The Lucky 13: Week Eight: Werewolves
by Brutal As Hell Staff
Intro by Marc Patterson
I feel a bad moon rising. It’s werewolf week folks and that means one thing… It’s time to howl at the moon! Go ahead. Get down with your bad self and let out a big howl now. You know you want to!
Werewolves get a bad rap. Most often they are nothing but misunderstood monsters, slaves to the moon. When presented against other supernatural creatures werewolves are presented as the most animalistic of them all, in spite of the fact that they are more often human than not. Nonetheless, I tend to like the werewolf more than any other creature of the night. They are conflicted beings, sometimes sane, sometimes pure lunatic. They fight their inner beast, often losing to their primal nature. Few films have really done a good job at depicting the werewolf, but this week in The Lucky 13 we take a look at our personal favorites of the genre. Read, enjoy, and make sure to check out The Vault of Horror, who is participating with us in this summer long series.
Annie Riordan on The Howling:
Remember a few weeks back when we were talking about vampire movies, and I unashamedly aged myself by snarkily remarking that “back in my day vampires weren’t pretty and didn’t sparkle?” Yeah, well, back in my day, werewolves weren’t teenage boys with oily abs, either. Am I the only fossil who actually thought that Eddie Quist was kinda hot?
Um, Eddie Quist? You know, the sexual predator/werewolf played by Robert Picardo in 1981’s The Howling? Yes, there was actually a time when Robert Picardo had hair and wasn’t on Stargate. Christ, goddamn kids don’t know nothin’ these days.
There are so many reasons to love The Howling, Joe Dante’s homage to All Things Werewolf. There are so many visual puns in this flick that it’s almost impossible to catch them all in one viewing, and attempting to do so may result in frequent pressings of the REW button because you were so busy looking at the myriad pictures in the background that you forgot to listen to the fucking dialog and now you don’t know what the hell is going on. The cast not only includes cameos from the likes of Roger Corman and Uncle Forry but is one long in-joke besides, featuring character names taken directly from the archives of lycanthropic cinema. The movie itself, though truly scary in parts (the scene in the porno booth is a standout) and plenty gory besides, ultimately comes off as a spoof in the end as well as a scathing satire of both sensationalistic journalism and pseudo pop-psychology. But as a whole, The Howling is right up there with An American Werewolf In London and The Company Of Wolves as one of the best werewolf movies to come out of the 70s/80s.
Oh yeah, and there’s also that one scene where a totally naked guy and girl morph into werewolves whilst boinging each other. Seriously, how much better can a werewolf movie possibly get?
Marc Patterson on An American Werewolf in London
When the opening credits of An American Werewolf start to roll to the tune “Blue Moon” I sink into pure bliss. Sure, I grew up with Lon Chaney Jr as The Wolfman, but there’s just something about An American Werewolf in London that has me watching it over and over. No question about it, when it comes to werewolves on film, this one feels like home.
For me, the beauty of the film lies in that there’s nothing inherently complicated going on. It’s incredibly simple in premise, but yet powerful in how it’s delivered. Two college friends are trekking across the UK when they are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other bitten. We watch as the survivor slowly transforms into the beast, first with nightmares, then hallucinations, and finally in a moment that has become one of the most well known of all scenes, the physical transformation into the wolf. It’s a love story, a comedy, a tragedy, and gorefest all wrapped up into a slick package delivered to us from John Landis, the guy who gave us Animal House. Imagine that.
What I particularly love is that even though the film is incredibly simple there is so much going on. You can watch this as a comedy or you can watch this as a horror film. It’s an extremely rare hybrid that somehow magically came together. Very few films have successfully achieved this intentionally. A couple weeks ago we talked about horror comedies and I spoke to Young Frankenstein. Clearly that film is a comedy with nary a horrific bone in it’s run time. To create a film that will make you jump out of your seat with fear in one moment, be repulsed with sickening gore the next, and before you can gasp for breath have you laughing from the absurd humor is something accomplished by precious few directors. Shaun of the Dead did it back in 2004 and I can’t really say that it’s been done since.
