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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Howl at the Moon! Tarson's Top 10 Werewolf movies!

It's a full moon, and the time is upon us once again.

Slow day today, so I'm going to subject you to another one of my Top 10 Lists. That's right, this time it's those mangy fuckers we love to call - Werewolves. This list was compiled with the help of Movie Moron.

While the comics industry are still publishing a healthy stream of werewolf stories (see Astounding Wolf-Man and Werewolves On the Moon) Hollywood have done very little to credibly push the genre in a long time. We've got The Wolfman remake on the way, which does look very promising, but apart from Underworld, there hasn't been a great deal over the years. Not entirely sure why either. Maybe Wes Craven's woeful 'Cursed' scared studio execs off with their tails between their legs?

If you frequently visit horror movie boards like I do, you'll see that a lot of fans still love a good Werewolf yarn. It's still a hot topic on many the horror forums. Sure, we all love our Vampires, Ghosts, Demons, Zombies and Aliens, but many fans still talk about how they're waiting for a director to come along and do justice to the Werewolf genre, like what John Landis did with American Werewolf in London, and more recently, Neil Marshall with Dog Soldiers.

So until then, here's what I think are the best Top 10 Werewolf pics out there, so far.

10. Underworld

This recent addition to the werewolf genre is somewhat intriguing. Len Wiseman crafts a solid action flick, heavy on talky-talky and exposition. It is a great concept though - pitting modern day vampires against their archenemies, werewolves.

"The bouncers down at the local pub were getting more and more aggressive each year."

The movie delivers a fast paced (if a little confusing) story, and the action sequences are well designed. It also doesn't hurt that we get to feast our eyes on Kate Beckinsale, wrapped in skin-tight leather and latex (in a kind of 14-year old fanboy, BDSM wet dream).

"Don't believe me? Here, feel my palm, it's hairy."

The film did boffo at the box office, and with two more Underworld films now out on DVD/BluRay, I'd say we'll see a lot more of the franchise over the next few years.

9. Silver Bullet

Based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf, Silver Bullet was helmed by Daniel Attias. Odd choice, as he was best known at the time for directing Miami Vice.

Silver Bullet focuses on the relationship between ordinary siblings Marty and Jane, rather than the struggle of duality plaguing the film’s villainous werewolf. Who is the werewolf? Well that’s part of the mystery, as this is a big whodunit.

"The moral of the picture: don't drive Taxis on a full moon."

With a standout performance by Gary Busey as Uncle Red, Silver Bullet should be high on any list of guilty pleasures. And Cycle of The Werewolf should be in any Stephen King fan's collection. Hunt it down, it's still in print, you can find it on Amazon.

8. The Company of Wolves

This 1984 gothic-horror film was directed by Academy Award winner Neil Jordan, only his second feature.

It concerns a young girl, Rosaleen, and the tales her Nan (Angela Lansbury) recites to her. The movie switches to and fro between Rosaleen’s dreams and her ‘real’ world, never staying in one place long enough for you to be able to fully decide which her actual reality is.

"You said this was going to be a fancy dress party."

With its roots firmly in the realm of the fairy tale, this is a worthy, if not remarkable, entry into werewolf canon.

7. The Curse of the Werewolf

Good old Hammer Horror had to feature. Surprisingly, this was their only foray into the world of the Wolf Man. But it’s a cracker.

Starring the ubiquitous Oliver Reed in his first lead role, and directed by genre stalwart Terence Fisher (The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy (1959)), this tale adds an interesting twist - the birth of an unwanted child on Christmas Day curses it to turned into a werewolf. One that can only be cured by love…

"After a six day binge, Oliver Reed contemplated shaving."

The bell tower finale is truly gripping, and Reed really injects pain into the part - showing just what a waste of talent it was when he croaked early.

6. Wolfen

Wolfen was released in 1981, at the height of the werewolf revival. It follows a detective (Albert Finney) investigating a series of murders in which the victims have been seemingly killed by an animal (have a wild guess what happened).

It’s most notable for its POV perspective through the werewolf’s eyes, a technique later used for the creature in Predator. The movie is a bit disjointed, but uses the Native American legend of wolf spirits to good effect.

5. Ginger Snaps

Directed by John Fawcett, Ginger Snaps focuses on two sisters who have a deep routed fascination with the macabre. Soon one of them is nibbled by a you-know-what and issues of extreme sibling rivalry and unquestionable love come to the fore.

"I've got to neuter this mutt."

It’s unusual for having two girls in the lead roles, and uses lycanthropy as a metaphor for teen angst and puberty.

A clever, thematic indie that deserves a place in any collection, not just horror.

4. Dog Soldiers

Neil Marshall’s directorial debut was just what the genre needed. A team of six British soldiers on a routine training exercise discover the remains of a Special Forces squad in the Scottish Highlands and are forced to retreat to a secluded house, where they are laid siege by a pack of werewolves.

The quality of the cast, the spot-on army slang humour and the quick paced directing style created a werewolf tale that kept its tongue firmly in its cheek, but also delivered enough scares and gore to satisfy the most hardened of horror fans.

3. The Howling

Another 1981 release, The Howling took the ‘pack of wolves’ approach, as opposed to the popular singular lycanthrope protagonist.

"Fuck this hurts."

After a traumatic experience, Karen White (Dee Wallace-Stone) relocates to a group therapy camp called ‘The Colony’. The Colony, though, turns out to be a collection of werewolves. Cue another traumatic experience. The make-up effects were done by Rob Bottin, who at the time was the protégé of one Rick Baker (see further up this list).

"I'm sorry, Ted, there's someone else... Another Lycan."

Joe Dante’s film centered on the theme of trust in those close to you and those who, by job definition, you should be able to trust, such as Doctor George Waggner (Patrick Macnee).

2. The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Man is remembered for Lon Chaney Jr.’s striking depiction of inner struggle against flesh eating desires and for its cast of genre favourites including Claude Raines (The Invisible Man) and Bela Lugosi (Dracula). It was also the first lycanthrope film to introduce the concept of forced changing under a full moon, vulnerability to silver and being marked with a pentagram.

"Wolf! I said wolf, not lion, you moron."

It wasn’t Universal’s first werewolf flick, that honour goes to the disappointing Werewolf of London (1935). Which sounds a bit like…

1. An American Werewolf in London

This is the ultimate werewolf movie. It’s also the ultimate fish-out-of-water movie, and the ultimate special-practical-effects movie. It’s genuinely scary, and you feel for the characters, especially Jack Goodman who’s in a permanent state of limbo until someone kills his best friend.

To this day the transformation scene by FX genius Rick Baker has never been bettered; you almost experience the pain that Kessler is going through as his skin stretches and his jaw cracks.

"David swore he'd never do mushrooms again."

The triple bluff dream sequence stills gets me, as does the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ and that rampage through a packed central London is incredible in the way it shifts your emotions until the final inevitable conclusion.

And to close out this snaggle-toothed list, here's The Wolfman trailer from last years Comic-Con. It's a CAM copy, but it's watchable.



  1. Great list, thanks!

    I'm working on a werewolf script and these are all classics. Ginger Snaps was surprisingly my recent favorite. Loved they way it caught you so off guard for the genre.