Alright, Folks, we are two weeks into October and spooky season is picking up steam! As the wind outside starts to grow teeth and rattle the dying leaves, there’s never been a better time to curl up on the couch with a scary movie.
Today I’m talking about films that bare their teeth and howl… Werewolf Movies. I think everyone, deep down, loves a good werewolf story. I think the fear that our inner-beast could somehow break out and escape our control is part of the basic human experience. Unfortunately, like the flesh between their gnashing jaws, great werewolf flicks are bloody rare. We’ve all got our favorites and below, in no particular order, are five of mine.
Dog Soldiers (2002, directed by Neil Marshall)
A squad of British soldiers unknowingly faces off against a family of werewolves in the Scottish Highlands. I don’t know if you need more information than that to be sold, but I sure didn’t. With humor, cool practical effects, and a cast of UK hard-men to include Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee and Liam Cunningham, this is one of the most rewatchable werewolf movies out there.
Wer (2013, directed by William Brent Bell)
Wer has a really cool premise in a lawyer who finds herself appointed to defend a man who may be suffering from a misunderstood chronic illness, or could actually be a werewolf. It has an interesting cinematic style that blends found-footage techniques with more traditional methods, so it feels fresh and original instead of like a failed film student’s retread of better ideas. The effects are pretty good and the pay-off in the back third of the film is awesome. The main downside of Wer is that once you’ve seen it, you’re not in a rush to watch it again. The first viewing is fantastic, but it knocks off all the shine.
Bad Moon (1996, directed by Eric Red)
Everyone’s favorite uncle comes back from the jungle a werewolf and nobody knows but him, the viewer, and the family’s German Shephard, Thor (who is the real hero of the tale). With a great werewolf suit and a scene in which a scheming dog-hater gets his comeuppance, this 90s gem is worth a watch. The only hit against it is some use of early CGI during one transformation that really wasn’t ready for primetime yet, but I’ll bet it was pretty cool for the decade.
An American Werewolf in London (1981, directed by John Landis)
A lot of folks think this is THE definitive werewolf movie, and I have a hard time arguing against them. Even after forty years, the practical effects in this masterpiece hold up incredibly well, and they were ground-breaking in their time. Full of humor, scares, and top-notch effects, all while utterly devoid of CGI, An American Werewolf in London remains a classic.
(Some people say it even spawned a sequel set in a different European city, but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of such a film and so should you.)
The Howling (1981, directed by Joe Dante)
The Howling does a great job of poking cynical fun at the excesses and hucksterism of early eighties life and media. It also has great makeup and practical effects courtesy of Rob Bottin, a protégé of Rick Baker, who left this film to work on American Werewolf in London. (1981 was a solid year for werewolf pics, man.) Bottin went on to work practical effects for what might be my favorite horror film ever: John Carpenter’s The Thing. The final sequence of The Howling is a biting indictment of how news media has jaded the viewer that would fit in seamlessly today.
Ginger Snaps (2000, directed by John Fawcett) Ginger Snaps follows a pair of teenage girls after one of them get’s bitten by a werewolf. It manages to play with some interesting coming-of-age metaphors while still churning out a pretty solid movie that went on to product a trilogy.
Underworld Evolution (2006, directed by Len Wiseman) One of my peeves with the Underworld movies has always been that their blunt-muzzled werewolves (or “Lycans,” as they insist on calling them) just don’t look like werewolves to me. Were-gorillas maybe, but not werewolves. So I was pleasantly surprised to see the second movie in the series bust out what I consider the gold standard in how a werewolf should look. You can check out that glorious bastard in the pics below. He’s the best looking thing in that movie that isn’t Kate Beckinsale in a cat-suit.
The Monster Squad (1987, directed by Fred Dekker) I loved this movie as a kid, and I’m going to inflict it on my own children the moment they’re ready. It only gets an honorable mention here because the Wolf Man is just one of the full cast of monsters. The phonebooth transformation scene in this terrified me in elementary school, and it’s still very effective.
Wolf Cop (2014, directed by Lowell Dean)… I’ll… uhm… I’ll just let that last image speak for itself.
That’s all for now, Folks. I plan to be back soon with some more horror recommendations for the Halloween season. Until then, don’t forget to check out my own werewolf adventure Shadow of Wolves, and its sequel Hail of Brimstone out in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio.
Until Next Time!
P.S. – Shadow of Wolves is now available in Spanish as Sombra De Lobos.