La Loba (1965)

La Loba (1965) movie poster

director  Rafael Baledón
viewed: 04/23/2018

Oh, Man. La Loba starts off on a tear,  with the lady werewolf climbing from a grave, leaping like a ninja, and killing everyone in sight. The first 10 minutes are virtually dialog-free, and sights and sounds, action, attacks and blood-letting exuding at times elements of Silent Cinema.

The whole of La Loba is atmospheric and melodramatic, a Mexican Gothic, in which a beautiful young woman (Kitty de Hoyos) is cursed with lycanthropy, though managed by her family and in house scientists. 

Having watched this “sin subtítulos”, I’d be speculating about some of the relationships, but it does indeed seem that her lover is also a werewolf, and that there is also a werewolf hunter who has a special dog that kills werewolves too.

What I don’t have to speculate about is that this film is pretty awesome, even if it doesn’t achieve that same level that the first 10 minutes reached. It’s stylish and well-shot, sort of gory in an old black-and-white horror film way, and pretty damn fun.

I can definitely see Guillermo del Toro digging this.

Blood (1973)

Blood (1973) VHS cover

director Andy Milligan
viewed:  03/11/2018

I don’t know what it is about Andy Milligan films, but it seems like the more of them that I watch, the better I like them.  This is my 8th Milligan in a little over a year. My trajectory has run: The Body Beneath (1970), Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973), Guru, the Mad Monk (1970), Carnage (1984), Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970), The Man with Two Heads (1972), and most recently, The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972).

And Blood may be my favorite so far? Toppling The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! which had just taken the top spot. Are they getting better or am I becoming more attuned to Andy Milligan?

Hope Stansbury (from Rats/Werewolves) is here, as a perpetually discontented vampiress, being kept alive by the ministrations of her husband, Orlavsky (Alan Berendt), and his assistants, Carrie (Patricia Gaul), the legless Orlando (Michael Fischetti), the simpleminded Carlotta (Pichulina Hempi).

Everything was going great until…Ha, ha, it was never going great for this clan, returning to America from Europe to settle up with an exploitative accountant and reclaim Orlavsky’s family home. Orlavsky imprudently falls for Prudence (Pamela Adams), who unwittingly falls in with this crowd.

This crowd is a vampire, a werewolf, and some man-eating plants. I guess producer Walter Kent (who appears as “Man in office”) hadn’t quite the flair for titling that William Mishkin did, or this might have been called “The Vampires Are Here! The Werewolves, Too! And Man-Eating Plants! Frankenstien Is Coming!” Because, yes, at the end, as a joke, Dr. Frankenstein takes over the premises when all is said and done.

All this, in less than an hour. And of all his Milligan’s movies, which he shot himself, I loved the aesthetic achieved, even shooting the bulk of the film in his house and property.

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972) movie poster

director Andy Milligan
viewed: 02/26/2018

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is an Andy Milligan movie up and down but it’s also producer William Mishkin’s masterpiece of titling.  You get rats coming and werewolves going when you ask your auteur to shoot an additional 20 or so minutes of footage to a picture already in the can for some time. Apparently, inspired by the success of Willard, Mishkin had Milligan  add in a killer rats subplot. Not only did this give us that title but more interestingly, it gave us Andy Milligan himself.

“Well, when one brings as many little creatures of the night into the world as I, one forgets a little sex now and then.” Is this Andy Milligan getting all self-reflexive on us?

Because this is Andy Milligan, in character as Mr. Micawber, a rat-looking dude, selling flesh-eating rats, who ate both his left arm and half his face off, to Monica Mooney (Hope Stansbury). We also have Andy Milligan in another guise as an unnamed gunsmith selling a pistol and homemade silver bullets to a Miss Diana (Jackie Skarvellis). Both of these sequences were shot in New York, supplementing the werewolf movie Milligan had previously filmed in Britain.

But how fascinating it is to see Andy Milligan himself on camera! Albeit in deep character and make-up, hamming it up with apparently glee. As disjointed as these additional sequences are, I found them most enjoyable, especially the Mr. Micawber one.

Milligan is such an enigma. Lost as he is to life and time, save for his extant films and their utterly uniquely Milligan-esque character. The Milligan we know today is pieced together from his work and subsequent lore for present day fans he probably never imagined that he would ever have.

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is Milligan does Milligan. And I love it!

Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964)

Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964) movie poster

director Jerry Warren
viewed: 09/04/2017

I like how the Wikipedia author refer to Jerry Warren as “occasional film maker”.

