Reinventing the werewolf

With MTV’s Teen Wolf officially renewed for another season, it reminds me of the recent difficulties with trying to bring the werewolf back.

Zombies are still going strong, vampires have been reinvented for better or worse, but for some reason, the werewolf has been having a hard time getting relaunched.

There’s already reports that Universal wants to reboot the Wolf Man, but it’s clear they’re low-balling it already, with Louis Morneau, the director of Bats, Carnosaur 2, and Joy Ride 2, on board to helm it. According to Dark Horizons, the new Wolf Man will also reportedly go direct to DVD.

Having read an early version of The Wolf Man script by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en), I loved it, and had high hopes for the film.

Sadly, Universal went through a number of rewrites on the script, brought in geek icon Rick Baker to craft the werewolves, then redid his work with CGI, and finally they brought in master editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now) to try and salvage it in the cutting room, all to no avail.


Back in 1981, Baker played a big hand in reinventing the werewolf with his groundbreaking effects in An American Werewolf in London. Baker’s effects, and Rob Bottin’s similarly groundbreaking work on The Howling, were both done in the camera without opticals, when it was pretty damn tough to all this stuff off, but somehow Baker and Bottin reinvented the wheel, and brought whole new levels of realism to horror. (Bottin would similarly reinvent the wheel a year later with his work on John Carpenter’s The Thing.)


Although both American Werewolf and The Howling came out the same year, both the two had completely different takes on the wolfman. Where a lot of movies with similar ideas often go head to head to see who will back out first, the Snow White remakes a good recent example, directors John Landis and Joe Dante are friends and fans of each other, and did their best not to make similar movies. And although American Werewolf did better at the box office, it didn’t hurt The Howling from being a success, or further launching Dante’s career.


The Howling was more overtly humorous, where American Werewolf switched gears pretty rapidly, to the point where audiences were confused in an “is this supposed to be funny?” kind of way.


Back then, a horror film had to be completely scary, a comedy completely funny, and mashing the genres together wasn’t done that often, but writer/director John Landis definitely broke new ground in this regard as well.

He’d been playing with this kind of idea since Animal House, casting serious actors in the film, and hiring Elmer Bernstein to write a serious music score that helped make the comedy even funnier. (Landis said a lot of people didn’t get what he was going for until Airplane!, which made Leslie Nielsen, a serious dramatic actor, an overnight comedy star).


Oddly, there hasn’t been anything similarly groundbreaking with werewolves since those films, but I don’t see any reason why some young upstart can’t come up with a new twist, and reinvent the wolfman yet again.