August 11, 2014

SUMMER OF BLOOD, Day 72: The Death Rattle's Top 13 Werewolf Movies

Pretty self-explanatory. These are my favorite werewolf movies. At the bottom of each entry, I'll also be listing the Top 13 Werewolf movies according to IMDB (based on average ratings and films tagged with the key word "werewolf"). For my list, I went with actual werewolf movies as opposed to movies with werewolves in them. The only exception being...

This weird exploitation film would easily be number one on the list if it was an actual werewolf movie, but I'd be remiss if I didn't give it a shout-out. People might think I'm crazy for loving this movie as much as I do, and yes, I've probably been guilty in the past of giving it way more credit than it deserves, but something about it just hits the spot for me. For one, I love films and TV shows that feature the M.C. culture. I could care less about real life bikers or even motorcycles for that matter, but something about the uniform appearance and gang mentality of motorcycle clubs in films appeals to me. That said, I first watched WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS while on a biker movie kick a few years back and it was love at first sight. From the cast of dirty-looking actors and stuntmen who looked like legit bikers, to the authentic feel of the character interactions, to the bat-shit crazy supernatural turn that the movie takes and the awesome score that's equal parts outlaw and psychedelica - WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS is something special. I'll be the first to admit that it's not nearly as cool as its title would suggest, but it's one of my favorites nonetheless. Hey that rhymed!
#13 According to IMDB: TRICK R' TREAT

This is one of two movies on this list that I'd put in the "Guilty Pleasure" category, meaning I'm OK with admitting that it's very low on redeeming qualities but I still enjoy it nonetheless. My fondness for this movie purely has to do with the fact that I think lead actress Rhona Mitra is unbelievably sexy. I can think of a million better things to do than watch the UNDERWORLD series and I have no plans to go back and revisit the first two movies despite the fact that I never hated them to begin with (I haven't seen the fourth one), but I found RISE OF THE LYCANS (the third in the series and a prequel) to be pretty enjoyable and not as bloated as the previous ones. Mind you, I've only seen this the once and my opinion could easily change if I were to watch it again. My opinion could also change on the first two movies for that matter. Hmm, I kinda want to watch the other UNDERWORLD movies now. Damn!
#12  According to IMDB: DOG SOLDIERS

Warning: Spoiler Alert for the first GINGER SNAPS movie
Really dug this when I first saw it years ago, but, admittedly, it hasn't held up very well for me on repeat viewings. Still, though. It's fucking GINGER SNAPS! You'll read all about my love for the original as you move down the list, but Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle as suicidal sisters Brigitte and Ginger have a special place in my heart and I consider them to be amongst my favorite on-screen duos of all time - siblings or otherwise. UNLEASHED is the second film in the GINGER SNAPS trilogy, and it sees Brigitte attempting to adjust to life without her sister Ginger (who shows up here in dream sequences) while trying to manage her newly-acquired lycanthropy, all while being pursued by another werewolf. It's been a while since I last watched it, but I remember liking this movie for how dark and serious it was, and I liked how it took Brigitte and stripped away her Hot-Topic Goth exterior in favor of a more raw, realistic look. It should also be said that UNLEASHED is noteworthy for featuring one of the most unlikable, annoying characters I've ever seen in a horror movie. Ohai Ghost!

Other than the fact that it once again features actresses Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle side-by-side, GINGER SNAPS BACK: THE BEGINNING is kinda pointless. It's the third film in the trilogy and it's a period piece, in which Perkins and Isabelle reprise their roles as sisters Brigitte and Ginger respectively, albeit as wanderers in 19th Century Canada who seek refuge in a fort that later comes under attack by werewolves. There's also a twist, in that the characters who the sisters cross paths with are harboring a dark and disturbing secret that leads to a spooky pay-off at the end. Despite the fact that it's an unnecessary movie, I still enjoy it, primarily because it reunites Isabelle and Perkins and their respective characters. They're a special duo with amazing chemistry, and I'd be up for watching them together in just about anything. Like UNLEASHED, I quite liked this when I first saw it, only to later find that it doesn't hold up well.
#10 According to IMDB: UNDERWORLD

For a while, I always championed Joe Dante's THE HOWLING over John Landis's AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (which came out the same year), but my opinion has changed over time - although I do prefer the transformation scene in this one. THE HOWLING, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me as a kid. I grew up watching horror flicks and was perfectly fine with some dude in a Hockey mask killing people, but THE HOWLING was one of only two or three movies that I was genuinely scared to watch. Revisiting this every so often as an adult, I can totally understand why it would've had that effect on me as a kid. It can be an unsettling film at times. The main difference now is that I'm aware of its sillier, campy moments. I also find it to be a tad boring these days, but there's no denying that THE HOWLING is a beast of a werewolf movie and a showcase of some terrific makeup effects and creature design, which is especially evident during the aforementioned transformation sequence.

Despite being preceded by WEREWOLF OF LONDON, 1941's THE WOLF MAN is the film that became a classic and knocked it out of the park for a number of reasons. To be honest, I've seen this movie a couple times and have no desire to go back and watch it (I'd be more inclined to watch 1931's DRACULA or the first three FRANKENSTEIN movies if I were to revisit the classics), but its importance can't be denied. For me, the three things that make this special are: 1) the iconic look of the eponymous Wolf Man (thanks to the amazing work of legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce), 2) the influence it had on werewolf movies to come and werewolf mythology in general, and most importantly 3) Lon Chaney Jr.'s performance as the tragic Lawrence Talbot.

