It has been awhile since my first Monster Mash countdown which looked at witches in horror but I have finally gotten round to number two in the series, looking at another favourite staple monster of mine.
Werewolves are a staple in horror for obvious reason – they are a classic expression of the human duality, and watching or reading something that focuses on them gives us a chance to fantasize about giving in to our wild, naked urges and character without being held back by societal pressures; and I think in the right context they can be a very empowering architype for the horror fan woman.
Below are ten werewolf films that I consider to be the best.
10. ‘Werewolf of London’ (1935)
This movie appealed to me when I first saw it because I have always loved-loved-loved the werewolf concept; so much so that I carried out a lot of research on the folklore from around the world. I remember reading one random paragraph somewhere in the dark corners of the lycanthropic web on the cuff of the end of the 90s that mentioned that there were stories about a flower that only grew on a tiny island off the coast of Italy, that if consumed would heal you of your transformative ailment.
And what do you know; this movie sees a botanist travel to Tibet to study a rare flower indigenous to the area only to be attacked by a werewolf after which he must rely on the juice from the flower to stop him from turning. If you’ve been sticking to modern werewolf movies I urge you to watch this; it is entertaining, powerful, and the music score and effects are impressive.
9. ‘The Company of Wolves’ (1984)
I love when a film is drenched in symbolism and folklore references; so this one certainly fits my needs when I want to watch a horror film that takes a (very sexual) spin on the Little Red Riding Cap tale. Directed and co-written by Neil Jordan (also co-written by Angela Carter), the film sees 12-and-three-quarters Rosaleen being warned by Granny (played by the one and only Angela Lansbury) of the dangers of men and the sexual temptation that comes with growing up through a series of dark, dream-like folktales. This movie is utterly surreal and if, according to the director, they’d had the budget and the special effects back then he would have filmed the original ending (written by Angela Carter and published in her anthology ‘The Curious Room’) which saw young Rosaleen dive in to her bedroom floor and disappear.
8. ‘Wolf’ (1994)
Being an early 90s baby, I grew up to love 90s films; which I’ve come to believe is a rare thing based on peoples’ reactions; and ‘Wolf’ was one of the favourites (I swear it’s not just because the lovely and handsome James Spader stars in it).
Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick; the film sees an aging and mild-mannered publisher (played by Jack Nicholson) lose his wife and have his job threatened by a younger member of staff just before he has an encounter with a wolf that bites him, giving him a sudden zest for life and the competitive streak he needs to put all the people stepping on him back in their places.
7. ‘Dog Soldiers’ (2002)
This gritty, British movie; directed and written by Neil Marshall; is Scotland set and full of action in the only place you’d expect – the woods.
The film sees six British Army Soldiers dropped in to the Scottish Highlands on a training mission against a Special Forces team. Private Cooper (one of the soldiers) has been shown earlier to have failed a test to enter in to the Special Forces as he was unwilling to shot a dog. When the soldiers arrive at the Special Forces base however, they find a bloody massacre and one wounded survivor. The attackers soon reveal themselves to be werewolves and the soldiers have to use their training to survive.
It’s a pretty classic story, I think, of survival – but with werewolves.
6. ‘Trick ‘r Treat’ (2007)
This is Michael Dougherty’s first feature length, that focused on legend-izing his character Sam by way of an intertwining anthology set on one Halloween night. I don’t think Sam has become well known outside of horror circles, but we horror fans certainly love the little guy.
The film tells five stories of how five groups of people are spending Halloween night in one small but festivity-filled town and how they are all being watched over by the spirit of Halloween (Sam) to make sure they don’t break any traditions.
The reason this has made the list is because one of the stories in the film is a werewolf one. The story sees a group of young women making the most of a holiday that gives us societal permission to wear very little so they can attract men to the woods to party and then eat. The transformation scene is really well done and is one of the reasons I think this film is so great.
I should also mention the talented Brian Cox stars in the feature.
5. ‘Lobos de Arga’ (‘Game of Werewolves’, 2011)
I first saw this film during one of my weekends at the amazing Scottish independent horror film festival , Dead by Dawn, held annually in Edinburgh. There aren’t too many werewolf movies that go down the pure comedy route but this one did and it nailed it.
Both directed and written by Juan Martínez Moreno; the film sees scraping-by writer Tomas return to his hometown, Arga, that he left 15 years prior, by invitation of the Mayor to attend a town ceremony as guest of honour. It is while there however that he rediscovers old friends and a curse that has been plaguing the town for 100 years.
4. ‘Silver Bullet’ (1985)
Stephen King and Gary Busey – no one else could’ve made this movie any better. This is a quaint little werewolf film about a kid coming up against a werewolf. It will no doubt give you the warm horror fuzzies.
Directed by Daniel Attias and written by Stephen King (both novella and screenplay); the film sees a wheelchair bound little boy go on the hunt for a werewolf when people in his small town of Tarker’s Mills begin to be mauled to death whenever there is a full moon in the sky.
3. ‘American Werewolf in London’ (1981)
Well I’m sure everyone was expecting this… ‘American Werewolf in London’ is one of those movies I had on VHS that I would watch whenever I was taking a sick day from school when I was little, all cuddled up on the chair pulled right up to the TV, with my duvet wrapped around me and a bowl of Kraft mac and cheese heating my legs. It truly is the classic American werewolf movie (with some of the best werewolf special effects).
Directed and written by John Landis; the film sees two American backpackers attacked on the British moors by a werewolf that the locals are unwilling to admit exists. One survives (David) and is sent to a London hospital while he recovers and while the investigation in to his friend’s death is dealt with. David begins to wake up nude in various locations and soon realises he has become the same thing that attacked him on the moors that night. As he terrorises London, David begins to become unhinged and desperate to escape his new fate and the guilt he feels for killing – leaving him spiralling out of control.
2. ‘Ginger Snaps’ (2000)
I was obsessed with this film as a child and as a girl because of what the creators were attempting to compare in the film – lycanthropy and that jump in to womanhood. It was a very powerful film for women who love horror with its empowering use of female sexuality. Not to mention it’s where we all first saw the lovely and wonderful Kathrine Isabelle make her way in to horror as a blossoming Scream Queen.
Directed by John Fawcett; the film revolves around a pair of outcast sisters in a small town. When wandering through a park by the woods one night the eldest sister, Ginger, has her first period which attracts a werewolf that attacks her. Over the next month we see Ginger’s behaviour and looks dramatically change as her younger sister tries desperately to find a way to stop the changes occurring.
1. ‘Late Phases’ (2014)
Before I came across this film on one of my boring Sunday afternoon rampages through Netflix to discover a good horror film ‘Ginger Snaps’ was my favourite werewolf film. I came across it doing an Ethan Embry search, as you do, to see what films were available starring him and I noticed Mister from ‘Stake Land’ was in this. I mean, how could I resist?
This is a low budget film with a stellar cast that gets your emotions running high. What is most refreshing is that for a recent film it isn’t centred around the beautiful and young, but instead the elderly.
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano and written by Eric Stolze; the film sees a son drive his blind veteran dad and dog to his new home in a secluded, suburban retirement community that faces a forest. But when on his first night there his sweet neighbour and dog is killed in what is apparently a common animal attack for the area he grows suspicious of his neighbours and begins his plans for the next full moon…