I love werewolf movies. They’re easily one of my favorite sub-genres in horror. But they’re so hard to get right and at times that makes loving them so, so frustrating. There are a lot of variables that go into determining whether a werewolf film will turn out good or bad. But I think most fans would agree that the number one determining factor would be the look of the monster itself.
A good creature feature doesn’t work without a good creature and this seems to affect werewolves more than any other type of monster. It’s what keeps many of the Howling sequels from at least being watchable popcorn horror. Werewolves require that perfect amount of believability. You know it’s obviously a suit, but it can’t be so bad or so obvious that it just takes you out of the movie.
Silver Bullet might have the greatest on-screen werewolf ever… up until we actually see it in full. When it’s in shadows and we just get the outline of the creature or close-ups of its claws and teeth, that’s pretty much perfection. But when it’s all out there in the open at the end, bathed in light, it doesn’t work nearly as well.
Werewolves are tough to get right because we’re always more scared by what’s unseen, yet these are big, complicated monsters that are designed to be shown off. Sometimes it’s a mess, but other times we get treated to monsters that are truly memorable.
I love this werewolf. As a kid, this one was actually my favorite. As an adult, I still love the design. It doesn’t get a ton of screen-time, given all the other monsters in the movie, but I think that actually makes it more impactful. It has one great sequence, almost an anthology sort of piece, before coming back to tear Patrick Macnee’s head off at the end.
I’ll admit, I remember this one looking a little different when I was a kid. But I still like the Stan Winston werewolf design because it does a neat thing by being sort of the middle ground between the classic Wolf Man appearance and the more wolfish creatures common at that time in the 1980s.
Werewolf: The Series
While Werewolf: The Series was short-lived and is now impossible to find due to the fact that music copyright prevents it from ever getting a release in any of our lifetimes, it boasts some nonetheless impressive effects for its time and budget. This shouldn’t be too surprising, because those effects were partially created by werewolf maestro Rick Baker.
Does Project: Metalbeast hold up as a movie? Not really, no. But then again, it didn’t really hold up in its own time either. It’s exactly the kind of cheesy high-camp it was designed to be. But the effects are surprisingly awesome and still look pretty decent after twenty years. It’s got a great new take on a werewolf, where the monster is subjected to an experiment that gives it indestructible skin. Kane Hodder plays the werewolf, too, which basically means that he pretty much made Jason X twice.
An American Werewolf in London
If we’re talking transformation sequences, London takes the cake. I think there are very few people who would disagree with that. As for the werewolf itself, it looks great, but we don’t see a ton of it. Like Rick Baker, who designed it, I prefer the bipedal werewolf to the sort of bigger, demonic wolf creature. Which is obviously what American Werewolf gives us. It definitely works, especially for the traditional folklore enriched narrative that John Landis sought to create.
The werewolf in Bad Moon is amazing. Watching that movie again and seeing how great that monster still looks is what sparked this entire list. The movie itself holds up pretty well. I like that the story is basically Fright Night if the protagonist was a dog. But the creature effects really elevate it into classic werewolf territory. This is a werewolf that’s ferocious, truly demonic looking, but also genuinely expressive at the same time.
Even now, I think Rob Bottin’s werewolves for The Howling are just about the best we’ve ever seen. Despite the ears. These are feral, truly monstrous creatures. What’s always gotten me about them is that they genuinely look and feel evil. Werewolves are always thought of as the most sympathetic monsters because they have no control over themselves, they can’t fight the transformation and don’t remember what they do. But these are in complete control, and that’s legitimately scary.