Dear readers, I have a confession. I am a baby.
It feels good to say it. I’ve never been good with horrors, jump scares or anything remotely frightening. It’s something people use against me a lot. I never learn not to click though…
Regardless, there is one kind of horror movie that I can get behind. Werewolf movies. They scare me an equal amount, but I never get sick of the werewolf tropes. There are some good ones, there are some bad ones. These are my favourites.
There are some spoilers in this list. Be warned.
5 – Dog Soldiers (2002)
Sent on basic manoeuvres in the Scottish Highlands, a band of British soldiers find themselves hunted, trapped and waiting for the long night to reach its end. A family of werewolves is hunting them, and they don’t know who to trust amongst the survivors.
It’s a typical British horror. It’s grim, it’s fast-paced and it’s got a decent original concept. It’s not my usual genre, and some of the effects are too bad to be enjoyable. But the appeal of this movie is the characters, in particular Megan and Spoon.
Spoon is one of the soldiers, and he is gloriously Northern. He has the best lines, and it’s a movie with some very comedic writing. Megan is the Judas in their midst, a kind stranger to lead them to their deaths. She is prone to the time of the month jokes I hate, but she is a female werewolf. I have a weakness for them, obviously.
I love that the focus is on the prey, and not the struggle of the wolf or the almost fetishisation of gore.
4- Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
I rank this so low because the movie is an anthology set on Halloween. The werewolf section is short, but it’s the best part of the movie.
Anna Paquin plays Laurie, a 22 year-old virgin who is going to a party with her older sister Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith), and her friends Janet and Maria. Laurie laments that she is yet to have her first time because she wants it to be special. Danielle promises to help her find someone at the party. Her advice is to just be herself, and she’ll find that someone special. Janet and Maria encourage her to play hard-to-get.
Disheartened with the ease the other women have with men, Laurie promises to meet them later at the party. She walks through the town, unaware that there is a killer with a bloodlust on the loose, a character from an earlier segment. He follows Laurie in to the woods, and attacks.
Meanwhile at the party, Danielle is worried about Laurie. Her friends try to comfort her, telling her Laurie will be okay. Suddenly, a body drops from the trees, covered by a red cloak. The party cautiously approaches and pull the cloak back to reveal the man who attacked Laurie.
This is best part. When Laurie emerges, triumphant and confident. One-by-one, the men at the party pass out. And Danielle imparts her final advice.
“Just be yourself.”
So what we have is a pack of female werewolves. And it’s my favourite plot twist. Laurie had never killed a man. That’s what makes her a virgin. I like the idea that there’s this pack-meets-coven of women who are fatal to men and have a strong sisterly bond. It also turns the usual horror tropes on its head. Usually the virgin doesn’t die because she is purer than the promiscuous women around her. Here, she doesn’t die because she is more dangerous than a mere human monster could ever be.
The rest of the movie is gory and dark. It’s got a cult following for a reason though. For what it is, I’d recommend watching it, at the very least for the Surprise Party segment of the story. If it had been longer, it would have been in top three.
3- The Wolfman (2010)
A remake of the 1941 classic, The Wolfman is set in the late 19th century. It is a classic werewolf tale. A man returns to his home land and is attacked by a werewolf, passing to him the curse of lycanthropy. The following revelations push him towards revenge and bloodlust.
First of all, any movie that can boast Anthony Hopkins in a main role is a good one. He remains the genre’s king, and does aristocratic malice and evil with ease. He’s perfect in the role of Sir John. Emily Blunt, too, is brilliant and though Lon Chaney Jr, Benicio del Toro is endearing as the reluctant and jaded son.
Of all the movies on this list, The Wolfman has the best special effects. It looks seamless, and the sets are authentic. It’s the perfect backdrop for a Victorian tale of the supernatural. The ending is bittersweet, the build-up is wonderful, and with a little more suspense, it would have been the perfect werewolf horror.
Universal has announced that The Wolfman will have a reboot as part of the line of reimagined Universal Monsters. If this remake is anything to go off, it’s going to be great.
2- Little Red Riding Hood (2011)
This was made by the producers of the Twilight series, and it definitely shows. The sweeping pan shots of snow-lined forests, brooding atmosphere and a vivid banality that made Twilight a cinematic success is all there. It actually works really well.
Valerie is the Red character, played by Amanda Seyfried. She lives in Daggerhorn, a town plagued by a werewolf. Valerie is in love with Peter, but it’s been arranged that she’ll marry the wealthy Henry. But on the night that Valerie and Peter agree to run away together, Valerie’s older sister Lucie is killed. Whipped in to a frenzy of fear, the villagers try to protect themselves and find the wolf amongst them.
That’s all I’ll say about this particular movie. It plays out like a game of The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow. The fun of it is anticipating who is next and who the wolf amongst the flock is. I remember going to see it with my sister, Kelly and Kelly’s sister. I didn’t expect to like it so much, but I did. The answers are surprising but satisfying, and it’s nice to see a grown up Red. This ranks so high mainly because my research interests in the wolf and female sexuality, and this movie explores them both.
The movie was a commercial bomb, and critics universally despised it as diet Twilight. Regardless, as a wolf story, adaptation of the fairy tale and a tribute to Angela Carter… I think it’s one of the better versions. It’s interesting, seductive and above all else, it’s respectful to the wolf stories.
1- An American Werewolf in London (1981)
1981 was a good year for werewolf movies. It was the year of The Howling, but also of the seminal werewolf movie, An American Werewolf in London.
An American Werewolf in London made cinematic history. The iconic transformation scene is the first of its kind to show the shift as painful, and to shoot it in full lighting. It took six days to film this scene, with ten hours in makeup to achieve the lupine look, and it was estimated only half an hour of filming took place each day. The mechanics of this scene along took Rick Baker over four months to work out. And in the end, this hard work ended up having make up and industrial arts recognised at the academy awards. I love this scene so much. It’s a labour of love, and it shows.
The movie itself is about two Americans on vacation to London who are bitten by a werewolf. One dies and the other is cursed. The story and dead friend follow this American werewolf. It’s a horror-comedy, though this comedy is surprisingly sad and serious at times. I love the relationship between David and Alex, and it’s interesting to see a fully feral werewolf set loose in the city.
The movie did spawn some awful sequels, but we won’t hold that against it. As it is, it’s still one of the greatest werewolf movies ever made.
That’s that. Honourable mentions go to Ginger Snaps (2000), The Howling (1981) and the Universal Classic, The Wolfman (1941).
And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.
Let me ask you this: what’s your favourite werewolf movie? What is your least favourite? And do you find them corny or scary?
Let me know your thoughts.