On Friday I sat beside my seven year-old daughter and watched a movie some ten years older than she is. Maybe you’d seen it flop on its way to the cheap DVD bin in Walmart – it was called Bad Moon and starred Michael Pare and Mariel Hemingway. Remember them? Yeah, almost nobody does.
So, I perused the likes of Netflix and Vudu for movies to watch. I’ve been hankering for a good movie of the horror variety and decided I was willing to pay for it. So I went through and spent a lot of hours on both services to come out with a handful of movies. I chose this one because, well…I really like werewolves, and I really don’t like zombies or vampires anymore. That’s a post for a different day, but for now, zombies and vampires are tired and hackneyed.
So I popped in a werewolf movie and watched my daughter’s face to make sure she wasn’t too frightened by it.
I find it intriguing that I reach for werewolf movies first. They’re my favorite horror/monster movies. And there’s no logical explanation for that on Earth. I shouldn’t like them at all.
As a boy, and I mean a small child now, I used to watch monster movies with my father. I spent countless Saturday afternoons with him watching corny Creature Feature movies on some independent or UHF-band TV station. (If you’re too young to know what those things mean, sorry; I’m not going into those explanations right now). He usually nodded off while I watched. But as a very small boy, I couldn’t get through one type of horror movie.
Somehow, seeing Lon Chaney tiptoe around on canine feet with fur all over his face and those wiry-haired hands sent me into weeping terror. I cried, I cowered, I sought the solace of my parents to tuck myself beneath them. For some reason, the music seemed to trigger it for me. I could watch a movie if my mother held her hand over my ear while I laid in her lap. Maybe it was just laying in my mother’s lap with her hand over me that made me feel safe, I don’t know.
Once, I came home from school in horror and frightened, depressed. When my mom queried about it, I pulled up my sleeve to show her the newly-discovered arm hairs which surely meant I was bound to turn when the moon rose. She of course dispelled my fears with reminders of the length, weight and amount of hair on my father’s arms, and he wasn’t a wolfman, so I had nothing to fear. It worked. I was greatly relieved, and my mother still fondly tries to embarrass me with this story (even though I was only five or so at the time, and it’s really not embarrassing).
I had an aunt who’s only about 6 years older than me. She, of course, got me to sit in the dark and watch Rod Serling’s Night Gallery at my grandmother’s house. And then she’d sneak away while I was held in thrall by the show and would startle me or leave me calling into the long, terrible, dark hallway of my grandmother’s narrow, long house. Hiding behind either my grandmother’s recliner or behind one of the separating walls was a favorite tactic of hers. I remember shaking with butterflies flopping in my stomach, heart palpitating rabbit-quick in my chest, anticipating the start, but couldn’t stop from jumping and crying out when she did. Then the choruses of “Sissy!” and “Oh, don’t be such a baby!” would follow and I had to fight for a scrap of dignity.
But for werewolf movies, I couldn’t hold up. I just… couldn’t. I buckled under the weight of the adrenaline and horror, unable to rip my eyes away and yet covering my face with my hands to prevent myself from having to watch. Or I’d cover my ears to shut out the horrible sound effects and blood-chilling music. And then my aunt, seeing me that way, would slip away to startle me. Again.
I don’t know when that changed, but somewhere along the way, I began to have a real love affair with werewolves. By the time I saw classics (for my generation) like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, and the misleading Wolfen, which I hated, I loved werewolves. Couldn’t get enough of ‘em. Still can’t. I sit in anticipation and tingle and get a giddy excitement when I think I’ve found a winner.
There were lots of them through the 90s, too, not the least of which is big-ticket Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. And, among those peeking through in the 90s, came Bad Moon. And of course, I saw it. Not in theaters, naturally – I’ve not been a fan of that experience because of the a$$holitude of people for many years – but when they rolled around on cable and On Demand services. Or I’d rent them at places like Blockbuster and those Mom-‘n’-Pop video rental shops. Remember those?
One of my favorite movies of the genre stars Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenburg as siblings who turn. It’s called Cursed, from back in 2005. It started me on the road of respect for Christina Ricci as an actress, who showed me she’s much more than Wednesday Addams. And later, I saw Ginger Snaps 2 and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (though I still haven’t seen the original, which I’d not heard of even though it’s a cult favorite from 2000). I sat through jokes like Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman during his brief stint as an action hero, and of course beautiful Kate Beckinsdale’s Underworld. I waited with glee for Benicio del Toro’s The Wolfman, with Anthony Hopkins, which stank by the way, and have seen a few others as well. But nothing set my heart hammering and my adrenaline racing, which always puts a smile on my face.
I guess you really can’t go back.
In the end, I guess it might have been werewolf movies which made it possible for me to do away with the ability to suspend disbelief and sit captured by the imaginative world of a movie. I have people like my aunt to thank, who taught me how unwise it is to trust myself to a movie’s world and story too far. After all, it’s hard to slip fully back into reality and not jump when someone pounces from around a corner with a shout and hooked-claw fingers.
But I’ll always love werewolves, I think.
Maybe I’ll write a story of my own.