The Company of Wolves Reviews
Simply put, The Company of Wolves is a musty children's fantasy film featuring a handful of outrageously out-of-place werewolf transformation sequences. These sequences are amongst the greatest and grizzliest ever to have gone straight to VHS, with genuinely astonishing animatronics and cringe-inducing gore. The remainder of the film, however, is a wishy-washy tale of whimsical grannies and mythical monobrowed man-wolves.
To make things worse, most of the action takes place in a dusty 'middle age' realm of paper mache mushrooms and sporadic dry ice cannons. To make things worse than worse, the whole thing is bookended by shots of a modern-day version of the main character sleeping, raising such pointless narrative and philosophical dilemmas as is-she-or-isn't-she-dreaming? and will-she-or-won't-she-wake-up?
Inevitably, the answers to both are useless, underwhelming and unnecessary. Nevertheless, the film itself ought to be noted down by all pissed-off parents who fancy giving their snivelling kids the fright of their lives next time they start whining.
The film begins at a home in the English countryside but quickly moves into the dream of teenage Rosaleen. Her dream will more than once slip into nightmare territory. No part of the peasant village or the woods where her dream takes place ever feels entirely safe. There is no specific time period for the village setting; it seems to take place "once upon a time..." Everything about her dream, and thus the movie, feels simultaneously familiar and strange. Everything feels like a distorted reflection of a waking counterpart. As her dream begins we see her sister being chased by wolves running past distorted, surreal versions of thing in Rosaleen's room, like the giant stuffed bear that tries to grab her.
Rosaleen spends much of her time with her Granny, played with great but subtle authority by Angela Lansbury, listening to her stories. Granny is full of wisdom both practical (never eat a windblown apple) and cryptic (never trust a man whose eyebrows meet, he'll show his true nature in the moonlight). She never hides the darker side of life from her granddaughter. Granny begins her stories with, yes, "once upon a time..." When Rosaleen asks if a young bride and groom in a story live happily ever after, Granny replies quickly, "Indeed they did not!" The groom showed his true beastly nature on their wedding night.
Because The Company of Wolves takes place in a dream, many things are possible and it could delve into the wildly fantastic but it is smart enough to restrain itself. The village and surrounding dark woods were built and shot on soundstages and though everything looks clearly artificial it all feels right for Rosaleen's dream. The sets are dark, nightmarish, and macabre, but also familiar. Since the setting and characters are from the realm of the familiar, we are jarred when the surreal and macabre poke into Rosaleen's world. She finds that an egg in a bird's nest hatches into something made of stone. Rosaleen's father returns from hunting and killing the wolf that killed her sister with its severed paw of as a trophy. It was a paw when he took it, he says, but the trophy has turned into a human hand.
This is a different kind of werewolf movie. It seems that any man can change into a wolf and any wolf can change into a man, not because of a bite or a curse, but because of their true, hidden nature. There is a confrontation at the climax of the film when Rosaleen sets off to Granny's house in her red hood and on the path meets a man whose eyebrows meet. It plays out very differently than the traditional fairy tale. The words of Rosaleen's mother echo through the final act: "You pay too much attention to your granny. She knows a lot but she doesn't know everything. And if there's a beast in men, it meets its match in women too."
The Company of Wolves is a wonderful nightmare. I've seen very few films that successfully convey how a dream can feel completely bizarre and utterly real at the same time. Everything makes sense as it is happening even if you don't know why or how it is happening or what will happen next. You might think that because the movie is a dream there is no weight to the scenes or no real danger to Rosaleen. However, every encounter and experience Rosaleen has are rooted in very real fears and anxieties that the sleeping adolescent Rosaleen likely does not yet fully understand. Even if they came to her in a dream, the lessons of Granny's stories are very real. This is horror that does not make you jump out of your seat or shut your eyes. This is horror that wants to disturb and stir the thoughts buried deep down in your mind.
there's a lot of melodrama that's a bit unnecessary
and we're supposed to treat this like a dream sequence
still they have the darker, scarier aspect of the Red Riding Hood story nailed down
everything is gothic, eerie, foggy, and despite looking like obvious sets have the uncomfortable environment in the woods
the music is also very haunting going with the whole wolf element
it's a shame though that Angela Lansbury, Stephen Rea and Terrence Stamp aren't used to their full degree
what you do take away from this is don't be in the company of strangers otherwise people around you get hurt or you do
it's a bunch of stories that seem weirdly tied together
Neil Jordan does have the surrealism here though it might be very unusual for a lot of viewers
I just wanted to be more frightened and impressed
True to fairy tales of the time with a rather dark twist. I enjoyed the animatronics and found the first transformation quite shocking.
Dreamy and unsettling, drifting through a world of fantasy, this is a wonderful mood piece, filled with practical effects, old world superstitions and Gothic style to burn.
Happy to finally have a Blu-ray release of it, even if it had to be imported.
A Smart Anthology Film Which Is Bookeneded By The Story Of Red Riding Hood. And Is The Best Film Version Of The Classic Fairy Tale.