Tag Archives: The Amityville Horror

Hungry Like the Werewolf by Billy Crash

Werewolves Got Bite

When it comes to horror sub-genres, “creature features” are a favorite of many, and one can break down that sub-genre into other segments, like a centipede, human or otherwise, if you prefer. But the hairiest of them all – besides King Kong and Mighty Joe Young, of course – are tales of werewolves.

This is not a personal favorite because of the limitations of the beast in recalling who it had annihiliated in the wake of a full moon; the notion of the full moon itself because even if the satellite is not full, the moon is still present with its gravitational pulling power; and since silver is so prevalent and realitively easy to come by, it’s not too difficult to take out a weremonster on the silver screen, no less.

 

Sympathy for the Hairy Devil

The central element of most forays into wolfdom involves a “good man” who becomes the “bad beast.” In this case, the individual has given up humanity, a consideration for others, and becomes a cannibal or tooth-and-claw shredding machine relying on base instincts. The beast within is our animal instincts made real. It’s as if we’ve gone back 2.8 million years to our hairy ancestors, the Homo Habilis, who stood on two legs in the continent of Africa, and had to navigate the world’s dangers in order to achieve “survival of the fittest” mega-status. This is undoubtedly why most motion pictures depict Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Mr. Hyde” as a primitive and often hairy man. After all, we don’t want Mr. Hyde to look like the rest of us because that means we’re all bad. Dr. Jekyll’s alter evil is the base form of humanity giving into the dark side of the self we often choose not to express.

Like Mr. Hyde, the human turned werewolf isn’t just bad to the bone, but wears its evil on the outside: hairy, pointed ears, larger nose, and gnashing teeth (Hyde also has some kind of deformity). It’s visual proof that this character is to be avoided at all costs.

 

Why Eight is Gr8

What follows is a list of the top eight werewolf films ever made to date. Why not the average top ten? Because this is it. The rest are 3 stars or less out of five, and that doesn’t make the cut. And that’s because most werewolf movies rank really low due to weak storytelling that usually involves someone (a guy mostly), who either becomes a werewolf from a bite, or who already is one, but either does or doesn’t know it, or someone thinks he is and can’t prove it… Well, you know the story. The clichés are virtually endless – as well as the disappointment. But what follows are great looking films with twists to the tried, true, and tropey, that make us embrace the wolf like Seth Green’s Oz in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and keep us free from a trap:

 

The Wolf Man (1941) – 3.5 stars

The hairy grandwolf of them all, because the 1913 silent, The Werewolf had been destroyed in Universal’s 1924 fire, George Waggner’s tale from the pen of Curt Siodmak features Lon Chaney Jr. as the tragic Larry Talbot (the surname means an extinct dog with large ears). Larry’s a pragmatic soul who doesn’t heed the warnings of “you can’t go home” and ends up being bitten by a wolf. He becomes the monster, the wolf man, and his demise, his fall from humanity is one of the saddest stories in all of horror.

 

Late Phases (2014) – 3.5 stars

If anyone should have been nominated for best actor in 2014, it was Don Damici for his portrayal of the elderly and blind veteran, Ambrose McKinley. Bitter about his move to a retirement community, he’s soon concerned that people aren’t dying of old age, but from “dog attacks” in the neighborhood. Like a famed blind samurai, McKinley stakes his ground and fights back – hard. As a writer, Eric Stolze delivered something different than the usual youthful fare.

 

Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004) – 3.5 stars

Ever see a werewolf film based on a true story? Sure we had Brotherhood of the Wolf, but that went right off the rails. Elena Serra and Alberto Marini deliver the story of Romasanta, Spain’s first recorded serial killer, who killed thirteen women in the mid-1800s and turned them into soap (Fight Club made real). He avoided “death by garrotte” mostly due to his statement that he was a werewolf. In the film, Julian Sands plays the man who wooed women to their demise in Paco Plaza’s dramatic horror.

