Archive for the Werewolf Movies Category

Pickin’ the Carcass: WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012)

Posted in 2012, Bad Acting, CGI, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Pickin' the Carcass, Straight to Video, Werewolf Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , on November 23, 2012 by knifefighter

Pickin’ the Carcass:
WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012)
By Michael Arruda

 

 WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012) is a direct-to-video release. No surprise then that we’re not talking “must-see horror” here. Still, the film’s not a total loss. I’m always up for an old-fashioned monster movie, and since this is the story of a murderous werewolf on the prowl, there were things I liked about it.

In WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US, a 19th century village—we never learn where—is terrorized by a werewolf. A group of expert werewolf hunters led by a guy named Charles (Ed Quinn), who looks and sounds as if he just left the Alamo, descend upon the village to hunt down the vicious beast.

The hunters are aided by a young man, Daniel (Guy Wilson), who works as an assistant to the village doctor (Stephen Rea). Daniel is mostly interested in hunting down the werewolf in order to protect his girlfriend, Eva (Rachel DiPillo). These hunters spend a lot of time setting elaborate werewolf traps in the woods, whereas they might have been better served interviewing the locals, since werewolves, after all, are people when the moon isn’t full.

Anyway, this is one of those movies where we don’t know who the werewolf is at first, but then, when they make the revelation, the werewolf turns out to be—well, I won’t give it away, but I will say that it’s not much of a surprise.

There are the obligatory battles between the hunters and the werewolf, and there’s even—in the film’s lowest point for me—a vampire who shows up to join in on the fun. He should have stayed home.

Released by Universal, WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012)tries to capture the feel of the old Universal monster movies. It fails, mostly because its script isn’t strong enough to recapture the mood of those golden oldies. It’s not a total disaster. In terms of more recent movies, it’s better than VAN HELSING (2004), but it’s nowhere near as good as THE WOLFMAN (2010) remake.

The story itself is likeable enough, but the screenplay by Michael Tabb, Catherine Cyran, and director Louis Morneau, has too many problems for it to be successful. For starters, the story presents us with a wild group of eclectic werewolf hunters. These guys should dominate this movie, but they don’t. They’re not fleshed out at all, which is a shame, because they could have had a Marvel AVENGERS thing going. Instead, they’re just a bunch of folks with different weapons, aiming to kill a werewolf.

One of the hunters I did like, Kazia (Ana Ularu), the only woman hunter of the group, isn’t in the movie enough to make that much of a difference.

The dialogue is pretty awful. It shouldn’t be assumed that it’s okay for a monster movie to have forced, cliché-ridden dialogue. Had this movie enjoyed some realistic dialogue, it could have been taken seriously.

Director Louis Morneau does a nice job making this movie look polished and slick, but on the other hand, it’s in desperate need of some memorable scenes. WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US definitely lacks an identity.

And for the majority of the werewolf scenes, Morneau uses a CGI werewolf. Nuff said about that!

There’s actually some decent blood and gore in this one, some of it not that fake-looking. I was almost impressed.

The cast was OK. Stephen Rea is fine as Doc for most of the movie, but sadly, in the film’s conclusion, he’s given some of the worst dialogue in the entire film, when he gets to talk to the werewolf, saying things like, “Kill her!” and “If you don’t, I will!”

Ed Quinn is okay as Charles, the lead werewolf hunter, even though he sounds like he belongs in a western. Guy Wilson as young Daniel, who’s really the central character in this movie, runs hot and cold. In certain scenes, he’s fine, but in others, especially where he has to display emotion, not so much. The same can be said for Rachel DiPillo as his girlfriend, Eva.

Again, I did like Ana Ularu as werewolf hunter Kazia, and I wish she were in the movie more.

I’m a sucker for monster movies, and since this one’s not awful, I didn’t hate it. I just kept hoping—pleading, really—that it would be better.

I kept thinking, why didn’t they work more on the script? Why not write an “A” script for a monster movie? This movie would have rocked with a stronger script! Why settle for less? A little thought would have gone a long way in making WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US more interesting.

