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10 Unforgettable Werewolf Transformation Scenes

The Moon Is Full On This Read

By Martin McFriend     November 20, 2009

 

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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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 24
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Darkknight2280 11/20/2009 5:31:01 AM

The #1 was right on the money...no way you could have picked any other!! The FX were ahead of their time and it looked real! Not to mention the great sound fx! This is why i love traditional FX and why they can and never should be 100% replaced by CGI, they look REAL, especially when you have a master at work!

dragon261 11/20/2009 6:11:56 AM

As good as the FX were they would have so much better with a blending of Make up, animatronic FX, and  CGI. But I wouldn't use CGI for the transformation itself. I think that CGI should be used primarily for the fully transformed creature near the end of the film. Like they did so effectively with The Incredible Hulk.

KungPow 11/20/2009 6:19:37 AM

Although I agree with a lot of this list, they missed Underworld.  I know it was mostly CGI, but it is still one of the best. 

monkeyfoot 11/20/2009 6:45:13 AM

What about Michael!?!

"He made Thriller...Thriller."

-Dave Chappelle

avidfan 11/20/2009 6:51:35 AM

Great list.  I do have an argument with it though.  I think the first Howling was the best werewolf movie.  He had great characters, story, and that Marcia was just plain dripping with animal sexuality.  One of the great losses to the genre was the crap sequels.  We complain that sequels are pumpred out to milk a franchise, but I do think better care is taken of properties today.  Everything about the sequels is low budget (except the famous closing credits of Howling II- Cybil Danning ripping her shirt off a thousand times to some cheesy rock-punk band).  Number 2 for me is the original Wolfman.  Larry Talbot was just plain freakin' tortured in it.  Very much looking forward to the remake which from the trailers looks like they nailed it.  Please check out my novel http://www.persona-non-grata.com

myklspader 11/20/2009 8:01:43 AM

 I would have ranked “The Wolfman” a little higher (in the top three at least) since it was the first of the genre's kind that comes to my immediate mind. 

I am sure this will all be revised once the new movie opens next year and we see what new wonderful creations Rick Baker has for us. 

All in all a good list surprised that “Teen Wolf” is in there just cause of well, it's “Teen Wolf”. 

scooter167 11/20/2009 8:19:31 AM

I think the Howling should have been #2

Jaysaw 11/20/2009 9:46:07 AM

Waldemar Daninsky is one sick perv. This list is devoid of CGI scenes. But that's probably a good thing. It used to be that every werewolf movie had one important transformation scene and the filmmaker would put a lot of effort and imagination into it. Now they are a dime a dozen. The Underworld series has like 48 transformations per film. They are kind of cool the first time you see one, but the repetitive nature just cheapens it. Compare that we American Werewolf in London, a scene that you can go back to every once in a while and still truly, thoroghly enjoy its magical insanity. Good times. Werewolves rock.

aegrant 11/20/2009 12:28:16 PM

For the most part I agree with this list

almostunbiased 11/20/2009 1:26:28 PM

WHat was the name of the Werewolf TV show that was on in the 90s?

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