John’s Horror Corner: The Company of Wolves (1984), featuring two of the most stylishly weird transformation scenes in the genre.
MY CALL: One of the more stylish yet less substantial werewolf movies out there, this movie features two highly memorable transformation scenes worth the price of admission alone. MOVIES LIKE The Company of Wolves: The Brothers Grimm (2005), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Return to Oz (1985), and maybe even Deadtime Stories (1986). Viy: Forbidden Empire (2014) is dark fantasy, but I’d dare not call it good nor would I recommend it for anything but the transformation scene and a few other decent bits.
MORE WEREWOLF MOVIES: The best werewolf movies would have to be An American Werewolf in London (1981; semi-humorous), Ginger Snaps (2000; metaphoric), Dog Soldiers (2002; unconventional) and The Howling (1981; serious).
However, I’d advise you skip Red Riding Hood (2011), Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004), Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988), Howling V: The Rebirth (1989), Howling VI: The Freaks (1991) and The Howling: Reborn (2011) unless you are a werewolf movie/franchise completist.
And for more stylish werewolf movies Meridian (1990), Cursed (2005; cliché-loaded and contemporary), Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004), Wolf (1994), Wer (2013), The Wolfman (2010), Wolfcop (2014) An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Late Phases (2014) and the Underworld movies (2003, 2006, 2009, 2012) are also worth a watch.
Waxwork (1988), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Deadtime Stories (1986), Van Helsing (2004), Monster Squad (1987) and many others also feature werewolves, but not to such centerpiece extent that I’d call them “werewolf movies.”
As if Disney and Grimm had an R-rated lovechild, this film lays on the fairy tale allusions thick with dreams, wicked sisters, animated toys and uber-creepy gingerbread men.
After the tragic loss of her sister (Georgia Slowe) to the wolves of the dark magical woods, young Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson; Snow White) accompanies her grandmother (Angela Lansbury; Murder, She Wrote, The Last Unicorn, Beauty and the Beast) through the woods. Don’t eat the berries and be wary of the beasts that lurk in the shadows, Granny warns… Never eat a windblown apple, never wander from the path, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet. That’s not exactly the kind of advice you’d hear from Confucius…or a grandma!
While knitting Rosaleen a red garment, Granny warns that sometimes a wolf is more than a wolf and that they come in various disguises. She goes on to spin a “once upon a time” about a unibrowed travelling man (Stephen Rea; Underworld: Awakening, Werewolf: The Beast Among Us) who turns out to be more than he seems. This story is one of several stories told to and by our Red Riding Hood Rosaleen in this pseudo-anthology which features three transformation scenes—and two of them are your reason to watch this movie!
The first transformation scene begins with a subtle change in eye color to a sharp yellow. He proceeds to tear away chunks from his cheek and his forehead, stretching and yanking flaps from his neck and his chin. It’s quite deliciously gross. After tearing away the last of his skin and hair with bony hands he uncovers a fleshless head of sinew from which springs and extends his canine muzzle. It’s all practical effects, of course, and weirdly off-putting—it actually reminds me of the modern “Bodies” exhibit. Finally, his neck extends like a turtle’s from its shell as it unsheathes!
This scene may not be as brutally long and painful as An American Werewolf in London (1981) or as grimy and sloppy as The Howling (1981) or its Wolfcop (2014) successor, but it’s quite effectively uncomfortable to watch.
Another transformation scene in the movie feels brief and comical, more akin to Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987).
And a final transformation scene features a gross writhing tongue followed by the emergence of a wolf’s snout from a man’s wide open mouth (as seen on the movie poster) before it tears its way out of his skin as if it wore him as a suit (a more crude version of the “unzipping” werewolves we find in Trick ‘r Treat).
If you love these transformations, you should check out The Best Transformations of Horror.
This film casts an interesting tone. The mossy, misty woodland scenes will remind you of Labyrinth (1986) and The Dark Crystal (1982)… just without the Henson Muppet creatures.
I have a major soft spot for this movie…perhaps it’s the transformation scenes, perhaps its dark fairy tale nature. But make no mistake, overall this is rather slow-paced and far from exciting. This film is more style than substance, and that style would be best-defined as dark, off-color and aloof—but very cool!