For example, we have this group of werewolf hunters coming into town. Why? Why are they killing werewolves? Are they doing it just for kicks? Do they get their jollies killing werewolves? Where did they come from? How did they get together? And if they’re not doing it for fun, then they must be doing it for money. Who in the village is paying them? Simple details like this build strong stories. Are these hunters like THE SEVEN SAMARAI? What’s their story?

WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US also lacks a strong werewolf. Werewolves make for interesting characters. They are full of conflict. Just ask Larry Talbot. But this movie doesn’t offer us any one like Talbot. The story tries but never gets beyond the superficial. It never gets inside the werewolf’s head.

All of this is too bad, because WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US looks great and features an old-fashioned monster story that, with just a little more care behind it, could have been a lot better. As it stands, WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US is merely a minor, mediocre monster movie that never burns as bright as a full moon should.

I give it two knives.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US ~ two knives!

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Monstrous Question: BEST HORROR MOVIE MAKE-UP (Part 2 of 4)

Posted in Daniel Keohane Reviews, Horror Movie Makeup, Monsters, Monstrous Question, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , on April 7, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  MONSTROUS QUESTION
Question by Michael Arruda
Featuring Michael Arruda,Dan Keohane, Mark Onspaugh and L.L. Soares
Part 2 of 4

Today’s MONSTROUS QUESTION:  What are your picks for the most memorable makeup jobs in a horror/monster movie?

Our panel was asked to consider the following questions:

–What’s your pick for the best makeup job, that movie monster whose look is the best you’ve ever seen, perhaps your favorite.

–What’s your pick for the most over-the-top embarrassingly campy makeup job?  That monster you can’t help but laugh at?

–And last, simply the worst makeup job, meaning the most disappointing, that time when you looked at the monster and thought, that’s supposed to be scary?  That is the lamest looking monster I’ve ever seen!  The one that is so bad there’s nothing funny about it.

##

DAN KEOHANE responds:

For best makeup jobs, or at least most memorable, first off I’d have to say AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981), both for it’s uber-cool transformation scenes, which were the first of its kind (and without CGI), and the creepiest werewolf still to ever hit a screen.

Rick Baker created the wonderful makeup effects for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

Also, I should add INK (2009), which had some very memorable makeup and costumes.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of the worst makeup effects, but by far, the lamest monster that ever hit the big screen (and how it ever hit said screen is beyond me) is from THE CREEPING TERROR (1964)—someone in an oversized piñata who shambles up to people and waits for them to crawl into its mouth.

What exactly IS the monster from THE CREEPING TERROR?

© Copyright 2012 by Daniel G. Keohane.
“Monstrous Question” created by Michael Arruda

—END Part 2—

Friday Night Knife Fights: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON VS. THE HOWLING (Conclusion)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Classic Films, Friday Night Knife Fights, Werewolf Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2012 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:  THE HOWLING (1981) vs. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
PART 3 (Conclusion)
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back everyone to the third and final installment of our HOWLING vs. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON debate.  For the past two Fridays, our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters has been trying to determine which one of these werewolf classics is the better movie.  I’m joined, as always, by L.L. Soares; and L.L., our bout between these two films has become somewhat lopsided, as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF won the past couple of rounds and now leads THE HOWLING by a score of four rounds to one.

L.L. SOARES:  I’m not surprised.  While I like both movies a lot, I think we’re going to find that AMERICAN WEREWOLF is the better movie of the two.

MARK ONSPAUGH:  Don’t count your werewolves before they transform!  THE HOWLING is every bit as good as AMERICAN WEREWOLF and then some, and if you guys would listen to me, you’d understand why.

LS:  Be quiet, you!  We haven’t even introduced you yet!

MA:  That’s right.  L.L. and I are joined once again by Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato.  Thanks, guys, for being here on three successive Fridays.  Having fun?

MO:  Definitely.

NICK CATO:  Always a pleasure to talk about these movies.  And it’s a cheap date.

LS:  What?  No flowers?  No beer?

MO:  It’s been awesome, except my movie THE HOWLING hasn’t been doing that well in our debate.

MA:  That’s okay.  There’s still plenty of time left.  On that note, let’s get back to the business at hand.  It’s our final segment tonight, so before we go home this evening, one of these two movies will emerge as the winner.

