Recent, Decent Werewolf Movies you probably missed
The cinematic werewolf is one of those monsters that is done, with a few noteable exceptions, incredibly badly. The fact that the werewolf transformation effects seem to have peaked over thirty years ago with American Werewolf in London is, quite frankly, depressing and while there was a flurry of great movies in the early 2000’s (Ginger Snaps Trilogy and Dog Soldiers), the majority of films featuring everyone’s favourite cursed, hairy beast have been somewhere between crap and absolutely god-awful.
However, all is not lost. Over the last couple of years there have been a few absolutely fantastic werewolf films that may have slipped under your radar. And I thought it was about time that I shared a few of my more recent favourites, for those of you who are looking for a change from the classics.
When an American family are slaughtered on a camping trip to rural France, the police initially suspect a bear or similar wild animal is responsible. It doesn’t take long for them to launch a murder investigation, however, and arrest a hirstute giant of a man called Talan Gwynek for the atrocities. An American human rights lawyer takes on the case for Talan’s defense as things are not quite adding up – chief among them being the fact that her client is suffering from a debilitating disease that should it be proven, would mean he could not possibly have committed the murders.
To say any more would do the film a disservice. Suffice to say that something that starts out looking very much like a legal drama quickly turns into a very effective, almost realistic take on the werewolf legend. The action in the later half of the film is quite brutal and the transformation scenes are subtle enough to retain the initial realism while being more than enough to show that this really is a werewolf that they are dealing with. Things get a little overdone towards the final act, but this remains a thoroughly enjoyable take on the werewolf legend, with a bit of pseudo science thrown in for good measure and enough carnage to satisfy any horror gore hound. 8/10
Attack of the Werewolves (Game of Werewolves) (2011)
Tomas is an unsucessful writer who is invited to return to his childhood home to collect an award. Despite warnings from his mother he returns to his home town, only to find that perhaps the locals were not quite as forthcoming about the reasons for his invite as they could have been. He is, infact, there to end a curse that was placed upon the village over a century ago. No prizes for guessing what the curse entailed…
I love this film. Despite the fact that it’s in Spanish, the comedy comes across extremely well, with plenty of laugh out loud moments among the carnage. The practical effects are surprisingly good and it walks that very difficult line between comedy and horror with a confidence that few films manage.
I realise that subtitles films are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I strongly recommend you check this movie out. It’s hilarious, well plotted, well acted and doesn’t shy away from the blood letting. 8/10
When Animals Dream (2014)
16 Year Old Marie is going through some changes. She spends her time in a small Danish fishing village with her father, alternatively helping to care for her wheelchair bound mother and working at the local fish processing factory. She is mostly shunned by the townsfolk, who treat her with something between contempt and fear. However when it becomes apparent that she may be suffering from the same illness as her mother, the people in the town feel that they have to take action.
This film is gorgeous. From the bleak setting, to the washed out colour scheme and the absolutely pitch perfect acting, this film blew me away. Despite it being subtitled, the dialogue is minimal, with most of the work being done through action and body language. I probably could have followed the story with the subtitles turned off, such is the quality of the performances.
When Animals Dream is, in tone if nothing else, the werewolf equivalent of Let The Right One In, but in many ways I actually think this is the better film. The theme of a young girl going through change and having the strength to make her own decisions about her life are possibly a little heavy handed at times, but its a riveting, melancholy and minimalist piece of film making and deserves to be considered a classic. Probably the best film I have seen this year in any genre. 9/10
Joe is a young ticket collector for a rail company who, having just been passed up for promotion, agrees to work the late night shift to give him a chance of spending time with Ellen, an attractive colleague who is also working the same shift. When the train hits something while passing through a forest and the driver goes missing, Joe has to rally the passengers to survive the night as they come under attack by something in the woods.
I really enjoyed Howl. The beginning especially does a great job of building tension, even if its a little slow to start off with. There is a palpable sense of dread among the passengers, especially after an ill fated attempt to walk to the next station reveals what exactly happened to the driver. The attacks are fast, brutal and utterly vicious.
That’s not to say that Howl does not have its problems. Some of the characters, especially the token city boy wanker and annoying teenager, are perhaps overdone. A few of them do some amazingly stupid things (lets go off by myself into the woods, with a torch, when you know the place is crawling with werewolves, because you heard a noise… yeah…) and far too many of the deaths happen off camera. While this builds suspense early on, I found it becoming annoying as the movie progressed. Also, in the later scenes the werewolves, quite frankly, spend too much time pissing about and posturing in front of their prey, which, given the fast, brutal initial attacks, also irritated me a bit.
That said, Howl is a decent addition to this list. When it works, it really does work. The comedy elements are well done, with a few laugh out loud moments, and it has enough suspense and scares for me to forgive its shortcomings. 7/10