62 Werewolf Movies of October, Part 2 of 2: the Top 25
Now we enter the second part of the Full-Moon-a-thon I had last October. While this entire list only consists of the movies I watched during the month, the following 25 pretty much makes up my top 25 werewolf movies ever. To some fans, a couple of these may not properly count in their eyes due to the werewolf in the film being a support character, and that’s fine by them. I allowed a werewolf as a supporting character as a parameter, so they’re here. The grades are reflective of the overall film, not just the werewolf or their individual stories. Again, the list does not include comedies like Teen Wolf or Full Moon High. Van Helsing had an uncertainty if it even counted as horror or not, so I left it out of the marathon just to be on the safe side; only horror and horror-comedies were allowed in the October Challenge explained in the previous blog. Also again, movies with a "*" next to their title indicates either a werewolf in a supporting role, or part of an anthology.
And finally, here are my top 25 werewolf horror movies:
25. Howling VI: The Freaks - Grade: B-
Feels more like a 90 minute episode of Tales From The Crypt than a Howling sequel, but hey, I love Tales From the Crypt, so shut it! All jokes aside, it is cheap, but the Make Up FX are pretty stellar, even if the werewolf itself isn’t. Bruce Payne is the MVP as Harker, the man who runs the traveling circus, delivering a performance far too good for a movie of this caliber.
24. Annabelle Comes Home* - Grade: B-
I didn’t care too much for the first two Annabelle movies, not that I thought they were terrible, but the moment I heard there’s a werewolf in this one, I immediately threw it on my must-watch for last month. It is a small role, more than a cameo, and the beast is a ghost, but it’s a pretty good wolf suit that is unfortunately obscured by cgi mist FX. The werewolf’s role here is to keep the kids inside the house (like a dutiful guard dog), while the other entities mess with them inside the house.
23. The Beast Must Die - Grade: B-
A whodunnit werewolf story where a man is trying to figure out if the guests staying at this castle (or mansion, my memory’s already getting fuzzy) is a werewolf. Before the days of revolutionary werewolf FX work, it did utilize German Shepards painted black as their werewolves, like many werewolf movies did before the 80’s. The music score also has an amusing Enter The Dragon vibe. Worth checking out to see a better paced version of Howling V: the Rebirth.
22. An American Werewolf In Paris - Grade: B-
Usually a laughing stock when the special FX are brought up, and yes, the digital FX are terrible on a legendary level, but the story is innovative, Claude is a fantastic villain, the very few instances of blink-and-miss-it prosthetic FX for the werewolves are pretty good (though the decaying ghost friend FX doesn’t look anywhere on the level that Rick Baker brought in the original film), and Julie Delpy is super charming and sympathetic. The jokes aren’t anywhere as funny as they hoped they were, though.
21. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors* - Grade: B-
A fun anthology horror film, and the first tale is a werewolf piece. It’s simple and a bit of a mystery, but at least I didn’t see its twists coming. Overall an above average anthology flick, which like most, has their ups and downs for their individual stories.
20. Wer - Grade: B-
Shot like a documentary, we are following reporters trying to see if a man being convicted of brutal crimes is innocent or not, believing authorities are just pegging him because he’s large, and hairy. Turns out, not only does he have the mental illness effects of Lycanthropy...when his beast takes over, he becomes physically inhuman as well, even if there isn’t much of a change. I think the only thing holding this movie back, is the twist involving a past romance with two of the journalists, and how it plays out in the end. Definitely worth checking out for probably having the best case of a man wolfing out without actually wolfing out, and he can be downright frightening. If I were engaged with the main characters better, this could be higher on the list.
19. Cursed - Grade: B-
The grade is based on the Uncut version of the film. A production meddling mess almost on the level of Justice League, with cartoonish CGI, Cursed was Wes Craven’s only dip into the werewolf genre, and honestly I still dig the final result. I love the wolf-suit, when it isn’t covered by a bad CGI version, and I like the cast. Not the movie Craven or Williamson originally intended to make (I’d love to see the Craven cut with the original cast), but satisfies this werewolf fan enough to consider it above average.
