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Films that Bite Back: five great werewolf movies

Film reviewer seeks out the five most underrated were’ films in movie history

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 12:10


In addition to the recent vampire revival, werewolves have pounced back into the mainstream due to the popularity of the Jacob Black character in the Twilight series, the recent remake of The Wolfman and the passing of wolf-man actor Paul Naschy. HBO’s “True Blood” also features a werewolf character, Alcide Herveaux. Unlike the other staples of horror culture, werewolves have been marginalized throughout cinematic history to other creatures like the zombie, Frankenstein’s monster, and the vampire. Recently the serial killer and torturer have come to share the mantle once occupied by the classic monsters, while the poor werewolf, like always, has been left to fight for its place in theaters. Even still, werewolf movies have endured because they have been largely unchanged throughout their history. Of central importance to the subgenre is its depiction of marginalized characters that don’t fit societal norms. The following list contains five of the best under-viewed werewolf movies. It omits more recognized titles such as the original version of The Wolfman (1941), An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Dog Soldiers (2002).

Werewolf of London (1935): This was the first Hollywood werewolf film, predating Lon Chaney Jr.’s film by six years. Despite its obscurity, it’s a much better movie. It introduced the methods by which one turns into a werewolf and features an intriguing mystery between the titular werewolf and his creator. The villain is revealed to be a close friend of the main character and perhaps a perpetrator of the recent murders that have occurred. Unlike the laborious self-pity of The Wolfman, this film has a more relatable protagonist that maintains his double identity until the very end. It’s in public domain, so you have no excuse not to watch it.

The Company of Wolves (1984): Few directors are capable of crafting a fantasy world into reality as well as Neil Jordan. This is one of his earliest works, which is a werewolf interpretation of “Little Red Riding Hood”. Based on an Angela Carter short story, the film takes place in the dream of a girl that is coming to terms with her sexuality. She envisions herself in an ancient world where people turn into wolves while villagers cower in their homes. She is not perturbed and ventures outside where she encounters a charming man that is more than he seems. A new life begins where her old one ends as she wakes up and awakens to her womanhood.

Ladyhawke (1985): If one considers a werewolf movie to be a film about a person who turns into a wolf, then Ladyhawke is a werewolf movie. It is not a horror movie. It is a fantasy about the eternal separation between two lovers. They have been cursed by her jealous priest-admirer. He assumes the shape of a wolf at night, and she is a hawk during day. The two enlist the help of an irreverent wise-cracking boy to help them break the curse. Besides being a keen twist on the genre, the film has a delightfully outdated soundtrack. It’s undeniably an 80’s picture and a good one. 

The Howling 6: The Freaks (1990): The Howling name became a commodity for anyone who wanted to create a werewolf movie and market it towards a larger audience. This is the best of the soon-to-be eight films in the series. A young wolf-man is roaming the countryside and stops for a while in a resident’s home. He falls in love with the man’s daughter but doesn’t tell her of his secret. A traveling circus, led by a vampire, arrives and captures him for use in shows. He finally frees himself and kills the ringleader for his freedom. Universal Studios never released a “Dracula Meets the Wolfman,” but even if they had, it wouldn’t have been as good as this. The film’s hero is a great homage to the tragedy historically associated with those of his condition. He also battles a debonair, bald purple vampire; what more could you want?

Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004): The second Ginger Snaps drops the overt puberty metaphor of the first film and delves into a darker, more sophisticated aspect of female youth. Ginger has died and her sister Brigitte is becoming a werewolf. She is taken to a clinic where she meets a precocious girl named Ghost that discovers her secret. The sequel continues the story from the first film and goes into the cruelty uniquely capable of young women. Ghost is an evil person who both literally and figuratively makes a monster of Brigitte.

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