While there are many movies with werewolves in them, there are relatively few good ones in which the werewolf is the main character. Of those, the debate over which is best usually comes down to An American Werewolf in London or The Howling. (Traditionalists may also argue the case for 1941’s The Wolf Man.) Fine. But what about the other werewolf movies out there? Here are my favourite five.
5. Ginger Snaps (2000)
A Canadian low-budget classic, John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps turns around a number of genre conventions. Everyone knows the werewolf as a monster generally symbolizes humanity’s bestial side, or, perhaps, the experience of puberty for a boy-becoming man, right? Nope. In Ginger Snaps, we have two death-fixated teen sisters, played by Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle, and the monster tale that unfolds is much more about puberty from a female point of view, and it’s hard to watch this one without also questioning why a woman’s sexual agency and desire is seen as frightening. Since the tagline for this movie was “They don’t call it ‘the curse’ for nothing,” I don’t think that’s an accident. I can’t speak for the sequels, but the original is sharp, funny, and well worth watching.
4. Dog Soldiers (2002)
This British lost-in-the-woods tale takes a number of conventional tropes and uses them to build up the horror. A tale in the vein of Beowulf, Predator, and Aliens, the story pits elite warriors (in this case, British soldiers on a training exercise in the Scottish highlands) against monsters they are hopelessly outclassed by. There’s plenty of visceral dark humour, as well – one scene with a dog and some intestines is hard to get out of your brain once you’ve seen it. And kudos to the effects people on Dog Soldiers – they make the most of lighting and practical effects to create something truly terrifying.
3. Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf (1988)
This was made at the height of Scrappy-Doo’s outsized narrative importance. Of course it’s all terrible. Worth watching only to marvel that Casey Kasem still had a career after this.
2. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Whaaat, you may ask? A movie that has no literal “werewolf” in it? This French film has a lot more, and pries up the roots of the continental European fear of wolves; and, in fact, it’s based on the infamous Beast of Gévaudan. At a time when people believed in werewolves, tales of the beast fomented panic, and was said to devour hapless peasants and travellers. The hunt for it, and the societal and political undertones of the nature of the beast in highly stratified French society, are at the centre of the story here. It takes a Frenchman who has lived overseas in New France and his Iroquois companion to see through the hysterical mass slaughter of wolves and find the real beast.
I embedded the English-language trailer above; but if you are going to watch it and don’t mind subtitles, see it in French — it’s much better than the dubbed version.
1. WolfCop (2014)
This is one in which the title really tells you all you need to know. He’s a cop. And a werewolf. Hijinks ensue. Small-town Canadian police officer Lou Garou (get it? Of course you do) finds himself turning into a wolfman but still in possession of his law-enforcement faculties (somewhat). His lupine approach to making the streets safe is vastly different from his previously indifferent-at-best performance in upholding the law. WolfCop is shot through with plenty of Canadian humour, features the most dramatically appropriate (and repeated) use of the word “gitch” I’ve ever seen, and an oh-no-they-went-there scene that will ensure you never listen to CanRock stalwart Gowan’s “Moonlight Desires” the same way again. The approach to effects is old-school and the celebrated transformation scene does, in fact, add something new to the genre.
So, there you have my list – what overlooked werewolf gems would you add? Let me know in the comments.