On to Round 6.

The question is:  Which film is scarier?  Nick, let’s start off with you.

NC:  I found THE HOWLING much scarier than AMERICAN WEREWOLF.

MO:  Way to go, Nick!

NC:  But then again AMERICAN WEREWOLF was a dark comedy of sorts, so I’m not sure how scary it was trying to be.  But THE HOWLING is scarier.

LS:  I didn’t really find either movie all that scary, but I guess THE HOWLING is the more visceral story. There’s a clear-cut representation of good and evil. In AMERICAN WEREWOLF, that line is more blurred, and the movie also balances out horror and humor extremely well.

I think THE HOWLING is more scary in a “meat and potatoes” way. AMERICAN WEREWOLF, however, is more satisfying over all, in my opinion. But I give this one to THE HOWLING.

MA: I’m with you in that I honestly don’t find either film all that scary, and to me, that’s a weakness of both movies. I’d call it a draw, here.

MO:  THE HOWLING is definitely scarier.  Even if some of the characters weren’t werewolves, they’re not people you’d want to be stranded in the woods with.

MA:  That’s true.

Well, believe it or not, THE HOWLING won this Round as all three of you cited it as being the scarier film, and I called it a draw.  Round 6 goes to THE HOWLING.

MO:  Aaaawwwoooo!!!  THE HOWLING is coming back!

MA: Yep, it has closed the gap somewhat, but AMERICAN WEREWOLF still leads 4-2.

On to Round 7.

Which film, if any, belongs in the same conversation as older classics like THE WOLF MAN (1941) and Hammer’s THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961)?

LS:  Well, I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON definitely belongs in the same class as the older classics. It’s one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Even superior to something like CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1962).

MA:  Whoa! Hold onto your wolfsbane!

Better than CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF?  I don’t think so.

Oliver Reed in CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961), a great werewolf movie, but it really has nothing to do with this debate.

LS:  Who asked you? And since when is CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF such a cinematic titan?

MA:  Well, when ranking werewolf movies, I think it’s topped only by THE WOLF MAN.

LS:  That’s the problem  – you’re thinking again. As usual, you’re wrong.  I like CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, but both of the movies we’re discussing tonight are just as good, if not better.

MA:  I disagree, but that being said, since AMERICAN WEREWOLF is a contemporary, updated tale with a devilish sense of humor, it is the more entertaining movie of the two, but I like the werewolf make-up on Oliver Reed so much more than the werewolf in AMERICAN WEREWOLF.  It’s just the better werewolf movie.

LS:  AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON blows CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF out of the water.  Besides, what do you know?  Has HAMMER FILMS ever made anything you didn’t like?

MA:  I’m sure I could come up with one if I thought about it long enough.

MO: Hey guys, isn’t this a battle between AMERICAN WEREWOLF and THE HOWLING? 

LS: Yeah, since when did this turn into a debate about CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF?? If you want me to tear apart what’s wrong with CURSE, just say the word, because it’s far from a perfect movie.

MA: That’ll be a debate for another night.  Okay, let’s get back on topic.

LS (to MO):  You really like THE HOWLING, don’t you?

MO: Yes!

LS: And I have to say, I don’t want to completely bash THE HOWLING. The truth is, I like it a lot, too. While I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF is better, I think THE HOWLING is still a classic of the werewolf genre and belongs in the same group with THE WOLF MAN, too, especially if Arruda is including CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF in that group. So I would say that both THE HOWLING and AMERICAN WEREWOLF fit the bill as genre classics.

YAAARGH!


MA:  Well, regarding the two movies we’re discussing today, I strongly prefer AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF.   However, I’m not sure I’d include it in the same conversation with THE WOLF MAN or CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, which are my two favorite werewolf movies.

And I feel the same way about THE HOWLING.

The main reason?  The weakest links of both these movies are the werewolves in them.  Without decent werewolves in either movie, I can’t consider either one as a classic werewolf movie.  I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF is a notch below THE WOLF MAN and THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, and THE HOWLING is several notches below.

So, my answer is neither.

MO:  I completely disagree with you.

