Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Four Essential Werewolf Movies
So, as promised, here is a list of the only werewolf movies that are a true must-see. I like lists for some perverse reason, and it is traditional to go with a top ten. However, I don’t think there are ten truly outstanding werewolf movies. These choices reflect my own personal taste, and you may disagree completely, which is cool. I bet if Teen Wolf is on your list, you are still proud of that mullet, too. They are presented in chronological order.
1. The Wolf Man (1941) – It wasn’t the first werewolf movie – it wasn’t even the first for Universal, as Werewolf of London beat it by half a decade. But this is the one that stuck in our collective unconscious, and much of what we think of when we think of werewolves comes from this movie. The problem with silver, full moon causing the transformation, the pentagram on the palm of the next victim – all here. You have to not wonder at how the very American Lon Chaney, Jr. could be the son of the very British Claude Rains, but if you’re willing to accept a man turning into a wolf, why not?
2. An American Werewolf in London (1981) – It took forty years to get to the next classic film of lycanthropy, and John Landis had actually been working on the story since he was nineteen, but this mixture of horror and humor succeeded on both levels. Introducing the brilliant concept of the werewolf being haunted by the decomposing ghosts of its victim (Griffin Dunne was perfect) it captured movie-goers’ imaginations and was a financial success not matched by a werewolf flick since. On re-watching this, I felt David Naughton’s character was more obnoxious and a bigger jerk than I remembered, but I was probably about his age the first time I saw it, and probably shared the same personality traits.
3. Ginger Snaps (2000) – This low budget Canadian film of two unusual teenage sisters, one of whom begins to turn into a you-know-what is great as a simple horror movie and as a metaphor for the transformation of a girl into a woman. Blood, body hair, it all fits. It was successful enough a sequel and a prequel were subsequently filmed, and surprisingly enough, neither of them was bad at all, with the prequel being pretty darn good. Hurrah for Canada. It’s never really had a good DVD release in the U.S. maybe the eventual blu-ray will make up for that.
4. Dog Soldiers (2002) – I just talked about this low budget film, a British movie filmed in Luxembourg pretending to be Scotland. A good cast makes this story of soldiers versus a werewolf pack hum.
There are several near misses. Werewolf of London, I Was A Teenage Werewolf (despite the title), The Howling (certain to be debated, although it seems dated to me) will all have their adherents, and I’ll confess to even enjoying the ill-fated Cursed of a few years ago. You have my permission to disagree, not that you need it.