While the werewolf subgenre of horror has a lower success rate than movies about vampires or ghosts, every now and then a werewolf movie comes along that receives a good deal of critical acclaim. The last such film was the Canadian import “Ginger Snaps,” which was widely hailed by putting a female twist on the werewolf myth.”Ginger Snaps” was indeed a fun and inventive lycanthrope film, it was not the first to explore a more feminine vision of werewolves. Neil Jordan’s “The Company of Wolves” used werewolves as a means to explore feminine sexuality back in 1984.
Like “Tales from the Darkside,” or “Creepshow,”“The Company of Wolves” is an anthology film of short werewolf tales. As with such films, “Company” is tied together with a wraparound story starring Angela Lansbury in an adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Confusingly, the film is also book-ended with the story of a young girl in a large modern house. While the anthology format is usually a fun, lightweight structure, in “Company” it is the greatest weakness. The structure suggests that the film is about a young girl who dreams about a grandmother who tells her granddaughter a series of werewolf tales; the resulting film is often convoluted and almost difficult to follow.
However, anthology movies typically aren’t about plot, since each story has only a short time to get going. “The Company of Wolves” wisely focuses on symbolism and atmosphere. The look of the film is very soft and dreamy, with many slow-motion shots and softly-lit scenes. In each story, the werewolf appears as the embodiment of animal desire; each tale involves as much sex as it does violence.
Although not an overly violent film, “The Company of Wolves” does contain some graphic scenes, particularly a transformation sequences in which a man becomes a wolf by pulling off his skin. The effect still looks decent today, and is amazing considering the time period. While no rival for the famous transformation in “American Werewolf in London,” it is certainly one of the most innovative of the genre.
The special effects are but one reason to see this movie. While those looking for pure horror will be disappointed by the film’s dreamy aura, werewolf aficionados must watch this movie. Certainly not the best werewolf film ever made, “The Company of Wolves” remains one of the most unique and intelligent.