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John’s Horror Corner: Good Manners (2017; As Boas Maneiras), a Disney-esque Brazilian horror-musical werewolf movie.

December 13, 2018

As you can see, the movie poster isn’t trying to hide anything. There’s no mystery nor spoiler in calling this a werewolf movie.

MY CALL: Emotionally delicate and theatrically rich, this feels like the equivalent of a Disney musical for fans of light horror. Genre? This is a PG-13ish, Disney-esque, Guillermo del Toro-inspired, Brazilian horror-musical werewolf movie. MOVIES LIKE Good Manners: For more horror musicals (that are “much more” musical), try The Lure (2015), The Devil’s Carnival (2012), Lo (2009) and Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008). If you were trying to transition a young viewer from lighter PG-13 horror after seeing Good Manners, I’d go with Ghost Stories (2017), Haunter (2013), Odd Thomas (2013) or The Willies (1990) and then eventually graduate to Boarding School (2018).

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 The Company of Wolves (1984), 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), 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.”

Clara (Isabél Zuaa), a soft-spoken nurse-turned-nanny without any references to speak of, is hired by the mysterious, wealthy and pregnant Ana (Marjorie Estiano). We know little about either of them, and both have secrets. Despite having their share of tension, they come to care for and depend on one another. Drinking a few beers one day and batting not an eye upon learning the sex of her child the next, Ana doesn’t seem over-joyed with her pregnancy. But one must wonder why…

My eyes were constantly drawn to the brilliantly utilized yellow lighting, thematic to the eyes of the wolf. This film features some gorgeous shots and general cinematography, except for the CGI cityscapes and skies. For the most part, the special effects (almost all weak CGI) could have certainly been better. So, it should come as no surprise that the transformation scene was nothing impressive (like a PG-13 Disney TV show).

Clocking in at 2 hours and 15 minutes, this film is highly unusual. The first hour feels like an entirely different movie than the remainder, but not at all to its detriment. It’s a foreign language Brazilian horror film, a horror musical, sooooort of a family-friendly Grimm tale, and a werewolf movie to boot. We encounter themes of sleepwalking, lesbianism, motherhood, nocturnal transformation, pregnancy, childbirth, child rebellion and the unappreciated plights of parenthood.

The childbirth scene is a gory, but the delight is in seeing the bloody newborn werewolf baby—a major pivoting point in the tone of the entire film. The creature is murderous but actually also cute, and it earns our affections with its vulnerability. Yes, there are clear-as-day horror elements and some lightly “scary” imagery at times, but for the most part this film is far more contemporary fairy tale than anything close to horror and, as viewers, we are never really afraid of much outside of the characters’ well-being. In fact, despite taking long to evolve to such a state, this film is more arthouse in nature—complete with theatrical devices and, yes, singing. This film is listed as a musical, but we actually wait for an hour for this genre to come to fruition—and not frequently so either (only three musical numbers in total, but they all three matter). Yet another unique aspect of this film.

This story’s approach to lycanthropy isn’t groundbreaking, but the nuance is fleshed out and appreciated. Quite tender, it seems allegory for the fragile yet unwaivering care of a parent-child relationship. If only its maturity level wouldn’t bore them, I’d say that (minus a sex scene and the birth scene) this film would aaaaalmost be appropriate for a preteen audience. But not quite.

Our filmmakers (Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas) clearly cared not to follow any genre paradigms. They told this story exactly as they wished; exactly as it needed to be told. It all comes to a gracefully sad ending that glimmers of a bedtime story Guillermo del Toro would tell his children, finishing the story just short of anything that would bring them nightmares.

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