No Werewolf film is complete without “the transformation” scene. You know the drill. Fangs jutting through lips, clothes spontaneously shredding and a whole mess of grizzly, matted fur suddenly appearing out of nowhere. Such are the ways that humans turn into wolves.
After more than 90 years since the first werewolves of silent film, the good ole fashioned lycanthropic metamorphosis has become a cinematic art from.
Here are some of the scenes that did it best, or at least most memorably. Cue Warren Zevon.
10. Dog Soldiers - 2002
The Flick: Dog Soldiers is a diamond in the rough. A werewolf movie that combines good story with believable characters and badass wolf beasts. Seriously, these creatures are big and ugly and nearly impervious to machine gun spray.
The Scene: Gets high marks for suspense. Elects against graphic, special effects-laden body reshaping and instead goes the old fashioned route—you get a glimpse of the first part of the transformation before the character leaves the screen, at which point you hear muffled growls and the tearing of clothes until...the reveal.
Note: Transformation starts at 6:15
9. La Noche de Walpurgis (Werewolf Shadow) - 1971
The Flick: Spanish horror god Paul Naschy has played traveling werewolf Waldemar Daninsky in more than a dozen werewolf pictures. That’s commitment to the material. In this one he jumps around and growls amidst a crew of nude vampyresses.
The Scene: Notable for its excessive use of drool, which together with the bad voice dub and crummy acting contributes to a creepiness that only movies from the early 70s can attain.
8. The Wolf Man - 1941
The Flick: Lon Chaney Jr. stars as an American who returns to his family’s estate in England for his brother’s funeral. During his stay he is bitten by a wolf and begins to notice some strange physical after-effects from the bite. They just don’t make them like this anymore. Oh wait, the remake with Benicio Del Toro comes out next year.
The Scene: Uses basic photography tricks to give the appearance of rapidly growing hair. Represents one of the original big screen lycanthrope transformations. Pay homage.
7. Leviatán (Monster Dog) - 1984
The Flick:Pitiful movie effort in almost every conceivable fashion. But it stars shock metal legend Alice Cooper as the rock star (duh) turned furry, full moon stalker.
The Scene:What exactly is going on here? We have to give credit to a horror film that takes its inspiration from a rock singer’s macabre stage theatrics. Cooper doesn’t disappoint in his portrayal of, well, let’s just call it a mutant with epilepsy.
6. Teen Wolf - 1985
The Flick: Formulaic high school yarn about a normal kid who pines for the hot cheerleader while failing to see that his true love (aptly named Boof) is really the girl next door, literally. But there is one catch. The kid is a werewolf.
The Scene: With werewolfism serving as a symbol for puberty here, we get a nice little play on adolescent awkwardness. It’s only slightly less humiliating than getting caught spanking it to the Victoria’s Secret catalog.
5. The Curse of the Werewolf - 1961
The Flick: One of the famous “Hammer Horror” productions, Curse of the Werewolf serves as an early purveyor of some of the popular customs surrounding the werewolf sub-genre, including silver bullets and the full moon. It was also the first werewolf movie with graphic violence (at least relative to the times).
The Scene: A marked improvement over special effects used in earlier films on the subject matter. Oliver Reed’s wolf is genuinely terrifying in the same sort of way as that animatronic band at Chuck E Cheese.
4. The Howling - 1981
The Flick: The Howling represents the quintessence of werewolf horror. Excellent special makeup effects, eerie music, campy humor and a healthy heaping of gore allowed this franchise to carry through (at last check) seven movies.
The Scene: Werewolf Eddie Quist says “I want to give you a piece of my mind” and then proceeds to tear a piece of flesh out of his own head. Really, need I say more?
3. Silver Bullet - 1985
The Flick: Based on a Stephen King novella, this story uses several creative plot devices that keep it from getting lost in the ‘80s horror basement. A crippled kid for a protagonist and a murderous, shape-shifting priest for a bad guy—yep, that sounds like Stephen King.
The Scene: Ranks high on the werewolf list for one reason only—the baseball bat. Riddle me this: why would a werewolf use a baseball bat to kill someone? That’s kind of like Superman riding a bike. But still, it’s kind of awesome.
2. The Company of Wolves - 1984
The Flick: A bizarre, atmospheric fairy tale that relies on the basic metaphor of men as dogs, or in this case, wolves. Beautifully shot and edited, the film itself rarely transcends eye candy.
The Scene: Ranks this highly on our list for numerous factors, simultaneously poetic, visual and hilarious. After an intense two-minute bodily transmogrification that goes from self mutilation to slime-covered, distended dog meat, try not to laugh at the scene’s culmination.
1. American Werewolf In London - 1981
The Flick: Arguably the best werewolf film ever made. Moves seamlessly between comedy and horror, while managing to stick with you long after the closing credits.
The Scene: THE Transformation. The one in which all others must be compared. Sam Cooke’s “Blue Moon” in the background just adds a classic touch. Sure you’ve seen it a zillion times. Shut up and watch it again.
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