I think it better to call Jerry Warren the author of the most boring bad cult films of all time. Like really, really, really boring.

I doubt that he was the originator of the idea of buying up foreign films (in this case two Mexican films, La Casa del Terror (1959) and La Momia Azteca (1957) and Frankensteining them into something new. But he truly does that here. La Momia Azteca was the source material for his also 1964 Attack of the Mayan Mummy which itself contributes to Curse of the Screaming Werewolf.

The best parts of Curse of the Screaming Werewolf are Lon Chaney, Jr. and the footage from La Casa del Terror. I’ve really enjoyed the Mexican horror films that I’ve managed to see and eagerly wish to see more.

But it is also true that eschewing dialogue through much of this “montage”, if you will, Warren does indeed stumble into some near Surrealist territory. There is so much dissociation and lack of concern for narrative coherence, it does sort of delve into a fantasy of mind.

Or maybe I drifted off somewhere.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) movie poster

directors Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement
viewed: 07/22/2015

Pretty funny “mockumentary” style comedy about vampires living in New Zealand.  In part, from Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords. Four vampire housemates ranging in age from 8,000 to 183 try to make a go of it as flatmates in Wellington.

Sweet and silly, I think it would be a great pairing with Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) for your vampires in the modern world double feature.

I’m not writing much here but I did think this was a pretty funny movie.

Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985)

Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985) movie poster

director Philippe Mora
viewed: 12/08/2014

The Howling II sports one of the worst and most hilarious subtitles in movie history: “Your Sister Is a Werewolf”.  And oddly enough, it was almost as bad with it’s original subtitle “Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch”.  But to be fair, the line gets spoken at least twice in the film, and initially by the wonderful Christopher Lee.

Christopher Lee slums it hardcore here.  The main protagonist actors, Annie McEnroe and Reb Brown, are straight-up amateur thespians.

Sybil Danning and her fantastic bosoms are the only other notable stars.

The original The Howling (1981) was a pretty decent movie with great visual effects.  The Howling II is a hilariously bad movie with a lot less investment in effects, though there are a couple of brief visuals of gruesome note (in particular when one character’s eyes pop out and the sockets squirt blood – but it’s also maybe more funny than straightforwardly effective.)

The story sort of picks up where the original left off.  The funeral of the newscaster-turned-werewolf is attended by her brother and co-worker (Brown and McEnroe) but also by Lee, who is a werewolf hunter, and a couple of seedy werewolves in human clothing.  When it becomes clear to Brown and McEnroe that Lee is right, his sister IS a werewolf, they pop off to Prague to hunt down Stirba (Danning), the “Werewolf Bitch” of the alternative title.  The whole of Prague seems to have been turned into werewolves or werewolf sympathizers.  A battle ensues.

I have to wonder if I had ever actually seen this film, but I really don’t think I did.  I recall watching The Howling III: The Marsupials (1987) (also directed by Philippe Mora) and my roommate joking about Your Sister Is a Werewolf and honestly thinking that it was one of his own jokes rather than the actual title.

It’s a howler alright.  It’s seriously funny-bad.

One of the stranger qualities of the film is the recurring band from the movie.  It’s a new wave band called “Babel” who even wrote a title song for the movie.  The thing is that they’re really pretty good.  The scenes at the punk/new wave bar are kinda cool in a 1980’s sort of way.  And I liked seeing Christopher Lee don those “totally tubular” new wave specs for the scene.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

An American Werewolf in London (1981) movie poster

director John Landis
viewed: 10/31/2014

John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London was a pretty big movie for me in my young movie-going life.  It was the 2nd R-rated horror film that I managed to get my mom to take me to (The first being Alien (1979)), which unfortunately for my sister three and a half years younger, was also the case for her.  Childhood traumas are made of this stuff…but not for me.  Rather, this was a pretty formative movie in my day.

As I’ve often noted here, I was a dyed in the wool or maybe even dyed in the womb monster movie lover.  Though I heavily enthused on movies from Universal Pictures classic horror films and the likes of old Godzilla, I was growing up in an era when horror films were far more bloody and filled with a lot more sex.  In fact, in the 1980’s most new horror films were rated R.

And that’s just the thing.  I don’t remember the third R-rated movie I saw in the theaters with my mom or otherwise (most likely there was a lot of pay cable movies in that time), but these first two made life-long impressions on me.  And frankly, of all the horror films to have gone to, Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London?  Two pretty spectacular films.

