’s blood at this rate. They also left it open for a sequel but who’s going to want one?
Quality: 1 out of 5 stars
Any Good: 1 out of 5 stars (unless you like gun porn)
With the disastrous release of ‘Red Riding Hood’ recently I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the best movie adaption of that particular fairy tale. The Company of Wolves was the first Neil Jordan movie I ever saw at the cinema, I’ve seen everything he’s made since.
After the funeral of her older sister who was killed by wolves, Rosaleen (Sarah Paterson) stays at her grandmothers (Angela Lansbury) cottage in the woods. Her grandmother spends the night telling Rosaleen stories about ‘men whose eyebrows meet in the middle’ and ‘babies found in stork eggs’ much to Rosaleens horror and excitement. The stories are cautionary tales as Rosaleen is pre-pubescent and granny is trying to warn her about certain types of men and what they will want from her. The stories are dismissed by Rosaleens mother when Rosaleen asks her if her father ‘hurts’ her after she heard them having sex. The film is all filled throughout with sexual references and imagery.
Of course soon after Rosaleen meets a charming stranger in the woods, the huntsman (Micha Bergese), he begs her for a kiss, when Rosaleen declines he makes abet with her that he can reach her granny’s house before her, and then he will take his kiss. Rosaleen agrees to the bet even though the strangers’ eyebrows meet in the middle…
The Company of Wolves is a strange, original, beautiful and sensual film; preoccupied with Rosaleens burgeoning sexuality and her obvious appeal to the opposite sex. The film is incredibly beautiful to look at, the village, cottage and woods sets are wonderfully realised and provide the perfect fairy tale backdrop for the characters to ham it up. The actors really play up their roles, there’s not much subtlety in delivery but it all works in the films favour.
It really is director Neil Jordan’s film and must have been a difficult sell when he initially pitched it to the studio. Encompassing a strong undercurrent of sexual desire that would become a familiar theme throughout his career, especially in ‘The Crying Game’ and ‘Interview with A Vampire’; using the fairy tale imagery allows Jordan to look at teenage sexuality from a safe distance.
The special effects are always a talking point in werewolf themed movies, specifically the transformation scenes, with ‘An American Werewolf In London’ setting the standard. The werewolf change in Company of Wolves is different and disturbing in a unique way. Wonderfully staged and well performed it relies on the acting, setting and lighting to build the tension before exploding with some terrific make-up effects. Although now obviously slightly dated, I still prefer these types of effects to CGI abominations.
Quality: 5 out of 5 stars
Any good: 5 out of 5 stars