Both films pioneered makeup effects, and both have a tragic protagonist.  If you are having a conversation about important werewolf movies (as opposed to the dozens – it seems – HOWLING sequels or VAN HELSING) then you need to include both of these.

MA:  I think our answers just cancelled each other out.

MO: You’re killing me, man!

NC:  I’d include both, too.

MA:  Well, I say neither, and the three of you say both. So Round 7 goes to both movies.

LS: Give them each a point!

MA: Okay, so now AMERICAN WEREWOLF leads THE HOWLING 5 to 3.

It’s time for the Final Round, when we ask: All things considered, which one is the better movie?

Now, remember, just like in real boxing, even though one fighter may be ahead on points, he can still be knocked out in the final round.  So, there’s still hope for THE HOWLING.

MO: And how would that work exactly?

MA:  In this round, we’re picking which one is the better movie, and so if we all picked THE HOWLING, that would be considered a knock-out.  Mark, why don’t you get this final round started?

MO:  Except for Baker’s awesome transformation, the make-up on the victims (including a terrific decapitation) and Griffin Dunne’s hilarious portrayal of undead best friend Jack, I have to give it to THE HOWLING.  If the final werewolf in AMERICAN WEREWOLF had been better with more screen time—.  Naw, I’m still going with THE HOWLING.

NC:  Despite being a fan of horror comedies, I think THE HOWLING is the better werewolf film, as AMERICAN WEREWOLF is slowed down by a couple of non-wolf side-plots. So, like Mark here, I’m also picking THE HOWLING.

LS:  I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF is the better movie, hands down. But THE HOWLING has a lot going for it, too. I think the two films make a great double-feature.

MA:  No surprise here, I’m going with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.  It has the better script, the more memorable characters, and I like its story much better than the one told in THE HOWLING.  Both movies attempt to update the werewolf story to modern times, and both succeed, although AMERICAN WEREWOLF succeeds more.
Had AMERICAN WEREWOLF been able to include a scary, ferocious, and realistic looking werewolf in its movie, it would be one of my all-time favorite werewolf films.  I love everything about it except for the actual werewolf.

LS: Yeah, I gotta agree that the final werewolf is a letdown.

MA: So, our Final Round is a draw, as Mark and Nick chose THE HOWLING, while L.L. and I chose AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. So each one gets another point.

That means that our final tally is AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON –  6  and THE HOWLING – 4.

Which means the winner of tonight’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHT is AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON wins! Hurray!

LS:  As it should be.  It’s the better movie.

MO:  Nope.  It’s THE HOWLING, but I’ll concede that AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF OF LONDON is very good, and I can see why you guys chose it.  You’re just wrong.  (laughs).

MA:  Well, before we come to blows here, it’s time to say so long, because we’re out of time.  So for the final time tonight, thanks guys!

NC:  You’re welcome.

MO:  Any time.

LS:  Any place!  Especially if it has a bar!

MA:  I’m Michael Arruda, and on behalf of L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh, Nick Cato and myself, thank you all for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you next time on FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS!

Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato

Friday Night Knife Fights: THE HOWLING VS. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON – PART 1

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Cult Movies, Friday Night Knife Fights, Special Effects, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2012 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: THE HOWLING (1981) vs. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
PART 1 (of 3)
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome everybody to another edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS, that column where we pit two titans of terror against each other, whether it be movies or directors or whichever, and we see which one comes out the victor.

L.L. SOARES: Or in layman’s terms, we let them kick the crap out of each other and see which one wins!

MA: Something like that. Anyway, tonight L.L. and I are joined by Nick Cato and Mark Onspaugh. Thanks, guys, for joining us.

NICK CATO: You’re welcome. I’m looking forward to this.

MARK ONSPAUGH: Likewise. I had so much fun the last time, I couldn’t wait for the next one.

LS (to Nick): It’s about time you showed up for one of these. What took you so long?

NC: What took me so long? I dunno. Maybe it had something to do with your welcoming personality.

MA: Tonight on FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS we look at two werewolf classics from the 1980s, two movies that were released the same year in fact: THE HOWLING (1981) vs. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).

