July 30, 2011

My Top Ten Werewolf Films

Since you all seem to enjoy my top ten lists so much, here's another one that I've thrown together for your entertainment. I think the results may surprise you though as werewolf movies are far from being my favourite part of the horror genre.

An American Werewolf in London1. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

"Two American tourists in Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists."

This one is a really obvious choice as it's the horror film that sends me into a nice comfortable sleep the easiest. I don't know why but I find this witty amalgam of previous werewolf movies and fully fledged horror very relaxing. It's still the best werewolf movie to date though. Rick Baker's special effects won an Oscar but the real thrills for me come from Jenny Agutter's steamy shower scene.

Ginger Snaps2. Ginger Snaps (2000)

"This film uses werewolfism as a metaphor for puberty. One of the Fitzgerald sisters, suburban goth girl outcasts, gets bitten by something in the woods (and it ain't a neighborhood dog)."

Just like a low-budget Canadian werewolf version of "Carrie" in many ways but made so much better by having the great looking Katharine Isabelle who gets even sexier as the film progresses, especially when compared to her very odd looking sister. It's a refreshing change to the usual run-of-the-mill werewolf stories as this is from a girls' perspective.

The Curse of the Werewolf3. The Curse of the Werewolf (1960)

"In Spain, Leon is born on Christmas day to a mute servant girl who was raped by a beggar. His mother dies giving birth and he is looked after by Don Alfredo. As a child Leon becomes a werewolf after having been taken hunting."

I like this film enormously. The opening scenes of the werewolf's conception and birth are a bit nasty even for a hardened old horror pro like me. The late Oliver Reed gives such a stunning performance as the wolf man that it's obvious that only a true wild man such as himself could have made this role work.

Dog Soldiers4. Dog Soldiers (2001)

"A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland [sic] wilderness." (Terrible grammar from the IMDb there.)

Pretty routine stuff all round but it came out during the survival horror video games peak and fitted in quite nicely between bouts of "Resident Evil". This would only get an entry level score ordinarily but it's on this list for being British and for having a really good first hour which feels like an episode of "Soldier, Soldier" (which I became quite addicted to watching). Soldiers fighting monsters is not an original idea though.

Full Eclipse5. Full Eclipse (1993)

"The LA police department have a special team of officers with a talent for reducing big-time crime. The team leader has an excellent track record for crime reduction in other big cities, but his methods are unconventional, and so is he - he's a werewolf."

The movie may start well with lots of guns, guns, guns etc., but this is no howling success. Mario Van Peebles, Patsy Kensit, and Paula Marshall are all talented individuals whose talent went to waste in this film. The storyline of crime busting werewolves must have seemed a great idea at the time, but, quite frankly, it needed a better script to make it happen. Still good fun though and Patsy Kensit doing it doggy (or should that be "wolfy"?) style in black leather is enough to keep anyone's interest.

The Company of Wolves6. The Company of Wolves (1984)

"A bag full of symbolic folklore about werewolves, or, rather, their sexual connotation. Granny tells her granddaughter Rosaleen strange, disturbing tales about innocent maidens falling in love with handsome, heavily eyebrowed strangers with a smouldering look in their eyes."

Although made more horrible by the participation of the hateful Angela Lansbury, this is supposed to be a fantasy rather than a horror film. That said, it is gory and unnerving in places and, all in all, is a bloody good collection of werewolves. Sarah Patterson as "Rosaleen" is the most gorgeous piece of jailbait to ever grace our screens. I wonder whatever happened to her?

The Howling (Special Edition)7. The Howling (1981)

"After a bizarre and near fatal encounter with a serial killer, a newswoman is sent to a rehabilitation centre whose inhabitants may not be what they seem."

Once the best werewolf movie ever made but now the special effects lose out to "An American Werewolf in London". Based loosely on Gary Brandner's book of the same name, this is still much better than any of its appalling sequels. Joe Dante provides plenty of thrills, but the script could have been better in places, and for the most part it isn't really scary.

Legend of the Werewolf8. Legend of the Werewolf (1974)

"A baby is brought up by wolves after they kill his parents. As a lad he is taken in by a second-rate travelling show, but one night when he is older he kills one of the troupe and runs away to Paris."

Amicus' attempt at a werewolf movie is not quite as good as Hammer's "The Curse of the Werewolf", but it isn't too far from it by any means and has great performances all round. The scene where the wolf man wakes up back in human form in the zoo was later used in "An American Werewolf in London", but here there is more reason for it to happen since the wolf man works as a zoo keeper.

Silver Bullet9. Silver Bullet (1985)

"Werewolf terrorizes small city where lives Marty Coslaw, - a paralytic boy - his uncle and his sister - the narrator of the story."

Probably one of the first werewolf films that a lot of people watched in the 80s. This adaptation of one of Stephen King's novellas, has a nice feel to it but the certification is all wrong. This should be a PG! It's about really little kids discovering a werewolf and does not deserve the 18 certification in Britain for anything. I have no idea what the rating for it is in the US as I've never seen it on sale anywhere.

The Wolf Man (Universal Studios Classic Monster Collection)10. The Wolf Man (1941)

"A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist."

The original and best werewolf film apart from "American Werewolf in London". This film made a star of Lon Chaney, jnr., created all the myths about werewolves that would be used throughout Hollywood ever after, and spawned a succession of Universal Monster movies uniting the wolf man often incongruously with the other Universal Monsters. Why is it at the bottom of the list? The poem which gets repeated ad nauseum throughout. If I hear it one more time, I'll smash the TV in with a silver-topped cane.

There are no runners-up this time as the only alternatives are the TV miniseries called "Wilderness" (1996) which was cut so badly for a US DVD release that it's unbearable, "Blood and Chocolate" (2007) which is about as entertaining as "Twilight", and "Wolf" (1994) which I can't ever watch again because of my irrational dislike of James Spader.

Of course, werewolves appear in a lot of other horror movies (and even some comedies), but usually it's with more unintentional humour than the filmmakers imagined.

So there you have it. Agree or disagree? What are your favourite werewolf films?

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