I love the how the film opens with our two buddies catching a ride in the back of a sheep truck. It’s cold, windy, overcast. These guys are perfectly miserable, but snarky. The miserable joys of trekking across a country. The driver warns them to keep off the moors, and stick to the road. The dialogue between the guys is snappy and instantly, in mere moments Landis has created two very real, concrete characters that we can relate to, and whom we love. His ability to have us loving these guys, laughing with them in their predicaments, and running scared with them in their peril is likely his biggest accomplishment. Complemented by the wonderful makeup and effects of Rick Baker this is just a stunning film to watch as the drama unfolds into pure horror and madness.
The bottom line is that An American Werewolf in London is one that has to be experienced. Talking about it isn’t enough. Thanks to the recent re-lease of the film onto Blu ray in a fantastic “Full Moon Edition” package it is more enjoyable to watch than ever. It’s not just my favorite werewolf film, it’s one of my favorite horror films, period.
Dustin Hall on Ginger Snaps (Part I and II)
I always go back and forth as to which of the Ginger Snaps films I like better. I tend to lean towards part II because I’m flippin’ in love with Emily Perkins, and she steals the show there.
Ginger Snaps begins as the tale of two sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Bridgette (Perkins), who are you typical emo-goth girls in High School. Well, maybe not typical, they do have a fascination with gore, death, and the macabre that borders on unhealthy; all part of their charm. Its a cold school night when the girls are sneaking about, setting up one of their grisly, faked death photo-shoots, that they are attacked by a werewolf. Ginger is bitten by the wolf, so though the girls are able to escape with their lives, they have a new problem: Ginger will become a werewolf, permanently, if not cured by her next menstrual cycle. As the change slowly overcomes Ginger, she becomes more violent, more sexual, and less willing to accept her sister’s help. The tale continues in part II as Bridgette, now also afflicted with the curse, struggles to find the cure while locked in a correctional facility and without the help of her sister.
The two Ginger Snaps movies, though one well-thought storyline, are very different beasts. The original film is very comical, often self-aware and filled with the plights of two young teens trapped in bland suburbia. The fact that there are werewolves involved is just icing on the cake. Its the wit of the script and the chemistry of Perkins and Isabelle, real world friends for many years, that has made the film franchise into a cult classic.
The second film, though not without humor, is darker, bleaker, meaner. It takes itself a little more seriously, knowing that we’ve already gained attachment to Bridgette from her adventure the first time around. While not as ‘fun’ as its humorous predecessor Ginger Snaps II is unique in its treatment of the decent into lycanthropy and is a tremendous solo piece for Perkins.
What really makes the film interesting though is its feminine take on werewolves. They are used as a metaphor for burgeoning sexuality. Ginger’s transformation into a wolf heightens her sexual awareness. It’s timed along with her period and it causes body and personality changes that make her cold and distant towards her bookish sister. The werewolf in Ginger Snaps I is synonymous with the maturation of the female body and the overwhelming, sometimes negative, effects it can have. In part II while Bridgette is also turning into a wolf another wolf, fully formed, is always pursuing her, prowling at the gates of the facility that keeps her trapped. In this case it seems that the decidedly male wolf is more representative of the predatory male, seeking to force itself sexually onto the young woman, while that woman, Bridgette, fights off her transformation into a being who wants to give in.
That was my outlook on it anyway. If nothing else, the film is worth looking into for Emily Perkins. I always gush about her when I talk about Ginger Snaps, and with good reason. Not only is she unconventionally beautiful and a fine actress, having talked to her in the past I know she’s also devastatingly intelligent, fiercely independent, and a very loving mother. She deserves to be admired for her work here.
Check it out, cool wolves, funny quips, cute girls. I need to watch this again. Right now.