Awe yeah. I’ve been on a bit of a werewolf kick as of late, and decided that I wanted to cater this week’s edition of “Double Take” to this particular horror sub-genre. So I got together with my buddy Josh Miller (of Friday Night Frights fame for all you fellow Los Angeles movie enthusiasts) and we watched the 2015 feature film HOWL, paired up with Eric Red’s mid-90’s cult classic BAD MOON! How’d they pair up? Let’s jump right in before things start to get really hairy!
First up: HOWL. A few weeks back, I finally had the opportunity to check out CANDYMAN director Bernard Rose’s modern re-interpretation of FRANKENSTEIN, which I loved, and on the disc was the trailer for this werewolf movie HOWL; something I’d never heard of, but which looked both plotwise and stylistically like something very cool and unique. I pretty much jumped on my phone and bought the Blu-Ray on Amazon before the trailer was even over and was anxious to dive right into this feature from director Paul Hyett, most well-known for his stellar FX work – in particular in Neil Marshall’s horror masterpiece THE DESCENT.
Joe (Ed Speelers) is your average er, well “joe.” He works as a ticket taker on a railroad service and he’s about to start his late night shift mere moments after being passed over for a promotion. Despite being a decent guy, this is only a small example of the various ways that people push him over. Basically, the first few minutes, we get to meet our cast of characters as he slowly makes his way from cabin to cabin clicking tickets. Along the way is an elderly couple, an uptight business woman who’s angry that she had to re-buy her ticket when she couldn’t find her previously purchased one, a really obnoxious teenager who can’t even be bothered to get off her phone to acknowledge Joe, a drunken buffoon fresh from a sporting event, and a condescending slime bag that’s hitting on fellow ticket taker Ellen (Holly Weston), the only ray of sunshine in Joe’s otherwise dismal night shift.
Abruptly, a few miles short of their final destination, the train hits something and stops. The conductor heads out to clear the track and is never seen again. Trying to maintain calm among the passengers, Joe and Ellen map out a battle plan to remain in the car until help arrives, but the antsy travelers all decide they’d rather walk to the nearest station. While en route, the true reason for the conductor’s disappearance presents itself. They are surrounded by a pack of werewolves! They seek solace back on the train, but these hungry monsters want in!
It’s a pretty solid werewolf movie, especially for the first 2/3rds of it. The final third act goes a bit off the rails (pun intended) in terms of character actions, but overall, it’s still thoroughly entertaining, gory as all hell and showcases some of the most interesting, scary looking half wolf/half man hybrids. Also, there’s a blonde haired, blue eyed, clean cut young man on the train who is frequently referred to as an ASBO by the douchey womanizing business man character. My friend Josh and I were baffled by this term and assumed it was a British insult of some sort? When they called it again, we had to pause the movie and look it up on the Internet. ASBO is the abbreviation of “anti-social behavior order.” Basically, it’s a term reserved for thugs or trouble makers. Which is hilarious, because normally you’d expect that sort of “insult” directed at someone with tattoos, or piercings, or with a Mohawk, or wearing all black. This kid literally couldn’t be more proper looking. But whatever! Movies are educational and now we’re smarter!
Scream Factory is a few days shy of unleashing Eric Red’s 1996 movie adaptation of Wayne Smith’s novel THOR. BAD MOON’s basic story is about Uncle Ted (Michael Pare) reuniting with his sister Janet (Marial Hemingway), and returning to live with her and her son after his girlfriend leaves him. At the same time, a series of mysterious animal attacks begin to dominate the woods near the spot where Ted keeps his trailer. In actuality, Ted & his girlfriend are violently attacked by a werewolf in the opening of the film; she’s killed and he’s left with a bite and now the curse!
Janet and Brett’s dog, Thor, immediately picks up on the bad vibes surrounding Uncle Ted and becomes the family protector. But will it be too late? With each transformation under the full moon, Ted appears to lose a bit more of his humanity.
BAD MOON has always been considered one of the better quality horror movies in the werewolf sub-genre – aside one tiny aspect. The majority of these films usually hinge on at least one jaw-dropping werewolf transformation. Well, the one in BAD MOON is jaw dropping, alright! Look – this was still the early days of CGI, and while a valiant attempt to combine both practical and digital was made, the folks responsible for the digital side shit the bed. It’s terrible. However, when I popped the disc in, I was pleasantly surprised to see an option to watch either the theatrical cut or Eric Red’s “director’s cut.” It’s been years since I’ve seen it, so I went straight for the “director’s cut.” The only notable difference is that transformation sequence which, in the director’s cut, is significantly trimmed down to avoid those CGI shots. In fact, it plays so much better the way it’s presented here! And changes the overall vibe of the third act without that distraction. Other than that, I believe the opening sequence in which Uncle Ted and his girlfriend are violently attacked mid-coitus is a bit longer, a bit more graphic and with a tad more nudity.
There’s also a pretty great making-of documentary that I put on immediately after the movie with everyone from Red. and star Pare, to FX legend Steve Johnson who designed BAD MOON’s pretty cool looking lycanphrope! Also of note, Ken Kirzinger who portrayed Jason Voorhees in FREDDY VS JASON is also the man in the werewolf costume once Uncle Ted is fully transformed. Fun bit of horror trivia for you!
In terms of werewolf films, while neither HOWL nor BAD MOON are the best of the bunch, they’re both really, really good and deliver original, different takes on this sub-genre. I recommend both films, but even better – why not have your own double feature?