The next werewolf film to be featured in DK Canada’s highly enjoyable Monsters in the Movies is this Neil Jordan film from the 80s. I remember seeing the VHS case for it when I was beginning my movie education as a young teen. I didn’t recognize any of the names, and the VHS cover had a snarling wolf’s snout emerging violently from a man’s mouth. This wasn’t something I felt ready for.
However, in the early 90s, I came across it on PBS of all places, and recorded it one night to take a look. I was delighted with what I saw…
Jordan creates a dreamlike film which he co-wrote with Angela Carter, who wrote the source material, that tells an anthology of wolf tales as young Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) tosses and turns in the throes of a nightmare.
The cast features David Warner, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea, Brian Glover, and Terrence Stamp. Featuring some solid make-up work, and a fantastic melding of fairy tale and horror (think the original Grimm tales), the tales that Rosaleen’s Gran (Lansbury) shares center around three rules; never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet.
The dreamlike quality of the film lets it slip easily from the ghostly fog filled landscapes to horrific transformations and attacks. The stories itself, are familiar, there is a riff on Red Riding Hood, as well as a variation on the paw to human hand story.
Lansbury seems perfectly cast as Granny, and there seems to be a scary undercurrent to her performance, as if she is also the village witch… but that might just be my take on it. Warner is entertaining as Rosaleen’s father, and Stamp is criminally underused in his momentary appearance as the Devil.
There is a lovely score by George Fenton, which is as dreamlike as the film itself. There is an undertone of blossoming sexuality, as Rosaleen walks with a village boy, asks her mother if it hurts, and meets something more dangerous when she strays from the path.
Of course, there has always been a sexual undertone to werewolf and vampire stories, the werewolf in particular hints at the lustful, lurking beast within a man’s soul that most often, in these films, is spurned on by some beautiful woman (for better or for ill, in most cases ill).
I enjoyed this film when I first saw it, and delighted in rewatching it for the blog thanks to DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies. This is a film that has garnered a bit of a cult following, and very much falls into the love it or hate it category… but take a chance check this one out, or pick up a copy of Monsters in the Movies and find something macabre to watch tonight.