Our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters will attempt through a series of questions to determine which one of these hirsute tails—er, tales—is the better film. We’ll be bringing you this debate in three installments, with tonight being PART 1, and PARTS 2 and 3 to follow on successive Friday nights.

Before we get to this evening’s questions, I just have to offer a disclaimer.

LS: What? That you have no taste and no idea what you’re talking about?

MA: No.

That I’ve always preferred AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON to THE HOWLING. I saw both these movies when they first came out in 1981. I loved AMERICAN WEREWOLF immediately, but I left THE HOWLING unimpressed.

In an attempt to avoid unfairly tilting our results in AMERICAN WEREWOLF’S favor, I re-watched both these movies recently, in the hope that I might gain a fresh perspective. As always, I’ve tried my best to keep an open mind.

LS: You have a mind?

MA: I have a mind to take that fire axe hanging on the wall backstage and plunge it into your head.

LS: How violent of you. How can you live with yourself?

MA: Easy. I work with you.

LS: By the way, that sure was some incredible disclaimer. I sure am glad you got that out of the way.

MA: Anyway, moving right along. Tonight we begin our bout with the question, which of these two movies has the better werewolf, or in THE HOWLING’s case, werewolves?

Mark, since this duel was actually your idea— and thank you once again for the suggestion— we’ll start with you.

MO: You’re welcome.

THE HOWLING, hands (paws?) down.

I really hated the final werewolf in AMERICAN WEREWOLF, especially since its form and coloration seemed to bear no relation to the brilliant transformation scene earlier. It also moved so poorly that I wasn’t able to suspend my disbelief. I found THE HOWLING werewolves to be effective and scary… except for the final transformation of Dee Wallace – ugh.

MA: You mean you didn’t like her cute little puppy dog nose?

MO: No!

MA: I’ve always thought she looked like a Muppet. You know, like Rowlf’s girlfriend.

LS: Who the hell is Rowlf?

But getting back to your question. While I think the transformation scene in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) is superior, I wasn’t all that impressed with the end result. It looked like a big bear or something.

MA: Agreed.

LS: That was my one letdown with AMERICAN WEREWOLF.

The werewolves in THE HOWLING (also 1981) actually look cooler, because they’re more a cross between wolves and humans, but they’re iffy. Sometimes they look really cool, and other times they look fake as hell, depending on the shot. It’s inconsistent.

A cool-looking werewolf from THE HOWLING.

And I’m still not sure what I think of the big ears on the HOWLING werewolves. They add to their unique look, but they also look a little silly. But if I had to make a decision, I think the HOWLING werewolves look a little bit better.

NC: I would agree with you.

I’ve always thought the ‘wolves in THE HOWLING were scarier, especially in the sequence where the woman witnesses a transformation in that small room…the beast’s size shot from such a close range gave me the creeps.

MA: I definitely agree with you about that scene. That’s probably my favorite scene in the movie. It gives me the creeps, too.

But as far as choosing which one has the better werewolf, to be honest, I don’t like either werewolf.

To me, that’s always been the weakest part of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, a movie I like a lot, that its werewolf looks fake and unconvincing. The werewolves in THE HOWLING aren’t much better, but after seeing these two movies again back to back, I have to give the slightest of edges to THE HOWLING. They were slightly more menacing looking than the creature in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF, who looks almost “cute.”

The "bear-like" werewolf from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

Okay, so even though I didn’t like either werewolf all that much, the three of you went with the creatures in THE HOWLING, so Round 1 goes to THE HOWLING.

On to Round 2.

A staple of the werewolf movie is the transformation scene. Which of these two hirsute classics sports the better transformation scene?

I’ll go first this time around and answer my own question.

No contest here. The transformation scene in AMERICAN WEREWOLF is much better than anything seen in THE HOWLING. It’s become a classic of the genre, and there’s a reason why—no, not because Rick Baker/John Landis re-created nearly the exact same scene for Michael Jackson’s THRILLER music video—but because it’s a terrific sequence!

LS: You had to bring up THRILLER? Ugh.

MA: For its time, the special effects were better than anything I had ever seen. Make-up that actually moved, ears and snouts that grew, that was pretty amazing stuff! Plus, David Naughton looks like he’s experiencing the kind of pain you’d expect if your body was contorting into the shape and appearance of a werewolf; the kind of pain Lon Chaney Jr. only hinted at.