 

An American Werewolf in London (1981) – 4 stars

This masterful horror/comedy from writer/director John Landis, with phenomenal special make-up effects from guru Rick Baker, tells the story of David Kessler, played by David Naughton, who should have listened to the locals and stayed indoors. Instead, he heads out, gets attacked by a werewolf, and… Well, the rest is up to you. The narrative took the sad sack story of 1941’s The Wolf Man and made it more introspective, yet maybe just as sad.

 

Wolf Cop (2014) – 4 stars

After winning $1 million in a contest to make an independent film, writer/director Lowell Dean delivers the over-the-top story of Lou Garou, portrayed by Leo Fafard, who’s a drunken bum of a cop, but when fur hits the fan, steps up and finally does the right thing to save his town, and maybe even himself. If you want a fun ride, this one will leave you howling at the moon.

 

Howl (2015) – 4 stars

Coming out of nowhere, if Train to Busan is the best zombie film on the rails, take a ride on Paul Hyett’s train to Furtown where the werewolves come straight out of Creep City to punch your ticket. Ed Speeler’s is Joe, an attendee of spineless proportions who doesn’t want to step up and engage in the hero’s journey. He’s checking tickets and using his best customer service skills to keep ticked off passengers at bay, when the amazing Sean Pertwee, in a cameo as the driver, hits a deer and brings the train to a halt – and then all Hell breaks loose.

 

Ginger Snaps (2000) – 5 stars

Hard to believe that so long ago the horror world came face to face with Emily Perkins, Kris Lemche, and Katherine Isabelle, whose careers were launched from a coming of age parable in bloody wolf form. This very dark comedy of perfect proportions features two death worshipping who want to keep womanhood and the world at bay, but end up fighting against everything they ever wished for.

 

Dog Soldiers (2002) – 5 stars

Sean Pertwee leads his boys on a military exercise in the Scottish Highlands, only to discover that the drill is definitely over when werewolves come out to play and decimate his squad. Kevin McKidd stands tall, and with his breathren, do everything imaginable to truly keep the wolves at bay. Neil Marshall’s amazing film captures a military unit at its realistic best and keeps us rocking on a gut-ripping ride of action, mystery, suspense, and a ton of carnage.

 

No, I didn’t forget lycanthropes of The Howling, Wolfen, Silver Bullet, or The Company of Wolves. They just didn’t have enough bite. Underworld and Monster Squad didn’t make it because the onus was on the vampire who led werewolves around on sometimes invisible leashes. But what do you think of this list? And what are your favorite big teeth, big eyes, and hairy beast movies? Let me know and we’ll chat about it.

Woof.

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great in depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on TwitterLinkedInIMDbAmazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Dog Soldiers from Dog Soldiers Wikia.)

Highways of Horror – Day III

He had the eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold…

Bela Lugosi – Extraordinary Tales

Forgive my writing. By the time I get to these posts my brain is jelly, which means writing weaknesses shine through as I pounce on the keys. I know I’m mixing tenses, and I’m sure Grammar Nazis cringe with each read. There simply isn’t time to edit and revise. And I’m not sure if Edgar Allan Poe were alive he’d care, for writing, grammar, or a trip away from the east coast he had clung to, but Poe may have enjoyed how his story, The Tell-Tale Heart found its way into the day’s ride…

Nescafe is not coffee, much like Hershey is not chocolate. So I moved beyond the chemical laden crap the hotel called breakfast and ventured outside. A typical winter sky of blue gray hovered above me, but the eleven-degree wind chill (-11.7 Celsius) caught my attention and I huddled up. Then, thunder rocked my ears to the point where they buzzed, much like a singer hitting a high note the speakers couldn’t handle. But the thunder kept on coming. I looked to the clouds above but failed to find what I knew was an F-16 Fighting Falcon. The brutal cold let its roar resonate to the point where the fighter seemed only inches above me, though I couldn’t see the damn thing. I finally caught it low on the horizon about a half-mile away near Traux Field that the Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing calls home.

That was the best part of the day.

Though the drive to Sioux Falls is only six hours, once I passed some cool terrain thanks to glaciers, it was as if I was riding through Pennsylvania farmland again. A decent break came near Dexter, Wisconsin, a town of under 400 people, that showcased a wind farm far larger than Van Wert. Hell, there may have been one mill for each person in Dexter.

