1. An American Werewolf in London:
When he and his friend are caught on the moors by a mysterious beast, David wakes up in the hospital and learns, from the ghost of his dead friend, that while he survived he would also carry the curse of the beast with him unless he could manage to kill himself. Believing himself delusional, David awakens from a number of feverish nightmares and also establishes a relationship with his nurse. But as the first month comes to an end, David becomes the beast and tears through the city of London. Never before or since has any movie studio truly managed to capture the pivotal transformation scene quite as stunningly as this film from the 80’s. It is one of the most gruesome, heart-wrenching, bone splintering scenes ever caught on film and it succeeded in delivering the much needed punch to the gut that this story required. David is a victim and he’s a nice enough kind of guy that the audience sympathizes with his plight and we pray he can somehow find a way to rid himself of the curse.
2. Silver Bullet
Examining the curse from another end of the spectrum, Silver Bullet is about a small town terrorized by the looming threat of a werewolf as it stalks the people and children. One boy, crippled and bound to a wheelchair, manages to inflict an injury on the beast one evening and escape. The injury allows the boy and his sister to investigate and discover the true identity of the beast, drafting their largely irresponsible uncle to help them survive the beasts coming attack. This movie is packed with tension and honest horror, with a fantastic performance from both Corey Haim and the films Werewolf Antagonist. If you haven’t had a chance to check this one out, do yourself a favor and go for it.
3. The Wolfman (original)
The original Universal classic still holds up well and really sets the foundation for many of the werewolf films that have come later. A fairly good and decent man is cursed to become a killing machine by the light of the full moon, spreading fear and terror throughout the small county.
A lot of my horror friends will probably find it odd that I’m including this more recent film on the list, but I truly think it’s one of the more fantastic twists on the Werewolf tale. Two close sisters are somewhat stunted and outcast from the world around them. When one is cursed, her body begins to go through all sorts of changes and needs that the other sister finds strange, confusing, and frightening. Growing further apart as the full moon draws close, one sister becomes desperate to find a cure while the other begins to bask in the glory of her transformation.
Waldermar Deninsky as played by Paul Naschy, and I have yet to find a better film with this character. If I do, maybe it will be replaced.
I obviously can’t end this little piece without talking about a few more issues with the Werewolf Genre film. I don’t include movies like Underworld, Van Helsing, or Monster Squad on the list because while they feature the savage beast of lore, they aren’t really “werewolf” movies. They’re used more as a foil or servant to the Vampire villains in those films, often playing second fiddle or hero to a worse evil. But one more film that I think I should talk abut is the one film I think is probably the most overrated Werewolf movie. There are some spoilers here.
I’ll debate this issue with any fan who thinks differently, but I think “the Howling” is one of the worst werewolf movies ever put together for the purpose of a franchise and a stand-alone story. The premise seems interesting enough, having a little weekend commune reveal themselves to be a pack of werewolves who get together and howl in the woods… but the way the story is put together has never made much in the way of sense to me. Dee Wallace is this reporter, she’s tracking a serial killer, she meets him in a theater, he’s a werewolf, he attacks her, the police shoot him and she takes the advice of her psychologist to attend his weekend getaway. There are so many questions that never get answered and I’m never quite certain what the whole point of the story was supposed to be; Invasion of the Werewolf snatchers? You see, the killer escapes the morgue and hides out at the same commune camp run by the psychologist, the reporter is joined by her gigilo husband, there’s this wild woman in the woods, there are all these random folks who happen to be werewolves, some production assistants look deeper into the place and discover the secrets, and Dee Wallace does a little bit of screaming along the way and ultimately winds up getting bitten at the near end, turns into a wolf on public television, and then gets shot. Were they trying to get her to become a wolf, and why? Was there some sort of master plan in the long run or what? Why did the killer pick her to go wolf on in the beginning of the movie and why would he then blow his cover of being DEAD just for another shot at this random reporter girl? Why did the psychologist bring her out to the commune when his werewolf buddy was presumed dead? Nothing ever makes sense in this movie… sure there’s a clear cut narrative, a story that begins and ends, but there are no answers because we’re tossed great special effects in place of any sort of reasoning.