18. Wolf - Grade: B-
Great Rick Baker makeup, an engaging performance by Jack Nicholson (and most of the cast really), but a bit overlong and seems to focus too much on our main character’s career turmoil than the actual werewolf curse that’s been bestowed upon him. Some of the slow-mo shots didn’t age well either. The climax seems a bit choppy compared to the rest of the movie, which makes sense that there were apparently extensive reshoots. Could’ve benefited from a slightly tighter runtime. Best scene: Jack marking his territory.
17. House of Frankenstein - Grade: B
Lon Chaney Jr.s third foray as Larry Talbot, where he continues his quest to find a cure for his curse. Not quite as enjoyable as the earlier outings, but gosh Lon Chaney Jr is charismatic. John Carradine plays a new version of Dracula here too, putting his own stamp on the character.
16. Wolfen - Grade: B
Though some will cry that this isn’t a werewolf movie, and sure, not in the traditional sense, but it’s still spirits that take on the shapes of killer wolves to attack those trying to capitalize on their territory, so it’s close enough to count for me. At least as “werewolf-adjacent”. Great performances, atmosphere, an early James Horner music score. Like Wolf, could use a tighter runtime for pacing.
15. Bad Moon - Grade: B
Good story about a single mother allowing her brother, who seems to be hiding something, move in with her and her son and family dog, a German Shepard named Thor. The acting can get flimsy, along with some of the dialogue, but overall this turns out to be a pretty solid. A great werewolf suit, vicious gore, and impressive acting from the dog playing Thor (best horror movie dog ever? If not, this is a contender). Shame about the main transformation scene though.
14. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man - Grade: B
Satisfying mash-up of the classic Universal monsters. Larry Talbot begins his quest to end his curse right here, and you are with him 100%, he hates the beast within him. The thing holding this movie back though is it shows how little Bela Lugosi really thought about Karloff’s portrayal of The Monster, because he gets his shot at playing him now, and it’s simplistic and robotic. Jack Pierce’s Wolf Man make-up FX might’ve been at their best here.
13. Howling II: Stirba - Werewolf Bitch - Grade: B
A controversial placement, I’m sure, but I find this trash flick incredibly fun. I love the music, the main theme song, Sybil Danning as Stirba, queen of the werewolves, the Romanian on-location setting, and Christopher Lee’s regret of ever signing up to be a part of this. The wolf suits are laughable, mainly due to a mix up with shipment where they wound up with ape masks, and the editing is chaotic. But again, this is the right kind of bad that I can’t deny I’m having fun for the whole runtime.
12. Dog Soldiers - Grade: B
Also probably a controversial placement, given how popular this one seems to be. I like it, I’ve never denied that, but I never got into any of the characters, they’re all extremely forgettable, and there is an annoyingly bad music theme that pops up to let me know this movie thinks it's epic. It mostly plays out like any generic monster-vs-soldier movie post James Cameron’s Aliens. Pretty cool wolf heads on the suits, but I also dislike the lack of body hair (this was such a trend in the 00’s … seriously ... stop shaving my Wolfmen!). It’s like watching Ted Nugent run around in a loincloth, but wearing a cool wolf head. I don't feel it's the masterpiece its devoted fans claim it is, but still one of the best the genre has to offer.
11. Waxwork* - Grade: B+
Fun horror film that gets to take advantage of its wax-museum set pieces to have little anthology-like stories inside the main film. The first set we get to visit is a werewolf story, and a pretty cool one. John Rhys-Davies plays the werewolf who warns Dana Ashbrook to get far away, but of course Dana ain’t gonna listen, he’s too confused as to where he’s at (he was just looking at a Wax display just moments ago, after all). Cool wolf suit, squirty blood, and the werewolf literally gets to squeeze a guy’s head, but instead of going in to pop it, it decides to pull instead, ripping the man’s head in half.