I can’t tell you the last time I’d seen it or how many times I saw the movie.  I feel like I know it in and out in pretty solid detail, rightly or wrongly.  And for a big portion, it’s true, I do know the film in good detail.

A couple of odd notes.  I had been thinking of watching it with my kids, now 13 and 10, which would be older than the 9 and 12 that my sister and I would have been in 1981, but I had two qualms.  Strangely, the film’s sexuality made a huge impression on me when I saw it.  There is some sex talk, a big sex scene with the beautiful nurse Jenny Agutter, and then there is the scene in the porno theater.  Somehow that all seemed very intense to me, though I’ll tell you that the sex scene is nowhere as suggestive or revealing as I had recalled it, nor is it very long.

And then there is the violence and gore effects.  It’s a pretty scary movie, though full of comedy, too.  The English setting and some of the black humor I thought would really appeal to my kids, but for some reason…I was like “Wasn’t there like TONS of SEX in the movie?  And was it gory?  Was it scary?”  Like I’ve suggested, I think it’s more a testament to how the film impressed upon my 12 year old self as to why I thought I’d give it a viewing before watching it with the kids.

The biggest thing is that the movie is pretty damn great.

David Naughton, he of those Dr. Pepper commercials of the day, is a good lead in this comic horror/love story.  And his buddy Griffin Dunne, he who gets killed in the movie early on but comes back as a progressively rotting corpse trying to convince Naughton to kill himself to lift the werewolf’s curse…he’s fantastic.  I always liked him and his scenes.

And those werewolf effects by Rick Baker.  1981 was the year of the werewolf effect film, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and Wolfen.  What a year for werewolves!  Baker’s effects are definitive genre examples of the best transformation sequences set to film.  I’d be willing to bet/argue that they’ve never yet been topped.  They are iconic.  They are gruesome.

But Landis pulls out not just a scary thriller, but a very funny comic film.  And somehow, the love story between Naughton and Agutter also makes this movie sad and tragic, too.

Sorry to harp so much upon it, but if you had asked me, I would have sworn that you see Agutter in her altogether in rather copious ways.  Nope.  It’s moderately discreet for the time.  But Griffin Dunne’s gruesome post-life bloodiness?  Really pretty gross and beautifully executed.  Why did I not dwell on the gore?  I guess my 12 year old self dwelt on the flash of a breast more than an eviscerated corpse.

Bottom line on this rather rambling spiel:  John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London is an excellent, funny, gory, great horror film.  Excellent.

The Werewolf (1956)

The Werewolf (1956) movie poster

director Fred F. Sears
viewed: 02/13/2014

Pretty odd and obscure werewolf film from 1956, aptly and concisely titled The Werewolf.  Weirdest is the way that the lycanthropy gets into the picture.  Usually you’ve got to be bitten by a werewolf and survive to get that way, right?  Though I think there a number of more traditional lore on the subject, one that rarely came into play was the intervention of mad scientists.  Who are small town doctors.

When a man ends up in a minor car accident in a small town, he’s taken to a couple of doctors who decide to use him as a guinea pig for their experiments with radiation.  They believe that nuclear war is imminent and the only way for humankind to survive is to become immune to radiation.  And oddly enough, this experiment blanks the man’s mind and turns him into a werewolf.  Pretty doggone weird, right?

The movie opens with this lone man walking the streets of a small mountain town, confused as to who he is and where he is and how he got there.  For a low budget film, and sort of convoluted scenario, it’s downright earnest.  And not all that badly made.  In fact, the cinematography is quite good.  And the monster make-up is pretty cool, too, kind of recalling (but really predating) that in the film I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957).

What is further of interest is the sympathetic portrayal of the poor guy with this awful “problem”.  He’s got a wife and a kid who want him back and worry terribly about him.  For the most part, those who get killed by the werewolf, they kind of deserve it.  The first is a guy in a bar who tries to mug the man.  The other two are the villainous doctors who are trying to make sure their secret doesn’t get out.

Really, quite an unusual little film.  Quite decent.

The Howling (1981)

The Howling (1981) movie poster

director Joe Dante
viewed: 07/13/2013

Back in 1981, the werewolf movie underwent radical transformation.  Transformation being one of the key qualities of a werewolf movie, dating back no doubt to Werewolf of London (1935) and The Wolf Man (1941), perhaps arguably back to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) (not a werewolf movie but it does feature an excellent transformation).  Back in those days and for many years onward, transformation effects were generally created via a series of fade-in shots, blurring the images together to show growth of hair, fangs, and claws.

