Good evening all you boils and ghouls out there, Monsterman here again bringing you my latest top 5 list. I’ve been remiss lately for not doing this for quite a while but I feel I need to get back on the ball again in continuing my series of top 5 lists. My hope for these lists is to generate chatter from you readers out there who either agree or disagree with what I have to say. I you feel I’ve missed a film that needs to be included, then by all means, chime in and let me know, I want to hear what you have to say. I do what I do for you guys, the readers out there and I sincerely do want to hear what you have to say.
Anyways, enough of the gibber jabber and on to the good stuff! As I’ve said many times before, I’m one big fan of werewolves. Those hairy beasts are my all-time favorite movie monster and I’ve seen almost every werewolf film ever made, with the exception of a few here and there. I know werewolves like nobody else and although this list is just my opinion of what’s great, I think I have my finger on the pulse of the average horror fan in regards to what they like in their werewolf film. My list will contain films that aren’t any surprise but there also might be one or two which might surprise also, so read on to see if my Top 5 Greatest Werewolf Films of All-Time matches yours!
5. Bad Moon (1996)
This oft forgotten and overlooked werewolf film was written and directed by Eric Red (The Hitcher, Near Dark, Body Parts). The film was adapted from the novel Thor by Wayne Smith.
The cast includes Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré, Mason Gamble and Ken Pogue.
Bad Moon tells the tale of a man (Michael Pare) bitten by a werewolf while abroad who comes to visit his sister (Mariel Hemingway) and her young son (Mason Gamble) in their secluded home. Only the family’s protective dog Thor realizes the brother is not what he seems and so begins a deadly cat and mouse game to protect his family from a bloodthirsty werewolf who is quickly losing all sense of humanity with each passing full moon.
This film is often maligned by critics and fans alike for details like a seemingly never ending full moon lasting for days but I’ve always enjoyed the film because it features a really great werewolf from effects house Steve Johnson’s XFX. The film didn’t fare well at the box office and lost money during it’s initial theatrical run. It is a rather gory film with some great werewolf kills and I thought Michael Pare played a great werewolf. Over the years, Bad Moon has become one of my favorite werewolf films of all-time.
4. Dog Soldiers (2002)
The most modern film on my list, Dog Soldiers features some kick-ass action scenes and even more kick-ass werewolves! This British film is written and directed by the amazing Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday) who gave us some of the most unique looking werewolves ever committed to film.
The cast includes Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt and Chris Robson.
A squad of British soldiers out on a training exercise in Scotland uncover more than they bargained for as they come up against a pack of werewolves in the remote wilderness. With no hope for extraction, the squad end up in a true life or death exercise against malicious werewolves and must rely on their training if they hope to survive the night. The squad must hole up in a secluded farmhouse only to discover its terrifying secret.
Dog Soldiers is one of the most original werewolf films to come along in many years. It employs familiar tropes from films such as Night of the Living Dead to great effect and combines the horror with incredible action sequences very well. As I mentioned before the werewolves in the film are very unique to this film with the help from make up effects designer Bob Keen. The action scenes combined with horror ala Aliens make Dog Soldiers a truly worthy film to this list. Now if we can only get the long talked-about sequel!
3. The Wolf Man (1941)
The grandaddy of all werewolf films. Every film or story since owes pretty much everything to the original Wolf Man film. There were a few werewolf films made before The Wolf Man, but this film left such an indelible mark on the genre that it cannot be denied. The film set forth the standards and legends that most werewolf tales follow to this very day such as transforming under the full moon, the deadly reaction to silver, a person becoming a werewolf through a bite and being marked with a pentagram, these are all original concepts created for the film by writer Curt Siodmak that most people readily believed to be old gypsy lore and legend but in reality were thought up by Hollywood.
Also features the famous poem: “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night / May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright.”
Directed by George Waggner (Man Made Monster, The Fighting Kentuckian), the incredible cast includes Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Raines, Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers, Warren William, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya and Bela Lugosi as Bela the Gypsy.
Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela’s mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Larry, transformed by the full moon, heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen.
This is the film that gave me my fascination with werewolves that exists to this very day. As a huge fan of the Universal Monster series, the Wolf Man was/is my favorite monster and cemented by love for the accursed beasts. The special make up effects in the film were so striking by legendary make up man Jack Pierce the image of the Wolf Man would go down in the annals of monsterdom for all eternity.
Every werewolf film since owes its mythology to this film and it changed the face of modern werewolf cinema forever; a true classic in every sense of the word.
2. An American Werewolf In London (1981)
This film is one of the finest examples of mixing horror and comedy in just the perfect amount. The film is most notably known for featuring one of the greatest practical werewolf transformations ever by the legendary Rick Baker who won the first Academy Award for make up for American Werewolf. It was both written and directed by John Landis (Animal House, Blues Brothers, Innocent Blood).
The cast includes David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine and Frank Oz.
An American Werewolf in London tells the tale of two American college students backpacking through England who run into misfortune when they are attacked by a werewolf on the moors during the full moon. The one student who survives the attack is transported to a London hospital where he befriends a pretty young nurse who invites him to stay with her when he is released. The student is haunted by the gruesome ghost of his friend who was killed and warns him those who are bitten by a werewolf and survive are doomed to become a werewolf themselves during the next full moon. The ghost urges the student to kill himself and end the curse and the wolf’s bloodline. The student is then shocked to hear of violent animal attacks in London during the full moon and must decide what to do before it’s too late.
This film features the coolest four-legged werewolf ever, courtesy of Rick Baker and crew. I love the subtle mixture of laughs and scares that really make this film so effective. At one point you’re laughing the next you’re jumping out of your seat. The story and performances are so captivating that you can’t help care about these characters. The film features probably the most brutal and my favorite werewolf attack sequenced ever!
1. The Howling (1981)
It has always been very close between American Werewolf and The Howling for the best werewolf picture of all-time, but in my book The Howling ever so slightly edges out American Werewolf just for the sheer look and greatness of the werewolves themselves. Both films had make up effects extraordinaire Rick Baker designing the wolves, but director John Landis persuaded Baker to leave The Howling and come work on his film instead. The werewolf effects on The Howling were then handed over to Baker protege Rob Bottin, who in my mind created the ultimate movie werewolf. the film was directed by Joe Dante (Piranha, Gremlins, Matinee) who left his own mark on the werewolf sub-genre that will never be equaled.
The Howling was adapted from the novel by Gary Bradner.
The cast includes Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone, Belinda Balaski, Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine, Slim Pickens, Elisabeth Brooks and Robert Picardo.
TV newswoman Karen White takes some much-needed time off after a traumatic incident with a serial killer. Hoping to conquer her inner demons, she heads for The Colony, a secluded retreat where the creepy residents are a little too eager to make her feel at home. Also, there seems to be a bizarre connection between the serial killer who traumatized her and this supposedly safe haven. And when, after nights of being tormented by unearthly cries, Karen ventures into the forest and makes a terrifying discovery. Now she must not only fight for her life… but for her very soul!
The Howling features some comedic elements but mostly is a straight-up horror film, which makes it all the scarier to me. The film has some of the creepiest dark, smoky forest scenes I’ve ever seen which really creeped me out when I first saw this film in the theater as a kid. The film is sprinkled throughout with references to previous werewolf films and many of the film’s characters are named after werewolf movie directors. While American Werewolf received all the notoriety and awards for its werewolf transformation, the transformation scene in The Howling is equally effective and just as ground breaking. Another high point of the film is the eerie music by Pino Donaggio. How can anyone not be afraid of 7 foot werewolves standing on two legs? Dee Wallace steals the show as the lead in this picture, her performance made her an instant scream queen for horror fans worldwide.
Honorable mention: Ginger Snaps (2000), Silver Bullet (1985), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) and The Wolfman remake (2010).
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