Signaling low expectations, Universal ran only a fifteen-second piece for it’s forthcoming Benicio del Toro-starrer The Wolfman during Sunday’s superbowl. In it, we got that Anthony Hopkins plays a mischievous old coot, that the de rigueur man-to-wolf transformation sequence is straight from the An American Werewolf in London playbook, and that the c.g.i. version of the wolfman—seen here leaping between London rooftops—looks in both style and movement very much like Wes Anderson’s foppish Mr. Fox. “Harumph!” says I, as if I’d been expecting something else. Werewolf movies are, in the main, execrable trash. A few exceptions that prove the rule after the jump.
5. Ginger Snaps – Takes Teen Wolf’s whole lycanthropy-as-a-metaphor-for-puberty thing and plays it relatively straight and goth-y. More entertaining and perhaps even more credible than Mike Nichol’s soporific Wolf.
4. The Wolf Man – The Lon Chaney Jr. classic was, to use the current shibboleth, a game-changer as far the werewolf genre is concerned. Although there had been prior werewolf-themed pictures, screenwriter Curt Siodmak set the standard by inventing whole cloth the now familiar lore about silver bullets, wolfsbane, and full moons.
3. An American Werewolf in London – John Landis’ horror/comedy masterpiece probably deserves better than third on this list, seeing as how it features one of my all-time favorite film lines: “Sorry I called you meatloaf Jack!”
2. Wolfen – Really more about shapeshifters than werewolves per se, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to lupine cinema. It’s also an extraordinary time-capsule depicting bleak, 80’s-era urban decay in the South Bronx.
1. The Howling – Joe Dante’s contribution to the genre remains my all time favorite for a host of reasons: Slim Pickens is in it for one, the script is by John Sayles, and Dee Wallace-Stone gives what I’ve long thought the performance of her career. I also appreciate how the female werewolves sometimes look like puppies.