The transformations in THE HOWLING don’t come close to what we see in this scene in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF.

NC: Agreed.

AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON has the better—and all-time BEST—transformation scene, which of course won the first Oscar for horror film special effects.

MO: I don’t know. Both are amazing, and you have that martial arts trope of the student going against his old master.

MA: You mean Rob Bottin in THE HOWLING going up against Rick Baker in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF?

MO: Yep. Bottin vs. Baker.

LS: Hey, there’s a future FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHT!

MO: Yeah, that would be a good one.

And both scenes display practical effects, which (when done right) kick the ass of CGI. However, the style and intent of the scenes are so different.

Bottin had total control of the lighting of his scene, while Landis wanted Baker to do something in a high level of light. Bottin’s scene with Picardo is meant to be scary and evil, while Baker’s scene is largely a nightmare being endured (alone) by Naughton.

Landis forbade Baker from giving his protégé (Bottin) any advice, so Baker could only hint at how to solve certain problems. Bottin relies a lot on bladder effects, whereas Baker had pioneered “change-o heads”, where foam and latex forms of Naughton’s face could be mechanically altered (stretched) to produce actual real-time transformations. Unfortunately, the rhythm of Baker’s scene is off, because Landis insisted the head/face change last, in defiance of logic.

David Naughton's transformation begins in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

As for my choice? I think the main transformation scene in THE HOWLING is scarier, but the scene in AMERICAN WEREWOLF made my jaw drop, awestruck. Even when I knew how it was done (I saw Baker demonstrate the heads to an EFX makeup class), it didn’t lose any power… Just a masterpiece. AMERICAN WEREWOLF wins it.

MA: So you saw Baker demonstrate the heads in an EFX make-up class? That must have been awesome!

MO: It was.

LS: I’m going to help AMERICAN WEREWOLF land another punch because I also think the transformation scene in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is pretty incredible. Rick Baker and his team give us perhaps the best transformation scene ever, from the sprouting of each hair, to the rising of the spine, to the telescoping of the snout.

The funny thing is, THE HOWLING is no slouch, either, and if THE HOWLING had been the only werewolf movie to come out 1981, it would have been hailed as an effects breakthrough. Unfortunately, AMERICAN WEREWOLF is just that much better, and overshadows it.

I also think there are a few shots in the transformation scene in THE HOWLING that look kinda goofy – like you can tell it’s a rubber mask – while the transformation scene in AMERICAN WEREWOLF is longer, more detailed, and more impressive. Also, THE HOWLING relies a bit too much on inflated condoms under the latex skin—the “bladder effects” Mark was talking about. It looks like everyone who becomes a werewolf has the mumps for a few minutes.

Eddie Quisp (Robert Picardo) begins his change in THE HOWLING.

MA: Inflated condoms? Maybe that’s why Dee Wallace looks so bright and happy in that final transformation scene!

LS: My last comparison is in the circumstances of the big transformation scenes. In AMERICAN WEREWOLF, David is alone in an apartment when it happens, and therefore there’s no one to interrupt or run away screaming. The scene can continue unhindered and give us a thing of beauty.

In THE HOWLING, the big transformation involves the psychopathic Eddie Quisp (Robert Picardo), and he stands there, going through this lengthy transformation as Dee Wallace cowers before him. She just stays there and waits for the entire metamorphosis to finish—instead of trying to run away while he’s occupied with his changes. I guess you could say she was frozen in fear, but it just seemed incredibly silly to me that she gives him time to undergo a complete change without trying to save herself.

NC: She was like the rest of the audience, too busy pissing her pants to move!

MA: We all picked AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON as having the best transformation scene, so Round 2 goes to AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF. After two rounds, we’re dead even, which is better of course than being even dead.

Believe it or not, that’s all the time we have for tonight. It looks like we’ve got a good one going here, folks, so join us next Friday night for PART 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: THE HOWLING (1981) vs. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).

It’s sure to be a howl.

(Michael Arruda, Nick Cato, Mark Onspaugh, and L.L. Soares all howl at the stage lights.)