10. Ginger Snaps - Grade: B+
One of my favorite coming-of-age movies of the past two decades, Ginger Snaps was a breath of fresh air for me at the time this came out. Clever, sharp, and the two leads, Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle, have great chemistry as the Fitzgerald sisters: two high school misfits that don’t care that they don’t fit in with the cheerleader crowd. One of them gets attacked by a werewolf at night in their neighborhood, and over the next month they slowly start becoming a werewolf themself. The other sister is trying to help her the entire time, but this curse is causing a rift between them, their bond as close sisters cracking. Follows the similar vibe of Jack Nicholson’s Wolf where the werewolf’s final form is a wolf-beast by the end of the month-cycle, with no turning back, but that’s fine. The final werewolf though does have its limitations in its effects. It is mostly hairless, and the skin texture is very stiff and plasticy, but at least they didn’t resort to bad CGI, amirite?
9. Silver Bullet - Grade: B+
Stephen King’s hand at the werewolf genre. Its original book is what inspired my artistic hobby, thanks to Bernie Wrightson’s amazing illustrations, and served as the backbone for this tale. Marty Coleslaw, played by a charming Corey Haim, is bound to a wheelchair, and suspects that the murders in the small town of Tarker’s Mills are being done by a werewolf. Gary Busy plays Marty Coleslaw’s uncle, Red, who listens to him, but doesn’t take him too seriously until shit hits the fan. Sure, some of the FX did not turn out like the producers hoped, and even comes off looking a bit like Smokey The Bear in some scenes near the end, but that aside, this is still a pretty good yarn. Everett McGill plays the town reverend, and gives the best monologue I’ve heard in a werewolf picture. Sure, who the werewolf is may be the same kind of obvious that plagues Friday the 13th part V: The New Beginning, but do I care? No. Also features one of the better werewolf movie scores out there.
8. The Company of Wolves - Grade: A-
If I were handing out awards for specific categories for these werewolf movies, I’d give this one the award for Best Production Design, and there isn’t even a close runner up. Anton Furst's work on this is incredible, it’s gorgeous, looks like a real fairy tale, with just a touch of fakeness to know it’s not really our world. Basically an anthology of different werewolves weaving around what will eventually be a variation of Little Red Riding Hood, this movie’s really only weak spot, to me, is the opening in the modern era, of the young girl slipping into a dream. Then we’re in dreams within dreams with these stories. Didn’t seem necessary to do that, but luckily it doesn’t last long. This also features easily a top 5 werewolf transformation sequence involving Stephen Rea. Angela Lansbury as the grandma is a dear.
7. Trick ‘R Treat* - Grade: A-
In my opinion, still the best anthology horror film to come out this side of Creepshow 2 (yes, Creepshow 2, it’s awesome, dammit), and like The Company of Wolves, features a segment that pays homage to Little Red Riding Hood, with Anna Paquin (at her most gorgeous, if I may say) as Red, trying to find a date to take with her to a halloween party in the woods just outside of town. It has its own twists and turns, and the first time I saw this, I wasn’t even expecting it into a werewolf tale, so I was pleasantly surprised.
6. Curse of the Werewolf - Grade: A-
Hammer Films’ offering into the werewolf genre, with its own spin on The Wolf Man. Story-wise, it’s not at all the same as Universal’s classic film, however, they take inspiration from (probably) the first werewolf novel, simply titled Werewolf. It is about a bastard child, a product of rape by a creepy homeless man who may have been cursed himself, who is orphaned at birth, and raised by a well-off couple that wished for a child of their own. Sounds happy, until as the boy grows, he has temptations that causes him to change. His parents learn of this, and figure out how to keep it at bay, until the boy grows into a man, played by the excellent Oliver Reed, and is off on his own. By moonlight, if the man becomes aroused, he becomes the beast. Typical monster-running-around-town ensues. Reed doesn’t show up until the second half of the film, where the story really gets rolling.
