Horrorfest 2018/It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961, Terence Fisher)

Oliver Reed appeared in many Hammer Films over the years, and The Curse of the Werewolf, the third film I viewed on Halloween, was one of his towering performances. Reed goes from being sympathetic and likable to a horrifying beast, giving us, the audience, reason to root for and also be repulsed by him. As typical of many Hammer productions this one touches upon class issues, and of course features a prior evil that leads to the main evil, a plot element that many slasher films incorporated later on as well. Also I had no idea that a child born on Christmas Day would become a werewolf, something that I have never heard of before in any horror movie that I can think of, although perhaps it is based in some old myth or legend. It is too bad that Hammer Studios only made one werewolf movie, as this is one of their best films and it was made by their premier director, Terence Fisher.

Catherine Feller is also great as Cristina, who Reed’s Leon falls in love with despite the fact she comes from wealth and he is unable to marry her, and Martin Matthews is likable as Leon’s friend, Jose. I really dug the werewolf transformations, and the creature effects are properly freaky for such a film. Featuring a well rounded cast, surprising amounts of gore for a 1960s movie, and anchored by Reed’s excellent performance, The Curse of the Werewolf is a must for both horror and Hammer fans.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Late Phases (2014, Adrián García Bogliano)

Ever since the 1980s werewolf movies have become more improved and more interesting. Late Phases works as a slow burning and intense character study that has a fantastic last act. The rest of the film works as a look at a hard man that is paying for the choices he’s made in his life. Unfortunately for him there is a werewolf, and this beast is human the rest of the time. Don’t get too attached to that nice little old lady next door: she gets ripped to shreds. Makes me think of Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon.

Cinema screen tough guy Nick Damici plays Ambrose, a Vietnam War veteran who is haunted by the past. He is also blind, and has just moved into a retirement community. His relationship with his son, Will, played by Ethan Embry, is on the ropes due to Ambrose being kind of a grumpy asshole. In fact, this film spends more time on its characters than the actual creatures that the film is supposed to be about.

I loved the last act and I did like how the film kept me guessing about who the werewolf or werewolves were in the closed gate community. Although Late Phases doesn’t really reinvent the werewolf sub genre it is a really well made and captivating horror film. One of the aspects I enjoy about modern horror is that the best it has to offer is usually well made and very engaging. This film happens to be a good study in how to make the best out of a low budget situation. Also for a low budget film the creature effects were rather solid. Nice.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: What We Do In The Shadows (2015, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement)

Just when you think the found footage/fake documentary style horror film has run its course there comes along another film that proves the doubters wrong. What We Do In The Shadows is one such film, and it is a hilarious entry in the sub genre that has recently been overwhelmed by Parnamormal Activity and it’s endless sequels. Lately Twilight has caused a good response in terms of some great vampire moves, so that’s good, I guess.

Living in an old house, hidden from society are a bunch of old vampires. What I love about this movie is that the jokes are well executed and range from slapstick to witty, often all in the same moment. The cast is top notch and each member adds to the funny proceedings. One of my favorite jokes is the bat fight scene, which is as amusing as it sounds. Although the last act wears a bit thin you have to laugh at Vlad going on and on about “The Beast.” Not to mention smile at the idea of werewolves and vampires talking smack to one another. Based on this and Housebound New Zealand horror has a very bright future indeed.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Ginger Snaps (2000)

6.    Ginger Snaps (2000, John Fawcet)

Blood. So much blood. Perhaps its to be expected of a movie that is really about young girls going through puberty, experiencing their period for the first time-and so the red stuff flows. Yet in the end its all about a nasty problem that one sister tries to help the other sister with: being a werewolf. Its bad enough becoming a woman when you also have to be concerned with trying to eat the ones you love once the full moon arises. Ginger Snaps is freaky, weird, gross, and tragic, a sexual opera played out among its main characters, utilizing body horror perfectly-because after all werewolf films concern themselves with body transformation and mutilation, skin covered in hair, the body once human now beast. Having been aware of this film’s well known reputation I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, however after everything starts to go south and the body count starts to rise I knew I was viewing something unique and frightening.

As to why most of the truly good or great werewolf movies exist after 1981 is interesting. Maybe the special effects just were not up to par for decades, although I love the original The Wolfman and think its a classic. The Howling has excellent werewolf makeup and FX, and the only knock against Ginger Snaps is that the werewolves look sort of fake here. That doesn’t take away from the crazy relationship between a pair of sisters, one who ends up changing and the other who feels even more alienated than usual as a result. More feminist driven horror movies need to exist, and one can thank Ginger Snaps and others for helping lead the way or at least breaking the mold.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Dog Soldiers (2002)

    10.    Dog Soldiers (2002, Neil Marshall)

In 2002 Neil Marshall burst onto the horror movie scene with Dog Soldiers, a film that is owes its existence to Aliens, Tremors, and a ton of other horror movies. I love that the film references those other movies while also building on its own mythology, in turn becoming a pretty good-maybe even great-werewolf movie. The werewolf sub-genre of horror films has seen many great entries over the last couple of decades, and the original classic The Wolfman cannot be forgotten, either. Dog Soldiers is a brutal, nasty and entertaining werewolf movie, full of humor and gore, anchored by memorable characters-particularly Spoon-and being rather twisty and surprising right until the end. The siege elements work particularly well, bringing together some of the film’s unlikely bedfellows and resulting in some of the movie’s best moments. And of course one cannot forget how the film opens in typical cool and violent werewolf fashion. Never go camping in the woods on a full moon people.

Taking place in the Scottish woodlands, Dog Soldiers is about a group of military men who end up battling an unknown enemy that turns out to be very supernatural. At first operating in disbelief, the men come to realize that they are up against a force that cannot be killed by ordinary bullets. Creatures that are furry, angry, and very hungry. For human blood and flesh, with a nasty bite that results in the surviving victim turning into the monsters themselves. From that point on Dog Soldiers is relentless, never letting up and etching its place in horror movie history as being one of the best direct to video movies ever made. Beware the full moon, and if you closely you can hear the growling and the howls of a beast of the night, hunting your every move. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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