You have probably heard the expression once in a blue moon referring to a rare event, but what is a blue moon? There are actually multiple meanings. The moon occasionally appears to take on a bluish tinge, this is caused by smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere. The particles have to be a very particular size and are only caused by erupting volcanoes and forest fires. There are also two astronomical definitions: the third full moon in a season (or quarter of the year) with four full moons: or the second full moon in a month. Under this definition, we have a blue moon tonight. What better time list my top five werewolf movies:
ONE – An American Werewolf in London (1981): The advances in CGI mean that modern horror movies are better and more realistic than old ones that look cheep and outdated; well actually NO! An American Werewolf in London is more than thirty years old and still has the best man to werewolf transformation. The movie has moments that are scary, funny and sexy, it really is the ultimate comedy horror, the word classic is an overused but when talking about this movie, it just seems insignificant.
TWO – Ginger Snaps (2000): With all the wolf effects you need a big budget to make a good werewolf movie, again NO! With budgetary constraints comes artistic invention, $4million would barely pay the coffee budget on the Lord of the Rings movies but that’s what Ginger Snaps cost to make. Fantastically developed characters full of teen angst, the film is more gritty, earthy and visceral than the pithy ironic style of most horror movies of the time. With themes of alienation, despair and transformation the entire film is a metaphor for teenage in particular puberty.
THREE – The Company of Wolves (1984): With Red Riding Hood, two Snow White movies and the TV show Once Upon a Time there is a real desire to update fairytales, it has never been done better than the Little Red Riding Hood inspired The Company of Wolves. It was also a bit of a game changer for werewolf movies, until this time, werewolves were portrayed as viscous beasts whilst vampires were symbols of sex and sexuality, but this sumptuous horror fantasy movie oozes sexual metaphors. Loosely based on Angela Carter short story of the same name, the meaning of the film is left perfectly ambiguous and open to interpretation but is filled with themes of fear and desire and has an undercurrent of sexuality and loss of innocence.
FOUR – Dog Soldiers (2002): Soldiers on a training mission gone wrong in the Scottish highlands sounds like a rip-off of Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort, in a way it is but writer/director Neil Marshall (who went on to make The Descent) isn’t afraid to borrow from the best, later scenes are equal parts Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead with the end being pure The Howling with a British spin. As is often the case film makers are at there most inventive whist constrained by a limited budget, this film is no exception making great use of their none CGI monsters. Again for budgetary reasons the werewolves spend a lot of time where they traditionally belong, in the shadows. The final victory of the film is the perfect blend of horror and comedy, something that is hard to get right.
FIVE – The Howling (1981): Made by Gremlins director Joe Dante The Howling is a great early 80’s horror that dispenses with many of the conventions of the genre. The film plays out like a conspiracy thriller and in the sprit of All the President’s Men and The Parallax View the main character is a journalist. A film of the same era as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling is less comical and more satirical but also in the conspiracy thriller style it is actually a little subversive, the wolf effects aren’t as good and look a little dated but aren’t bad.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001): Not an honourable mention because it isn’t as good as others on the list, but because it ultimately isn’t really a werewolf movie. loosely based on a real-life Beast of Gévaudan. A series of killings in France in the 18th century that caught the attention King Louis XV who sent professional wolf-hunters to solve kill the wolves responsible.
Underworld (2003): Not a great movie, but the first of this werewolf V vampire franchise is a real guilty pleasure for me. Making the most of its relatively small budget underworld is a hugely stylish movie. The sets are amazing and the Budapest locations are used to full effect giving the film a perfect blend of modern and gothic horror.