Friday, October 30, 2009
KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando suggests some werewolf movies to watch this Halloween.
If you are still pondering what to dress as for Halloween, consider vampires and werewolves. The upcoming release of “New Moon” (opening November 20), the second installment of the “Twilight Saga” looks to reignite that age-old rivalry between werewolves and vampires. But since vampires have been getting all the attention recently, I've decided to highlight some werewolf films that might win you over to the wolfen side.
In “New Moon,” Bella finds herself even more torn between Edward, the sparkling vampire, and Jacob, the hunky werewolf. But while vampires have always maintained their popularity, werewolves have never caught on in quite the same way.
Vampires have always had a sexy component, even going back to Bram Stoker’s 19th century novel “Dracula.” “The Lost Boys” put their appeal in hip contemporary terms: “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.” Vampires dress well, look cool, seduce you, and then bite you on the neck. What’s not to like? Werewolves on the other hand, transform during a full moon, and become hairy, wolfen creatures. Then they wake up in the morning naked with blood on their breath and not knowing where they’ve been or what they’ve done the night before or what exactly it is they are picking out of their teeth..
But werewolves might be challenging bloodsuckers as this year’s sexy beast – thanks to the ripped hard bodies of “New Moon’s” Wolf Pack. But werewolves have a long history in cinema. The silent film “Wolf Blood” is considered the first werewolf movie. But in 1941 Lon Chaney gave us the first memorable Wolf Man. Here he gets an introduction to werewolves from a lovely shop girl.
Shopgirl: Here's an old poem, "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
Larry Talbot: Yes but what's this pentagram business?
Shopgirl: Oh every werewolf is marked with it.
Chaney gave us a tormented soul and a man who didn’t realize that he was cursed. Every full moon he would transform, attack people, and then be haunted by unclear memories. In that film, Claude Rains as John Talbot tries to give a rational explanation for lycanthropy.
John Talbot: It's a technical expression for something very simple -- there's good and evil in every man's soul and in this case evil takes the form of an animal. Now you asked me if I believe a man can become a wolf. Now if you mean can a man take on the physical characteristics of an animal, no it's fantastic. However, I do believe that most anything can happen to a man in his own mind.
But we know it's not just in one's mind. In “An American Werewolf in London,” David Naughton is bit by a werewolf and his friend is killed by one. The decaying ghost of his dead friend explains the curse of the werewolf.
Jack: Sorry I'm upsetting you David but you don't understand what's going on.
David: I understand all right. You're undead and I'm a werewolf.
Jack: Yes. That's right.
David: Get out of here Jack.
Jack: You gotta believe me David.
David: Believe what? That tomorrow night beneath the full moon I'll spurt hair and fangs and eat people?
Of course Naughton doesn’t heed the warning, and he does indeed transform in fabulous fashion thanks to Rick Baker’s still impressive make up and effects. The film also contains the best lycan soundtrack ever featuring Blue Moon, Moondance, and Bad Moon Rising among others.
Lycanthropy was just an added problem of youth for Oliver Reed in “The Curse of the Werewolf.” For a brief moment he hopes the love of a good woman can save him. But at the first full moon… well let's just say the wedding night isn't going to go quite as planned.
For a perverse psycho-sexual fairy tale take on werewolves, there’s Neil Jordan’s “The Company of Wolves.”
Grandma: A wolf may be more than he seems, the worst kind is the one that’s hairy on the inside, when they bite you they drag you with them to hell.
20th Century Fox
Then for more action, there’s “Dog Soldiers.” This one has a wicked sense of fun as a group of soldiers in Scotland can’t believe that their enemy is a pack of werewolves.
Soldier: You mean like full moon, silver bullets and eyebrows that join in the middle?
Woman: Before you dismiss it altogether think about what you've seen and heard: the full moon, the teeth, the claws, the howling. Is it so difficult to believe.
These films provide a good intro to werewolves and maybe they’ll make you warm up to the big hairy, tormented beasts. And in addition to “New Moon” next month, you can look forward to Benicio Del Toro in the remake of “The Wolfman” next year.