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John’s Horror Corner: The Company of Wolves (1984), featuring two of the most stylishly weird transformation scenes in the genre.

August 19, 2016

company_of_wolvesMY 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 WolvesThe 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).

If you want another utterly ridiculous werewolf movie, then move on to Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) and Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987).

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.”

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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.

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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 meetThat’s not exactly the kind of advice you’d hear from Confucius…or a grandma!

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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.

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Another transformation scene in the movie feels brief and comical, more akin to Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987).

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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).

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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.

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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!

THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, Sarah Patterson, 1984. (c) Cannon Films

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2016 10:17 pm

    What a great weird movie to have been made. It would never happen again in this day and age, that’s what makes the 80’s so awesome, lol. Although Twilight successfully put the vampire into his coffin for good (it seems) there is a little life left in werewolves. I esp. liked WER.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 19, 2016 10:18 pm

      Yeah, Wer had a good contemporary beat to it. I also really enjoyed Late Phases.

      • August 19, 2016 10:31 pm

        Yeah, I reviewed and liked that one too, Wolf Cop was a bit humorous too but a step down from the others. So there’s definitely some bite left in werewolf films if they grab a good angle to make them.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 19, 2016 10:40 pm

      As far as Vamp flicks go, I really liked the “first half” of Afflicted. Unfortunately, it didn’t end a fraction as well as it started.

  2. Victor De Leon permalink
    August 21, 2016 11:35 am

    Nice review! Haven’t seen this in ages. Now I need to check it out again. I did really enjoy WER. I gave that and Afflicted (flaws and all) pretty solid reviews. I have to watch Last Phases again and give it another shot. I only made it in about 20 minutes before I turned it off.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 21, 2016 1:28 pm

      Late Phases does the werewolf thing just differently enough for me (and Mark) to be thrilled it was made.

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        August 21, 2016 1:33 pm

        yeah, I’m gonna give it another shot. I own a copy. thanks!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 21, 2016 1:36 pm

      Totally agree with you about Afflicted. The first 30 minutes were like a 4-5 star “film” for me, but it middled and closed like a typical “watchable but not really recommended” horror flick. If those guys did a light-hearted buddy comedy/drama/adventure movie it could really be great. Basically, those characters’ lives before the Afflicted plot started.

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        August 21, 2016 1:43 pm

        thanks for checking out the review. yeah, I knew there was a reason I never revisited the movie. a glorified one and done flick, if that.

Trackbacks

  1. The Best Transformation Scenes of Horror, Part 1: Tales from the Darkside (1990), Zombeavers (2014) and Wolfcop (2014) | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  3. The Best Transformation Scenes of Horror, Part 2: A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), Late Phases (2014) and The Company of Wolves (1984) | Movies, Films & Flix

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