Tag Werewolves

13 Hrs (2010)

13 Hrs (2010)

A deadly secret is coming home.

After taking time to set up her new life in America, Sarah returns to her isolated countryside home in England for a much-delayed visit. However she comes to back to trouble: her mother is missing and assumed to be visiting a lover; her father has financial issues; and her ex-boyfriend Doug has gotten together with her childhood friend. But when a storm knocks out the power, they realise that they’re not alone in the house as a deadly creature is now roaming the corridors.

 

Sailing on the coattails of the fact that it’s produced by one of the guys who produced Dog Soldiers, 13 Hrs can’t hide the fact that’s a film low on budget and even lower on fresh ideas. I can’t be too hard on it since it was shot in six weeks, edited quickly afterwards on a meagre budget and the fact that it is British (supporting my home film industry and all of that….). Actually I can be hard on it since surely there’s more that one can do with a bit of imagination and creativity than simply rehash tired old clichés and band them together with a shoe-string plot.

I honestly had no idea that this was meant to be a werewolf film (shows you how little attention I paid to the DVD cover which actually mentions werewolf!). Nothing throughout 13 Hrs points towards lycanthropy and the brief glimpses of the creature give us nothing to connect the dots. The first section of the film introduces us to the characters and they’re all irritable, bland or a combination of the two. Even the heroine has a rather nasty streak to her. There’s no one to root for as they’re continually bitching to each other and this one of the film’s glaring problems. Siding with an unknown enemy against this irritating cast isn’t so good when you’ve made your allegiances within the first ten minutes.

The cast aren’t great but it’s not like they had a lot to work with. Gemma Atkinson has been cast for her physical attributes but must have had a good agent so that she didn’t strip down at any point and show us those attributes. Tom Felton, of Harry Potter fame, also gets a headlining role but it’s hardly the role he needs if he wants to break free of the Draco Malfoy stereotype. It’s also pretty sad that this was the late Simon MacCorkindale’s last film and his cameo role at the beginning is a pitiful way to call time on his career. Though I’m sure Jaws 3-D was never high on his list either.

The creature looks more like a relative to the Crawlers in The Descent with its balding head, lack of body hair and sharp claws. You won’t have a clue what it’s meant to be and the characters assume it’s some rabid animal at first. Red POV shots are banded around to try and make the creature seem scary but it’s hardly on screen long enough to even bother turning it into some sort of major threat. Attack scenes are quickly edited so you have little clue as to what is going on and most of the creature’s bloody rampage happens off-camera. There’s a subplot about a local animal handler who is recruited by the police to respond to the 999 call at the house but this literally becomes a dead end plot which serves no purpose to the film except kill a bit more running time. The plot twist and revelation at the end is also about as shocking as finding out that the Pope is Catholic. It’s signposted almost right from the get-go and is a little too obvious to make the ending anything but unsatisfactory. But when the rest of the film is just as plodding, it’s hardly going to make much difference.

 

13 Hrs is passable entertainment, no doubt watchable enough for anyone who’s never seen a horror film before but for anyone else, it’s just a film which goes through the motions and makes no qualms about doing that. There is potential here but it’s clear that everyone involved played it as safe as possible. Even the bald werewolf!

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Big Bad Wolf (2006)

Big Bad Wolf (2006)

This ain’t no fairytale

Derek wants to fit in by joining a fraternity so he offers some of the members the chance to sneak into his asshole stepfather’s cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying. However the weekend doesn’t turn out well and everyone except Derek and his friend Samantha is killed by a werewolf. Derek has a suspicion that his stepfather is hiding a terrible secret and sets out trying to prove it. But the situation is made even worse when the stepfather realises what Derek is doing.

 

I’ve got to admit that the only reason I ever checked Big Bad Wolf out was because I saw a still photo from it featuring a werewolf grabbing hold of a semi-naked blonde girl in a manner almost too sexual to be a kill scene. Almost immediately, I decided that I had to see this and Big Bad Wolf doesn’t disappoint. I wish they made more films like this. Something that pushes the boundaries of taste a little further than the norm. Something that doesn’t give a crap whether it’s corny, campy or sleazy. Something that isn’t perfect and knows it. Something that is just fun and entertaining. That my friends, is Big Bad Wolf. It’s not the greatest werewolf film out there but it doesn’t fail to deliver the goods.

It’s a lot of fun in an old school 80s way. The werewolf story isn’t brimming with originality but at least some new twists are attempted to the old routine. The script works and gives us characters you’ll like and characters you’ll hate. It’s a given in any film that you need some main characters to empathise with and in Derek (Trevor Duke), a bit of a wimp and an oddball, you have a rather different hero to root for than your usual good-looking, jock-like teenager. This dweeb is easy to like and cheer on, not only to stop the werewolf but to get the girl he wants too.

