The Best and Worst Werewolf Transformations
From The Howling to the howlingly awful, we pick the hits and the hairballs...
Benicio Del Toro's The Wolfman might be getting mauled by critics baying for blood on a full moon, but there's one thing we're pretty sure everyone can get behind: the return of make-up master Rick Baker, the man whose iconic work on An American Werewolf in London set the standard for man-wolf transformation -- and one that's arguably yet to be surpassed. As the new film shows, CGI morphing can't quite replicate the physical aspects of a prosthetic shapeshift -- pounds of make-up looks like it hurts, dammit, which is what you'd imagine becoming a wolf would feel like. So to honour Rick -- and indulge our primal love of watching men become savage beasts -- here are our picks for the best and worst werewolf transformations in movies. Sparklepooch included.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
"I didn't mean to call you meatloaf, Jack!" John Landis' incomparable scene is a mixture of icky body horror and wry humour, with David Naughton's nightmarish transformation at the hands of Rick Baker's prosthetics scored to the crooning "Blue Moon". The mix of comedy and freakish visuals makes it that much more uneasy -- and, like the best of wolfman moments, this looks physically unbearable. Landis and Baker, of course, went on to repeat their trick for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" clip -- albeit in a campier, '50s style. See them both here.
The Company of Wolves (1984)
GAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGGGGGHH! That's about all we can say about this. Where most werewolf transformations involve the man bursting forth from his skin, this unfortunate gentleman actually peels his own skin off and then transforms -- resulting in a blood-covered wolf beast that's not for the squeamish. Happy nightmares, kids!
The Howling (1981) / The Howling III (1987)
1981's other great American wolf pic was the work of Rob Bottin (the man behind the unforgettable terrors unleashed in John Carpenter's The Thing), with Rick Baker consulting. The transformations are thus geared toward outright nightmare creature horror, with weird elongated faces that are as amusing as they are frightening. But nothing could top the WTF weirdness of the otherwise awful sequel Howling III: The Marsupials, which, among such delights as a were-supial pup bursting forth from a human mother's womb, offers up this feral transformation. Is that a werewolf or a pig man? Director Philippe Mora actually does a nice job in this scene -- check the negative exposures and epileptic TV screens flashing.
Bad Moon (1996)
By the mid-'90s CGI had started to dictate werewolf transformations, bringing us laughable atrocities like the subway scene in An American Werewolf in Paris, and later rubbish like Cursed. But this overlooked wolf movie manages to get it pretty right -- not least because it's mixed in with some old-school fur and flapping puppet jaws, which seal the deal in this scene's killer final moment. Also priceless for Michael Pare's line preceding it: "You shoulda listened to the dog, Janet!"
Silver Bullet (1985)
This underrated Stephen King-scripted flick has its fans among werewolf aficionados -- trust us, they're out there -- and justifiably so. This early transformation from the film shows a deft mix of classic horror makeup and post-American Werewolf ingenuity; plus, it offers the particular pleasure of watching a one-eyed priest transform into a wolf. Naturally, he's carrying a baseball bat. As priest-wolfs tend to do.
The Monster Squad (1987)
"Aroooo, operator?" Short but wonderfully sweet, this earns its spot for efficiency -- and Method mouth foaming. In just over 20 seconds he's done, crashing through a phone booth door and staggering into the night with a classic howl. Hope he called collect.