Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Wolfhound-inspired: more on Wolves

Dear readers:

Now that Wolfhound Pub has redeemed itself, now that I'm as full as a coffee mug with Wolf-love, it seems a good time to share a little more about wolves... and then tell you about the new occupant of my dog-house.

First: on the wolf-love side: gotta tell you, now that I've seen pretty much every great, good, and even OK Zombie movie, the pool-ball scene in "Zombie Strippers" made it pretty clear to me that I'd hit the bottom of the barrel, as Zombie films go. (Don't worry. I didn't watch the whole thing. The whole "Give-you-a-lap-dance-then-eat-you" thing was just too many levels of exploitation at once, and it was witless and charmless and really twelve kinds of not fun and not cool -- couldn't even enjoy it in the "so bad it's good" way: it was just "so bad it's, um, really bad") So I thought I'd try out another monster movie genre: Vampires were too obvious, what with the film industry's Robert Pattinson-based Twigasm, so I checked out a few wolfmannish movies.

Basically: 1. wolfman is the red-headed stepchild of iconic movie monsters: surprisingly few really good movies, and even the "good" ones were surprisingly weak
2. this is partially explained by the nature of lycanfolk: only turning into a wolf for three nights a month makes it hard to build dramatic tension into a powerful climax -- either the beginning of the movie's all long and slow, just for a single riveting (hopefully) scene once the moon finally rolls around (cf: An American Werewolf in London), or the whole story happens in a very short timeframe, which can make for great action, but not much character development.
3. The tawdriness of the "man in a wolf suit" effects and costuming of most of these werewolf movies. Especially after the gleeful gore of even 1980s zombie movies, the wolfman effects left me in the cold, for the most part. Wolf costumes, people in wolf suits, just aren't graceful or impressive-looking enough to catch my attention. So here's the rundown of my brief flirtation with werewolf movies, before I decided "Hey. It's December. Let's get christmassy and watch feel-good movies instead."

Saw: Dog Soldiers - excellent British take on Wolfman. Man in suit monsters were the weak point - lame silhouettes - but whenever the wolves WEREN'T onscreen, great action sequences, good setup (British special forces vs. werewolves), etc..
Ginger Snaps - top 3, more psychological than action-based, especially with the subtext of the sisterhood theme, along with the coming of age confusion. Werewolfism becomes an interesting stand-in for teen anxieties about menstruation.
Blood & Chocolate - possibly the best one of the lot, the two leads were strong, and the movie's best strength was actually using wolves for the transformations. Had a tone and mysical feeling the others lacked, and created a real feeling of a wolf pack that was intriguing.
An American Werewolf in London: weak sauce. Especially the early '80s effects, which were not sophisticated enough for my CG-spoiled eye, but not primitive enough (see '60s movies) to be fun in a campy way. A lot of lists had this as one of the top werewolf films, which is a big part of why I didn't get deeper into the genre.

Still need to see: Heard good things about The Howling, and Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson. Jack could read the phonebook and still be compelling and watchable, so I'll at least give it a try. That may be it for my foray into werewolf films, unless somebody tells me about another I really need to see. Warning: any mention of Underworld or Van Helsing will lead to a complete loss of credibility. And if I need to mention ditto for Twilight, why am I even talking to you?

For the record: the best movies I saw during the zombie kick:

Transcends the Genre: Army of Darkness

1. Lucio Fulci's Zombie (1979) (Straight up zombie terror)
2. Zombieland (witty, genre-savvy and self-referential - the best postmodern zombie film)
3. Night of the Living Dead (the original)
4. Dawn of the Dead (original)
5. Cemetery Man (a zombie art film starring Rupert Everett. I kid you not)
6. 28 Days Later (if it qualifies as a Zombie film; purists say it doesn't)
7. Dead Snow (best climactic zombie-slaying action sequence outside of Zombieland. Plus: Nazi Zombies!)
8. Shawn of the Dead (Zombieland's pacing was better; less action than Shawn)
9. Dawn of the Dead (the remake: running zombies don't do it for me as much as for others)
10. Day of the Dead (go Bub!)

hurt to leave out: "Evil" - a fun Greek zombie film, and "Dead Alive" - the Transformers 2 of Zombie films - so over-the-top goes it over, folds back on itself, and goes back over again, as if Zombie films were a splatter contest. Plus: the lawnmower scene, and the most unkillable zombies in the whole genre) The other top contender in the splatter contest: Planet Terror

And: Campy good: Flight of the Living Dead
Campy bad: all the Return of the Living Dead movies.

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