As hilarious and gory as the action scenes are, I liked the scenes of the two leads trying to prove that the stepfather is a werewolf. The scenes add drama to the film and give the characters a bit of depth. But for all of its decent casting and script, the beauty of the film is down to the sleaze and cheese factor. The kill scenes are full of splatter and gore as the werewolf gets messy, ripping arms off, slashing throats and having a good feed. There’s also nudity from one of the great-looking chicks in the film. There’s even a bit of rape and bestiality as the werewolf has his way with one of the characters, firing off some great taunts to her boyfriend who is trying to rescue her. There is no shirking away from the bad taste: Big Bad Wolf wears it like a badge of honour.

Richard Tyson is great the sinister step dad who turns into the werewolf. He adds just the right mix of violence and sleaze to his character and that’s both in human form and werewolf form. He’s one of the ultimate asshole characters I’ve ever seen and that’s before he even opens his mouth! The guy just has the “dick” vibe to him with his eyes. When he’s in human form, he’s good. When he’s in werewolf form, he’s excellent. You see this werewolf talks. And not only does he talk, he fires off one-liners and quips, most of which do actually hit the mark. But when he’s not making light of the situation, he’s one nasty piece of work. He’s not just your token werewolf who acts like a rabid animal – this one still retains plenty of his humanity but in this case he has no morals and no control. He’s quite happy to explore the darker side of human nature, unleashed repressed desires and indulge in shocking practices. And because he thinks he’s unstoppable, his ‘you can’t do anything about it’ attitude is awesome. He gets his own way for a lot of the film which makes the character even more smug and self-satisfied.

The only thing slightly disappointing is the werewolf make-up. It looks like a cheap Halloween costume at times but maybe that’s where the fun in this is. The make-up does at least allow for Richard Tyson to be able to act through the make-up and convey lots of different emotions. The transformation scene is done with CGI and its not convincing but thankfully it’s not a regular occurrence. Once you’ve seen it, the film assumes you don’t need to see it again.

 

Big Bad Wolf has got a great sense of humour, loads of old school gore, a wise-cracking werewolf and naked chicks – what more do you want from a cheap b-movie schlocker?

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Curse of the Werewolf, The (1961)

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

EVEN THOSE WHO LOVED HIM WERE NOT SAFE!

Leon is born on Christmas Day to a mute servant girl who was raped by a beggar. His mother dies after the birth and Leon is raised by a doctor, Don Alfredo. Leon seems to have a strange liking for the blood of animals after having drunk from a dead squirrel that Alfredo’s grounds man had shot. His behaviour grows increasingly strange whenever there is a full moon, which leads to Alfredo putting bars on his windows to ‘keep out the nightmares.’ Many years later and now a young man, Leon leaves home to take up employment at vineyard where he falls in love with the owner’s daughter. However his strange behaviour has not deserted him and when the full moon is at its highest, he transforms into a werewolf.

 

After striking gold with The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula and The Mummy, Hammer looked for further famous horror properties that they could be revitalised in glorious Technicolour. Amongst the ‘second tier’ of famous characters that the studio chose to update were the likes of the Phantom of the Opera, Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde and the Wolf Man. Unfortunately these three tend to be forgotten about when people look back at Hammer’s heyday with nostalgia but there’s a good reason – they’re simply nowhere near as good as the ‘big three.’

Universal’s The Wolf Man was an original creation dreamt up for Hollywood, not born out of a classic novel like the other cinematic monstrosities it shared the screen with in the 40s. So instead of Hammer purchasing the rights to Universal’s screenplay, they simply adapted a novel, The Werewolf of Paris, to the big screen and transported the location to Spain. What we get with The Curse of the Werewolf is a curious tale which tries to do too much in too little time. The story is near epic and begs to be given at least two hours to flesh out as the script covers a number of years in its short length. Screenwriter Anthony Hinds crafts a prolonged build-up, beginning with the story of the beggar, the marques and the mute servant. Almost half of the film’s running time is devoted to the werewolf’s origin and this part of the film bravely attempts to rework the now-familiar werewolf mythology. It is something which is both fresh and puzzling at the same time. The notion that being a werewolf is some sort of a curse from God which is curable by love is well thought-out but little utilised and in the end it’s good old fashioned silver bullets which will do the damage to this furry fiend.

Perhaps the film is a little too preoccupied with fleshing out the back story to Leon and by the time things get around to progressing into the inevitable transformation, the script seems to rush through the motions as quickly as possible. The first half of the film works a lot better than the second because by the time the story shifts onto Leon as a young man, few of the characters we’ve spent the last forty minutes with are left in the film due to the nature of the time period covered. So more secondary characters are introduced and we get little time to spend with them before the film is over. It’s almost as if the film is reset at the halfway point which isn’t good for pacing as things take too long to pick up momentum afterwards.

