I’ll never forget back in 1981 when An American Werewolf in London and The Howling changed the werewolf genre forever, from the transformation effects of both to the comedy of An American Werewolf in London and the bipedal wolves of The Howling.
STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET (1985)
Based on the illustrated Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf, this 80s classic is a faithful adaptation that logically casts young Corey Haim in the lead role.
I loved the novella when it was released, and the movie perfectly captures the spirit of King’s tale of a small town frozen in fear as a new victim is massacred each month—and the crafty young boy in a wheelchair who figures out the killer is a werewolf.
With Gary Busey as the free-spirited uncle who helps the boy and his older sister hunt down the werewolf, the film has plenty of 80s kid-focused charm and suspense in the style of E.T., Cloak & Dagger, and Stand By Me.
The only things that really made me cringe watching it now are the Desperate Housewives Mary Alice-esque narrative by the sister as an adult, and the terribly cheesy, whimsical 80s instrumental that plays whenever Corey rides around in a souped-up wheelchair car his uncle makes for him.
The werewolf attacks hold up, from the gore to the look of the werewolf, which is in the style of The Howling. But for some reason, during the final battle with the family, the werewolf looks a little different to me…and a little goofier.
Aside from Corey being such a good little actor, Megan Follows, who plays the older sister, is a fantastic actress who helps carry the film. It still astonishes me that she didn’t have a bigger career, if just for a short time in the 80s.
BAD MOON (1996)
It’s kind of crazy that director Eric Red has made so few horror movies in the past three decades considering he started with Body Parts and this one.
It’s also hard to believe Bad Moon came out in 1996, because everything about it screams 1980s. It stars Michael Pare, a portion of his peen, and Mariel Hemingway.
It has a werewolf right out of The Howling. And despite major gore, a sex scene, and some great scares, it has a young boy and his super protective dog as a hero, giving it a classic Spielberg feel…with a good dose of Silver Bullet on the side.
It smartly takes place within the confines of the family’s house and the plot is simple—the family dog becomes immediately suspect of a guest who turns out to be a werewolf, making this mostly a werewolf vs. dog plot. But just be warned if you’re easily triggered. There are several scenes of the dog in distress, and the dog is a really convincing actor.
As awesome as the werewolf looks, the transformation is not entirely practical effects, so the mid-90s CGI is a bit dated.
DOG SOLDIERS (2002)
This werewolf cult fave comes from the director of The Descent. As I watched my DVD for the first time in over a decade, for the first 20 minutes or so I was wondering why I was such a fan…because it’s about a bunch of asshole military men in the woods. I guess I really do detest toxic masculinity.
My worries were unfounded though, because once the werewolves start attacking, it’s a blast and more campy and funny than I remembered. And since it runs 105 minutes long, it sure would have been great if 10 or 15 of those military men minutes were edited out.
The fun really begins with the first jump scare at their campfire. It’s super effective, especially since it happens as you’re being lulled to sleep by their boring conversation. Soon cool, ferocious 2-legged type werewolves are attacking.
The group hops in a military vehicle, and after a brief encounter with a werewolf while driving, they hole themselves up in a house in the woods.
With the windows all boarded up, this becomes Night of the Living Dead with werewolves, right down to the main group hatching a plan to use a getaway vehicle car outside if they can reach it safely.
Gore galore, great werewolf design, and plenty of funny moments abound, and the final battle using every household item the guys can get their hands on totally rocks.
And like Bad Moon, a dog gets in on the action…
Nearly a decade after first teaming up for Scream, writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven brought their sleek, scary, campy teen Hollywood horror vibe to the werewolf genre for one of my favorite werewolf flix. To this day I do not understand why there’s so much hate for Cursed. The only issue I have with it is some of the goofy CGI during werewolf transformation and running scenes—especially the weredog.
The cast is the perfect lineup of faces from that glorious commercial period of horror: both Joshua Jackson and Michael Rosenbaum of Urban Legend, Shannon Elizabeth of 13 Ghosts and Jack Frost, Judy Greer of Jawbreaker and The Village, then popular pop artist Mya, Portia de Rossi of Scream 2 and Dead & Breakfast, Scott Baio as himself (and as usual he’s so much cooler on celluloid than he is in real life), Milo Ventimiglia of Stay Alive, and as our lead brother and sister, Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci.
From the first attack when Shannon Elizabeth is trapped in a car to Mya’s chase in a parking garage, the initial werewolf scenes are scary and suspenseful, and the werewolf is a rockin’ modern bipedal beast.
Then come the campy aspects of Ricci and Eisenberg realizing they have both been bitten by a werewolf. Even campier is their major confrontation with the beast at a big Hollywood event.
But what I want to focus on is the gay storyline that’s both a nice touch and somewhat glossed over. Milo is the school jock who bullies Eisenberg with anti-gay rhetoric. There’s some hint of a romance possibly brewing between Eisenberg and Milo’s girl, but she’s a minor character forgotten for most of the film.
It’s Milo who plays the bigger role in Eisenberg’s story. Once Eisenberg begins to have powerful side effects of being bitten, he kicks Milo’s ass in wrestling, calling him out on being a closet case and throwing in a derogatory gay term of his own. It’s interesting that either way the dominance goes between these two, the stronger male in each situation uses gay slurs to humiliate the weaker one.
Eventually Milo does confess his sexuality to Eisenberg and tries to kiss him, expressing his relief at meeting someone just like him. So in Milo’s head, Eisenberg is not his natural choice for a partner, but his only option. Eisenberg passes, explaining that he is a werewolf and that his extra strong pheromones are the only reason Milo is attracted to him. He reassures Milo that gay is okay and all is fine between them now that they’ve both come out to each other as gay and werewolf.
In the end, Milo brings his now ex-girlfriend to Eisenberg, who gets a heterosexual kiss just under the wire of the film’s conclusion, while Milo is forced into the shadows as the awkward, third gay wheel whose chance at a kiss was denied. It’s kind of interesting that Williamson, gay himself, is forced into the Hollywood mold of suppressing the gay guy’s sexual desires while suddenly forcing heteronormativity onto the main straight guy with a virtually irrelevant female character. He might as well have grabbed some random cheerleader walking by and sucked face with her. Seriously, we didn’t get to know anything about this girl for the entire film and Eisenberg showed little interest in or time for romance because of what he was going through. If mainstream movies had more guts, the girl’s character could have been eliminated completely, and Eisenberg could have come out as gay in the end and walked off into the sunset with Milo. It would have been a much more natural progression for both characters and the plot itself.
ATTACK OF THE WEREWOLVES (Games of Werewolves) (2011)
And finally, I really woofed it up during this Spanish horror comedy. It’s just my style, with the added bonus of the main guy having an adorable dog that figures heavily in the film.
This writer comes back to his hometown to accept an award and stays in his creepy old empty house. Before long he’s joined by his local buddy and his “agent.”
They share stories about all the scary tales their elders used to tell them about the town. There’s a locked barn and underground caves…and naturally, they end up in them.
It’s nonstop fun from the moment they first encounter the werewolf in the caves and the unforgettable way they escape it. And the danger quickly multiplies, for it’s a whole pack of them.
They’re the good old Wolfman type werewolves, and they are mean, vicious, relentless, and leap tall buildings in a single bound.
The cast is lovable and funny, and these guys are up there with some of the better comic teams of horror. It’s rare that I laugh out loud at movies as much as I did with this one (there are classic comic moments), and even more rare that I root for all the characters to live.