But by 1981 (and perhaps earlier — please let me know), a breaking point was achieved in werewolf movies that transformed the genre.  It was the special effects, make-up and prosthetics, analog constructions that evolved right in front of the camera.  The series of these latex and what-have-you enhanced sequences tapped into new levels of gross-out cinema that would come to be the standard borne by horror films throughout the 1980’s all up until the digital age.

Nowhere were these effects more prominent than in Joe Dante’s The Howling and John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London (1981).  Rick Baker worked on both films, though he left The Howling to Rob Bottin and moved over  to the Landis’s production.  The Howling came out a few months prior, and while fans and aesthetes can argue which is better, they both individually and together utterly redefined and re-enlivened the werewolf film.  Bottin would go on to do the effects in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), a much more free-form gross-out transformation design.

The rest of The Howling is a reasonably entertaining werewolf movie, peppered with Dante’s Hollywood references and loony humor, especially with the aid of the script by John Sayles, who had worked with him on Piranha (1978).  It features Dee Wallace as a news anchor trailing a serial killer to a porn shop in LA.  After a freaky meeting, in which the killer is killed, she suffers psychological trauma and is sent to “The Colony”, a retreat on the California coast that turns out to be inhabited by a coven of werewolves.

It’s all pretty weird, really.

The star of the film is the effects largely, but it’s an entertaining, oddball, goof-fest featuring cameos from the likes of Roger Corman, Forrest Ackerman, John Sayles, and Dick Miller.  It even features a meatier cameo by John Carradine.  It’s all part of Dante’s collective homage to the genre plus as many silly gags as he can pack in.

It’s been eons since I’ve seen An American Werewolf in London, but I’m guessing that I ought to queue that up right soon for sharper contrast.  1981 also featured another notable killer wolf film, Wolfen, which isn’t actually a werewolf movie, though you kind of have to work your way through it to find that out.  I always actually considered it the best of the three.  Though oddly enough, no werewolves mean no transformation scenes.

Today, digital effects make the “anything” possible.  I think that werewolves, in movies in which the transformation is still the key element of the narrative, still take their direction from these 1981 films.  Though more and more digitized werewolves seem to forgo the gory detail of transformation, instead morphing in split seconds in the no-nonsense immediacy of “Zap! Now I’m a werewolf!”  Where’s the fun in that?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) movie poster

director Bill Condon
viewed: 04/21/2013

The immensity of the crapitudue.

I’d like to just leave it at that, but having spent however many hours with this franchise of films, I feel I owe it to myself to say a few other things.

The gist of this film is about a war among vampires about whether or not Renesmee, baby of Bella and Edward, is an “immortal child”, which is apparently a very dangerous thing.  She is not an immortal child, but Edward’s family reaches out over the globe to various vampire groups to support his point that she is “normal” and doesn’t need to be killed.  The Vampire Vatican feels differently.  She grows fast and Jacob “imprints” on her when she’s a baby (In other words, he’s in love with her and she and him are eternally linked.)  He’s all like, “Hey, I didn’t choose to be pedophile!”  Lucky for him, in a year she’ll be old enough to rent a car at the rate she’s aging.  It all comes down to a battle.  But it doesn’t.  It’s all a vision, a vision of doom that averts the slaughter and yet perpetuates an opportunity for future sequels and stories since nobody is dead.

This whole series of films and books has proven to be almost a right wing agenda of fantasy films, with no sex before marriage, carrying babies to term even in threat of death to the mother, and other “family values”.  It’s also blah, bloodless, fake crap.  The effects are awful (why does everybody go in “superspeed” mode to move from one thing to another?)  Why is this so damn popular? I’ve heard that the books are terrible too.  I don’t need to read them to find it out.  I’m happily done with this series, with no desire to ever, ever revisit it.

Looking back at my thoughts on the films of this series (and my star ratings in Netflix), as bad as the first film was, it was the most tolerable of them all.  The rest vary from awful to godawful, while remaining morally objectionable.  I would be willing to argue that this is an exemplar of American mainstream cultural crap at its lamest.  I mean that for the whole.  Why single one film out from the rest?  They are all of one long soap opera of mute bullshit, sexless sex, terrible acting, writing, everything.

No more, I tell you.  No more.