Yep. Surpassing Universal's classic WOLF MAN on my list is a movie that features Corey Haim on a tricked-out motorized wheelchair and Gary Busey as his weird uncle. Like THE HOWLING, this is a campy werewolf movie that has a tendency to be pretty dark and violent when it wants to. I don't have much to say about this one. It's fun, I love that the lead character is a kid, and the makeup effects are great, specifically during that crazy sequence in the church where everyone turns into a werewolf and we even get a glimpse of a baby werewolf!

Reb Brown making crazy faces, Christopher Lee going undercover at a New Wave club, Sybil Danning having weird werewolf sex, and the severely-hemorrhaging head of a midget are just a few of the reasons why I love this utterly insane sequel to THE HOWLING. It's easily the most absurd, over-the-top, bananas movie on this list and has one of my favorite horror movie theme songs to boot.

I still haven't seen all of Paul Naschy's "hombre lobo" movies and I don't know if I ever will (I'd love to but some of them are hard to find), but, for what it's worth, THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI (a.k.a. NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST) is my favorite of the bunch. Here, Naschy plays recurring character Waldemar Daninsky - a Spanish beefcake who carries a werewolf curse and beds every woman he crosses paths with. In this particular film, Daninsky finds himself in the Himalayan mountains battling some evil sorcerer who turns into a Yeti. Or something like that. Whatever the case, it's trashy, fun, and not as sluggish as some of the other Naschy werewolf movies I've seen. It's also - I believe - the only Paul Naschy movie that ended up on the Video Nasties list, which is what attracted me to it in the first place. Turns out it's not as violent as I initially expected, but it's got a lot of female nudity, including a scene where Naschy has a threesome with two hot Spanish broads in a cave. There's also a lot to be said about the character of Waldemar Daninsky. Not only is he one of the coolest-looking werewolves in the history of horror cinema (if not the coolest), but I'm also a fan of how bonkers he gets when in full werewolf mode.

This is the other movie on my list that's firmly planted in "Guilty Pleasure" territory. I don't know if it's because I'm particularly fond of the post-SCREAM horror of the late 90s and early 00s, but I enjoy the shit out of Wes Craven's CURSED, which has been bashed by many and considered to be one of the director's more embarrassing efforts. I too was one of the people who shit on this movie when it came out, but I've obviously changed my tune and have since grown to appreciate the comedy aspect of it. As a horror movie? Yeah, it's consistently dumb as fuck throughout the duration of its running time. As an odd, trainwreck of a film? It's quite fascinating and an absolute blast to watch. Between this, PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, and MY SOUL TO TAKE, I think people either underestimate or overlook the fact that Wes Craven can make some truly nutty, bat-shit crazy horror films. Plus, any time Judy Greer gets to turn in a performance as over-the-top as she does in CURSED is fine with me.

What an amazing little horror film this is. Aside from some of the more surreal Eastern European horror and fantasy films out there, or perhaps some of the works of the late British director Ken Russell, Neil Jordan's COMPANY OF WOLVES is unlike anything I've ever seen, even despite the fact that it's basically a fucked-up version of Little Red Riding Hood. I wrote a full review of it HERE, so check it out if you're interested.
#3 According to IMDB: THE WOLF MAN (1941)

Years ago, back when GINGER SNAPS first hit DVD and I knew nothing about it, me and a buddy of mine would have "Bad Movie Night" once a week, where we'd go to the nearby liquor store and hit up their video section for the worst-looking horror movie we could find. Ironically, most of the movies we watched ended up being pretty good. I first saw DEAD END through this weekly ritual. And it's also how I crossed paths with GINGER SNAPS for the first time. When we saw the DVD on the shelf, we were sold based on the name alone, let alone the shitty-looking DVD artwork that was basically just a picture of Katharine Isabelle looking seductive. Well, talk about pleasant surprises. GINGER SNAPS blew my mind, and I'm pretty sure my friend liked it too. I won't ramble on and on about this movie, so I'll try to keep this as concise as possible. What hooked me was the characters of Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald and their morbid relationship as sisters with a suicide pact. What intrigued me was the arc of the sisters and how they grew apart after the eldest was attacked by a werewolf, seemingly sparking a sexual awakening in the once misanthropic Ginger. What sealed the deal was the ultimate transformation of Ginger into an unrecognizable monster and the outcome of the scenario. What made me truly appreciate the movie after the fact was its brilliant use of lycanthropy as a metaphor for a girl achieving womanhood. I'll be honest, there's a lot about this movie that doesn't hold up well, but I can't not see this as being a permanent fixture of at least my top five werewolf movies for years to come.

Not the werewolf movie I'd typically reach for, but enjoyable nonetheless and one of the better written movies on the list. Highly re-watchable as well. It honestly took me a couple of viewings to appreciate this one. I don't think I ever saw it as a kid (not all the way through anyway), so it obviously never held any sentimental value with me. It should be said, I'm not the biggest fan of John Landis as a filmmaker either, but the balance of comedy and horror in this is nearly perfect and I don't know how many other directors could've nailed it like Landis. And while I prefer the werewolf transformation sequence in THE HOWLING, the prolonged, grueling transformation in this film is perhaps the most iconic and for good reason. In general, AMERICAN WEREWOLF is a real treat for fans of practical effects. Also, you can't really go wrong with a young Jenny Agutter, who I've expressed my love for numerous times on this blog (OK, more like once or twice, but still), and the part towards the end when the werewolf gets loose and goes berserk in town? Fucking priceless.

No comments:

Post a Comment