The odd thing is that Google Maps always launches a “Welcome to…” when I cross a state border, but failed to do so with Minnesota and its endless Groundhog Day like highways. Every time I rounded a bend, it appeared to be the same stretch of road I had just left. Still on 90 West, I rolled by the city of Blue Earth yet failed to see their sixty-foot statue of the Green Giant. (Yes, I even welcomed product placement as a distraction at this point.)

Thankfully, Ben Howard kept me awake, at least his Rivers in Your Mouth song, which I must have replayed fifty times. Like Don Riemer, I love Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), who may be the strongest and most innovative female in music, but her studio albums lack the verve and energy she brings to her live performances, so I had to put her CD to bed. I started to fade fast, until I cranked Ultraspank, the metal/industrial band Kim McDonald, Melanie McCurdie, Amber Shaw, and even Jonny Numb, may find worthy. The day before, I had indulged in Joy Division’s “Still” recording and thought much about Ian Curtis, his all too short life, and the film Control. Then I revved up X’s fantastic “Under the Big Black Sun,” which critics bypassed for “Los Angeles.”

But there’s something to say about alternative music from the frozen doldrums of Minnesota. If Nirvana helped put the “Seattle Sound” of Grunge on the map, and if the fathers are The Melvins, then the grandfathers must be The Replacements and Husker Du. Why Grunge isn’t called the “Minnesota Sound” or “Minnesota Music” for alliteration purposes, never ceases to amaze me.

Besides the music, I was haunted by a different kind of eye than the narrator in Poe’s classic tale. Mine was the sun as it set over the farmlands of Minnesota. The eye shone bright and blinding, and sent waves of gold, aquamarine, red, purple, and pink through low clouds for what seemed like hours as I drove into it to be swallowed up. The eye stared down the road and fought to combat the rotation of the Earth so as not to go gently into that good night…

With an hour to go, I stopped in the Blue Line Café in Worthington, Minnesota, just minutes from the South Dakota border. The gas was cheaper than most, and I had wanted to visit some sort of a diner, so I walked into the place. Besides a restaurant, there was a small café and gift shop, and a 7-11 like store with a plethora of Confederate Flag decals intermixed with anti-Obama propaganda – though no Trump signs were in sight. I ordered salmon and steamed vegetables (green beans from a fucking can), and saw the first Latina (a busgirl) since I had left Easton. The day before, in Madison, I had seen a black person for the first time since Pennsylvania. I immediately wondered: What if I wasn’t a bald guy sporting a Misfits shirt at a local dive, but a black man? Would the patrons give me looks? I don’t have a clue, but when I asked the waitress if they served ice cream, she said, “Only vanilla.”

Route 90 West was black as Hell, though another windmill farm to my right freaked me out. I couldn’t see the mills, but their red warning lights to low flying aircraft faded in and out in unison like some Cylon army out of “Battlestar Galactica”. And it wasn’t hard to imagine multiple copies of Jody the Pig’s eyes staring back at James Brolin in The Amityville Horror. The movie may be bad, but that scene from the dock blew my mind. And if Poe’s mad narrator hadn’t heard the heartbeat in his head, but saw the Old Man’s eye multiplied by one-hundred, he wouldn’t have confessed to the murder, he would have died from cardiac arrest.

Oddly enough, the talented and engaging Vicki Speegle invited me to co-write a short run series for cable television based on Poe’s stories. Rest assured, her concept’s fantastic and the end result will be something far removed from a modern regurgitation of Poe’s tales. Today’s motif, combined with Raul Garcia’s 2013 animated analogy gave me some great ideas. In Extraordinary Tales, Garcia uses Bela Lugosi’s narration of the story from most likely 1946. Lugosi’s agent may have used the audio as a calling card to gain the Dracula star some roles in his waning years.

Soon, the dark highway gave way to low lights on the horizon – Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city of roughly 165,000.

I’m in the hotel with no desire to engage in any night life. The goal is to get to bed early and drive out to the Badlands before the sun sets and stares me down once again.

And although Google didn’t welcome me to South Dakota either, I’m at the halfway point to reuniting with Ally Bishop in Seattle.