—END Part 1—

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato

MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? (ANSWER #4)

Posted in 2011, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monstrous Question, Philisophical Discussions, Werewolf Movies, Werewolves on April 29, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION- WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? – ANSWER # 4 – MICHAEL ARRUDA

(MONSROUS QUESTIONS provided by Michael Arruda)

What’s wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster?  Why hasn’t he ever been as popular as other monsters, such as vampires and zombies?

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FROM MICHAEL ARRUDA:

I wish there wasn’t anything wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster, because I’ve always found them to be the scariest of the classic monsters, scarier than Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, for instance.

So, what’s the problem?  Why aren’t werewolves the smashing success its monster cousins are?

I think there are multiple reasons here as to why werewolves aren’t as popular.  Let’s seek out these reasons by looking at what makes the other monsters popular.

Take vampires, for instance, probably the most popular movie monster in history.  They’re popular for many reasons, but the one I seem to hear the most, is that vampires— for whatever reason— are sexy.  They’re sexy because they’re sensual.  They attack by biting victims on the neck, and most of the time before the bite on the neck there’s some kissing involved, and since kissing is sensual, so are vampires.

Werewolves are not sensual.  They kill by tearing out the throats of their victims and ripping them apart.  Yep, I can see how that would be less appealing than making out with a handsome or voluptuous vampire.

Vampires in the movies also tend to be good looking.  Women loved Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as Dracula, and today, as much as I hate to mention his name, girls do go ga-ga over Edward in the TWILIGHT movies.

Werewolves are not good looking.  They’re furry with very sharp teeth.  They’re frightening as hell to look at.

Movie vampires also tend to be evil.  For some reason, people love evil characters in the movies.  It’s why villains are so popular.  We don’t want “evil” for a neighbor, but we love him on the big screen.

Werewolves aren’t evil.  They’re just ferocious, like the vicious dog down the street that’s going to bite your ass off if he gets out of that fenced in yard.

Let’s move on to the Frankenstein Monster.  Usually, the Frankenstein Monster is sympathetic. You feel bad for him.  It’s not his fault he’s a monster. It’s Dr. Frankenstein’s fault for stitching his body together from other bodies and then giving him life.  As scary as the Monster is, we feel bad for him.

Werewolves are sympathetic too.  Who doesn’t feel bad for Larry Talbot?  So, mark this down as a plus for werewolves.

But the Frankenstein Monster is also unstoppable.  He can’t be killed, which certainly makes him incredibly scary.

Werewolves are not unstoppable.  You only have to shoot them with a silver bullet.

But what about zombies?  They’re not evil, nor sensuous, and they’re certainly not good-looking.  They’re also neither sympathetic nor unstoppable.  You only have to put a bullet in their heads, yet they’re much more popular than werewolves. Aah, but zombies attack in immense numbers.  They’re an infestation like roaches, and when they appear, it’s an epidemic as entire armies of zombies cover the countryside.

Werewolves don’t attack in immense numbers.  They’re usually just one or two per movie, not counting the shirtless buff boys from TWILIGHT.

So, what’s wrong with werewolves?

They don’t resonate with audiences because they’re not sensual, they’re not evil, they’re not unstoppable, and they’re not terrorizing the countryside in massive numbers.  Yes, they’re frightening, and they’re sympathetic, but sympathy isn’t always the best trait to have when you’re trying to be a successful movie monster.

If I had to choose a main reason why werewolves aren’t as popular, I’d have to say, it’s the “evil” factor.  Werewolves just aren’t that evil.  I think it’s time we had an evil movie werewolf.   I want to see a werewolf that everybody loves to hate, a real genuine evil bastard, a villain for the ages, the antithesis of likable Larry Talbot.  In short, the scariest creature you can imagine, and when he comes out at night, he’s going to do some awful things to people, things we’re not likely to forget.

Anyway, here’s hoping that there are plenty of werewolf movies in our future, and that the best are still ahead.

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MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? (ANSWER #3)

Posted in 2011, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Monstrous Question, Philisophical Discussions, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , on April 28, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION: ANSWER #3 – COLLEEN WANGLUND

 (Monstrous Questions provided by Michael Arruda)

 

What’s wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster?  Why hasn’t he ever been as popular as other monsters, such as vampires and zombies?