More brooding than outright horrific, I’d be surprised if anyone screamed at this back in 1961 let alone today. The actual wolf man doesn’t show up until the hour mark and his eventual rampage is somewhat of a let-down, culminating in some Frankenstein-like finale where villagers with flaming torches follow him on the ground as he races across rooftops. Roy Ashton’s outstanding make-up needs to take a lot of plaudits though. It’s genuinely unsettling with its greyish tones marking a different appearance to the traditional black we have become accustomed to seeing werewolves in.

By the time Oliver Reed makes his first appearance, the film is fifty minutes in. The Curse of the Werewolf marks his first screen appearance and Reed is no less than fantastic as the tormented Leon. It’s clear to see from this small role that he was oozing charisma and is leading man material. Even though the script gives him little to do, his presence significantly raises the quality of the film whenever he’s on screen. The inner torment his character is facing is evident in Reed’s expressions (made more poignant by his eventual battles with the bottle) but he’s equally adept at snarling and growling and the finale when we finally see him transform into a werewolf is a tour-de-force of rabid aggression and animalistic instincts. You just wish that the script had decided to get the older version of Leon into the film a lot sooner and play off the strengths of Reed as an actor.

Little-known Clifford Evans is underrated in the role of Don Alfredo, Leon’s adoptive father, embodying the character with a real likeability and sense of nobility. Catherine Feller, as Leon’s love interest, gets little time to make her presence felt (as she appears even later in proceedings than Reed) and thus the eventual romance that is supposed to develop between the two seems more like a token offering than any actual true love. Hammer veteran Michael Ripper pops up as a drunken villager, there’s a small bit-part for Desmond Llewelyn (of James Bond ‘Q’ fame) and Anthony Dawson (also of Bond fame, playing the slimy Professor Dent character in Dr No) leaves an odious impression in his small role as Marques Siniestro.

 

The Curse of the Werewolf contains the trademark Hammer horror ingredients but there’s a definite lack of scares, the pacing is well off and the film gives you the impression that it’s been condensed down from a massive mini-series into a TV movie because it covers too much ground in its short time and harms itself in the process by being very stop-start. It’s hardly the worst Hammer film out there but, with the title creature getting its only ‘Hammer-isation’ and a superb turn by Oliver Reed, you should be expecting a lot more than you’re given.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Legend of the Werewolf (1975)

Legend of the Wereolf (1975)

A Tyburn Tale of Terror

A boy that was raised by wolves is found by a travelling circus who use him as a “wolf boy” attraction. Years later, he kills the one-man band and escapes into the city where he gets a job as a zookeeper. He also falls in love with a prostitute but soon his jealousy brings out his wolf side and he begins to kill off her clients.

 

After an unprecedented couple of decades of international success, British horror was on the slide back in the mid 70s. With Hammer nearly exhausted, Amicus’ obsession with horror anthologies coming to an end and the growing dominance of American classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist and Night of the Living Dead, there wasn’t really much life in the tame UK genre as audiences were tired of the same old formula and routine. Tyburn, a lesser known studio, tried to break into the market at the worst time possible. They had little success and made this and the equally as feeble The Ghoul before disappearing into the wilderness again.

It’s not for the want of trying. Legend of the Werewolf assembles a couple of Hammer’s stalwarts – notably director Freddie Francis and star actor Peter Cushing – and attempts to copy the Hammer style of filmmaking down to a tee. But it’s just low budget, dull and, at the end of the day, just one horror film too many. Saturation killed off any sort of originality these films had and you get the real sense of ‘been there, done that’ right from the start. Granted Hammer never really delved into the werewolf genre as much as it did Frankenstein or Dracula but the similarities between this and Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf are too uncanny (well they were both written by the same person).

There isn’t really much a mystery as to who or what is killing everyone – we know what it is because we’ve sat down to watch a film called Legend of the Werewolf so we expect werewolves. It’s that whole thing of waiting for the characters to play catch up with what the audience already knows. Freddie Francis was always one of Hammer’s most underrated directors but here his direction is lifeless and flat. He’s going through the motions just as much as anyone. The film just plods along from A to B quite happily. By the mid-70s, everyone more or less knew how the film would pan out but Tyburn stuck to their guns and continued to make them the way they thought people still wanted them made. The box office receipts would have told them that wasn’t the case.

Legend of the Werewolf contains some point-of-view shots that look to be way ahead of their time as the werewolf stalks and kills its victims. There’s little suspense in these moments and it’s obvious that no one knew quite how to handle the POV shots other than to add in a new gimmick. The werewolf make-up looks terrible too although most old school werewolf films suffer from the same fate. At least there’s a smattering of gore although this is mainly confined to close-up shots of bloody fangs after an attack.