5. The Monster Squad*- Grade: A-
I love Jon Gries as the Desperate Man/Wolfman in this film. From his opening scene desperate to get the town police to lock him up, to not wanting to be a part of Dracula’s plot, and his gratefulness to someone finally putting him out of his misery. This is a fun, horror-lite (meaning it's a horror film, but geared for a kid-centric audience, this film has quite a bodycount for something not rated R). It’s funny, for kids it can be scary and thrilling. It is essentially The Goonies (or Little Rascals, in concept, but The Goonies was more recent to audiences then) plus the Universal Classic Monsters. It’s a childhood favorite that hasn’t lost its touch. Some of the language hasn’t aged well at all though, some of the things the kids say in the film they couldn’t get away with today; a common occurrence amongst 80’s films.
4. The Wolf Man (1941) - Grade: A
The classic Universal film that laid the groundwork for most of the lore we know of today (not necessarily an originator, as many of the ingredients can be found spread around in older lore, but it put’em all together). Lon Chaney Jr. is wonderfully cast as the sympathetic Lawrence Talbot. His basset-hound face can gain the empathy of audiences with a single look. Jack Pierce’s make-up work holds up, even if the transformation techniques haven’t aged well (but I still like watching them!). Great moody atmosphere, black & white photography, and rolling fogs. The kills are basically stranglings, which don’t age well, or make sense given the type of creature this is. Could’ve had a little bit more in the film, since this runtime is barely an hour.
3. The Wolfman (2010) - Grade: A
Behind the scenes, production was a notorious mess, but the result is my favorite outcome of production hell. Yes, I prefer this over the original film. Rick Baker delivers top notch Make-up FX work (nabbing him another Oscar in the process), and the additions to the story work for me, even if one is kind of predictable. I like Benicio as Lawrence, but I will say Lon’s infinite sympathy still holds him up as the better Lawrence...however Benicio decimates as the beast. An excellent film score by Danny Elfman, one of my favorites of his from this century, and a great supporting cast, including Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving. The only thing preventing a “+” to the grade is the studio still forcing CGI into the movie, and it’s noticeable. The transformations that feature CGI work aren’t terrible - compared to other computer werewolf transformations they’re actually pretty damn good, but we Rick Baker fans know his practical work still would’ve looked better.
2. The Howling (1981) - Grade: A+
The showdown to the two high watermarks of the subgenre, and both from 1981 (the year I was born!). Both feature incredible and pioneering FX work designed by Rick Baker, but with The Howling, Rick had to leave production earlier, so he left it in the hands of his protege, Rob Bottin, and Rob delivered spectacularly. The story is about Karen White, who survives an attack by Los Angeles serial killer Eddie Quist, and she takes a vacation at a place known as the Colony to help her with her trauma, only it seems Eddie, thought shot dead by the police but has escaped from the morgue, is still alive and looking for her. Loosely based on the book by Gary Brandner, screenwriter John Sayles takes some welcome liberties to the story, adding extra depth to The Colony and their place in society. Clever, with a great supporting cast, and Dick Miller’s personal favorite role as a librarian who happens to know things about werewolf lore. Overall this is my preferred version of the werewolf myth.
1. An American Werewolf In London - Grade: A+
If one werewolf movie beat out The Howling, it’s going to be John Landis’ classic, An American Werewolf in London. Both scary and hilarious, it is the crown jewel of the horror comedy where both genres feel perfectly balanced (most tend to go too far into the comedy side for me). Two American backpackers, Jack and David, find themselves in a small town outside of London, where they are attacked by a werewolf. Jack is killed, and David survives the assault. As he wakes in a London hospital, he has increasingly bizarre nightmares and soon finds out that because he survived the attack by the werewolf, he is now becoming one. Of course...he doesn’t believe it, until the next full moon and we get the best werewolf transformation on camera, in a brightly lit room. Rick Baker got his first Oscar for best Make-up for this film, the first time Make-Up FX became a category, and is still a visual landmark. The ending is, as expected, tragic, and has a notoriously hilarious abrupt ending that gets funnier with each repeated viewing (though first timers are always caught off guard). Great soundtrack, though I admittedly would’ve preferred more of Elmer’s score placed into the film, but that’s the smallest of nitpicks.
And there we have it! I’m always on the lookout for more werewolf movies and am accepting recommendations...no matter how bad they may seem.