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FROM COLLEEN WANGLUND:

I think overall the werewolf has done well as a movie monster.  I love the original THE WOLF MAN (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr., more for sentimental reasons than anything else—spending Saturday nights watching the Universal monster movies with my dad when I was a kid.  My first taste of werewolves.

And as far as I’m concerned no one has as yet matched the special effects magic of John Landis’s AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).  I’m still amazed every time I see Jack appear with his throat ripped out and decaying more and more; and I have yet to see as beautiful and grotesque a transformation as David goes through without the use of CGI.  I can almost feel his pain.

Since 1913 there have been over 130 movies from varying countries either about werewolves or having a werewolf character, including the HARRY POTTER series with the character Lupin, THE HOWLING series, Stephen King’s SILVER BULLET (1985), WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935), and I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957).  Of course there have been bad movies as well as good ones….it’s the same no matter the sub-genre.

One of the best and most imaginative werewolf movies in my opinion is THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984) directed by Neil Jordan which is a take on the original Grimm’s Brother’s tale with the underlying theme of sex and rape.  Another great werewolf movie is GINGER SNAPS (2000) about a girl who is attacked by a werewolf and begins the slow transformation into the beast.  While also having the underlying theme of sex and rape, GINGER SNAPS adds a twist as the antagonist is a female.  She is both victim and sexual aggressor.

On a side note I have always had the idea that Robert Louis Stevenson’s character Mr. Hyde was, in fact a werewolf or shape shifter.  I think it is more apparent in the book than in any of the movies, but for me it seems to work whether on a physical level or a psychological one.  It also plays well with the theme of rape and violence against women.

Anyway, I think the werewolf is alive and well and doing just fine in the movies.  I also think, when done properly there has been quite a bit of depth to the monster in many movies, whether it’s Hammer Studios or the HOMBRE LOBO series from Spain.

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MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? (ANSWER #2)

Posted in 2011, LL Soares Reviews, Monstrous Question, Philisophical Discussions, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION – ANSWER # 2 – L.L. SOARES

(Monstrous Questions provided by Michael Arruda)

 

 

What’s wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster?  Why hasn’t he ever been as popular as other monsters, such as vampires and zombies?

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FROM L.L. SOARES:

I think werewolves have been a bit more popular than you give them credit for. As you said, in the 80s, there was AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE HOWLING (and its sequels), and stuff off the beaten track like WOLFEN (all three of those movies came out in 1981). So they have had times where they were pretty popular. Around that same time was the remake of CAT PEOPLE (1982) too, which isn’t a werewolf movie, but it had shape shifters of another, similar sort. The Stephen King adaptation, SILVER BULLET, also came out in the 80s (1985).

In the early 00s, we had another mini-wave set off by GINGER SNAPS in 2000, as well as a prequel (GINGER SNAPS: THE BEGINNING) and a sequel (GINGER SNAPS: UNLEASHED), both from 2004. The GINGER SNAPS movies centered on two sisters in high school, one of whom becomes a werewolf, and the first movie, especially, is very good. Of course, the horrible werewolf flick CURSED (by Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson), also came out this decade (in 2005), and might just be the worst werewolf movie ever made.

Werewolf movies do seem to come in bunches. But you’re right, that they’ve never rivaled the popularity of vampires or, more recently, zombies, which just seem to be everywhere. Personally, the werewolf concept always intrigued me as a writer, because it’s an exploration of the animals within us – our past selves before we became civilized, and the potential to revert back to that state at a moment’s notice – and I think that is just as relevant and powerful as our reactions to death and immortality. I always felt DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, another favorite creature of mine, explored similar territory.

Werewolves always have cycles where they become popular (like the cycles of the moon), but they just don’t have the kinds of rabid fans that vampires and zombies have. Vampires, especially, never seem to go out of style.

More recently, of course, there are the werewolves in the TWILIGHT movies, and they’re almost as popular as the vampires. Although, the way they’re portrayed  – as giant CGI wolves – is just lame.

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