As is the case with the majority of these horror films, it’s the cast which is left to pick up the pieces. Peter Cushing adds his unmistakable touch of class to the proceedings and is easily the best thing about the film, especially when compared to the rest of the cast. If you’re like me and you wanted to plough through his entire résumé, then he did star in worse films. Not many but a few! The other exception in the cast is Ron Moody who plays the sleazy head zookeeper. The performance is rather seedy and perverted which adds a creepy tone to the scenes in which he’s in. Hammer legend Michael Ripper also pops up in an ill-fated cameo as an unlucky attendant who meets his demise in the sewers. Roy Castle is also on hand for an unwelcome comedy relief role as a photographer.

 

Legend of the Werewolf is a tame horror flick, not just in today’s context but back in the day when George A. Romero and Tobe Hooper were raising hell over in America. It’s nothing memorable nor is it a terrible film. It’s just……there or thereabouts. For Cushing enthusiasts only.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Beast Must Die, The (1974)

The Beast Must Die (1974)

One of these eight people will turn into a werewolf. Can you guess who it is when we stop the film for the WEREWOLF BREAK? See it … solve it … but don’t tell!

Tom Newcliffe is a millionaire game hunter who has hunted almost everything on the planet and now wants to hunt the ultimate prey – a werewolf. He invites six guests to his huge country estate, all with previous links to cannibalism of some kind, and has rigged up a high-tech security and surveillance system to keep track of everyone. With the full moon approaching, someone is going to turn into a werewolf. But who?

 

Amicus, the British horror rivals to Hammer, were clearly never in the same league as their more successful counterparts but at least they kept churning out horror when the other studio was struggling. Apart from their copious amount of anthology films, Amicus at least tried to make their horror films modern and keep up with modern trends as opposed to Hammer just throwing out the old period setting time after time. Clearly inspired by the success of Murder on the Orient Express, The Beast Must Die is a curious attempt to mix a whodunit with a werewolf film. The result is a mixed bag where the final product is clearly well short of how the film was perceived.

The problem is that the film is dreadfully dull and uneventful with lots of talking about werewolves and their whole mythology but not a lot of actual werewolf action. The script is the major problem for this. There’s clearly a great idea up for grabs here (and I’d love to see this remade with a little more effort put in) but the writers just don’t know what to do with it barring the odd gimmick. The ‘suspects’ are introduced early on in proceedings and we’re given some background details about why each of them could possibly be a werewolf. But then after this initial reveal, there’s very little in the way of character development. We’re hardly given any more clues as to who the werewolf is and there is one guy who is given so much screen time that it’s so obvious he isn’t the werewolf.

The film opens with a voice stating the nature of what is going to happen and tells you in advance to look for clues carefully. But they obviously forgot the clues! In a murder mystery, each of the characters is usually given a strong alibi not to be the murderer but also a strong reason to be suspected of being the murderer. Here the characters are just all suspects with little evidence to support being a suspect or innocent. Towards the end, there is a pause in the film and the voice comes on again asking the viewer who they think the werewolf is. It quickly runs down the suspects and a little clock comes on giving you thirty seconds to decide who it is. It’s pretty much pot luck as to who you think the werewolf is and I didn’t get it right first time around. It’s a nifty little idea but because it’s been handled so poorly, it will most likely mean a toilet break for most viewers.

The film then moves on to the finale which is really reminiscent of the blood test scene from The Thing as each suspect takes it in turns to put a silver bullet in their mouth (remember silver kills werewolves). Unfortunately the scene is nowhere near as effective or tense as it should be. But because we haven’t really gotten to know any of the characters in great detail there’s little attachment to any of them so you don’t really care if one of them is the werewolf or not.

The actual werewolf is a rather poorly made-up dog which looks really unconvincing, especially when it licks it’s mouth and wags its tails at it’s victims as if it wants to play instead of ripping them apart. You don’t even see the person transform into the werewolf. But this is a film which puts the werewolf factor in second place behind being a mystery flick. The cast is a quality ensemble but not enough of them are given anything worthwhile to do. Peter Cushing, Charles Gray, Anton Diffring and Michael Gambon are all totally wasted. They were all capable of putting in great performances yet they can’t seem to get going here with poorly written supporting roles.

The best performance comes from Calvin Lockhart as Tom Newcliffe who may come off as a bit cheesy now but at least he gets stuck into his role. This was made in an era of blaxploitation which is probably the reason why Lockhart was offered the lead role. There are a few silly nods to blaxploitation with Lockhart’s jive talking but thankfully the film doesn’t turn into Shaft with werewolves. It just means that the whole piece looks rather dated now.

 

The Beast Must Die isn’t a bad film and is definitely worth one watch to see who the werewolf is. But I can’t overlook the criminal waste of some truly top notch acting talent and the unique idea, which would have worked so well in the hands of a better writer.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