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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Company Of Wolves (1984)

FIRST THINGS FIRST: Sorry dear readers for how very late this post is. As you know I'm always Johnny on the spot with these but it just so happens that I am in the middle of moving to Portland Oregon. Unfortunately I was supposed to move this Friday but 14 inches of snow argued otherwise, operations will resume as normal next week on the regular Tuesday post schedule. Apologies for any undue distress this no doubt did not cause.

I was given this movie only a few days ago and I admit I was pretty excited by the prospect of watching a werewolf movie starring Angela Lansbury. Unfortunately I didn't really notice it was directed by Neil Jordan (he made The Crying Game, another almost good movie), which should have been a major red flag. Normally you can't lose with British horror, but man is this one a serious dung heap, but enough of that for now because I've got to actually tell you something about it first before all that nonsense happens.


The trailer would lead you to believe this is a cool atmospheric werewolf movie with some dark pagan ass fairy tale shit going on to mix things up a little. Not quite. It comes so very very close on a number of occasions however. Unlike some films I have reviewed here in the past, this one has at least a few decent bits here and there. Actually, you can count the decent bits on one hand so there really aren't all that many...

Plot synopsis: As this is a semi anthology picture I'm not sure a plot synopsis will help much as I'd have to write at least four of them to cover everything. As you may notice on the cover, the young girl (also the main character) is wearing a red shawl so you know already the main premise will be Little Red Riding Hood but with a werewolf. The film is based on a short story (with the same title) by author Angela Carter. She cowrote the screenplay with Neil Jordan but I did not have chance to read it in order to give comparisons. My disappointment with the film over all probably won't make me want to attempt it either.

One thing I found interesting was the sets and lighting. The movie really goes all out to make the sequences look like they are right out of a fairy book (yes, that's what English people like to call them sometimes). There's of course actors and live animals (including a bevy of trained dogs and two real wolves) but all of the backgrounds have a rather fake appearance. I don't mean fake in a bad way either, pared with careful lighting everything manages to look like a moving illustration in a strange way very much in the style of Hammer movies. Unfortunately the cinematography is somewhat less than adventurous and at times feels like a mid eighties MTV clip which makes it rather trying to sit through.

Red Riding Hood is a tale that can be viewed in many different ways. Rather interestingly this film takes the story and uses it as a metaphor for sexual awakening within a teenage girl. Before you perverts out there get all excited no exploitative crap happens (which is too often the case with modern films that dabble in sexual subject matter) and it is handled in a sly and delicate way. The werewolf can represent different aspects of sexuality ranging anywhere between lust to a predatory suitor depending upon which angle you think about it. I really wish they would have been a little bit more gung-ho about pursuing this subject as the slow pace of the film (alas, this is no Hammer picture) with various interludes leaves things feeling very disjointed. Perhaps they were a little bit too sly and too delicate.

The cast features a wide array of great character actors, including one of my personal favorites David Warner (He's been in everything from The Omen to TRON). I won't even try to list all of them because most of you could give a shit and won't know who these people are by name and instead know them as "hey it's that guy from such and such!". No offense intended but you know how I roll. I must admit that having a stellar cast of character actors of this caliber only makes the movie feel like a wasted effort that much more. You can tell all of them are really putting everything into their respective roles but the end product just doesn't measure up.

One thing that can definitely be praised are the totally awesome werewolf transformations. The one shown on the cover actually happens in the movie which really stoked me out, I just wish the rest of the film was as cool as those bits were. A lot of care and attention were given to these and they really stick out thanks to the film being so completely dull otherwise. I admit I'm giving away one of the two best parts of the movie, but I would rather you didn't waste your time with the rest of it.

See below:

So in closing, I'm really not sure if I recommend this movie or not. Maybe I'll like it better when I give it a second viewing somewhere down the road but I kind of doubt it. I think my main problem going in was having too high of expectations which were obviously dashed on the rocks, so I suggest not listening to me and having zero expectations and you'll probably do just fine. Scratch that, I wasted my time watching this. This movie probably has some devoted fans out there and that is fine, but I am definitely not one of them.


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