10 March 2011

Movies: The Company of Wolves (1984)

The Company of Wolves (1984) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087075/

Seeing ads for the upcoming Red Riding Hood film, with the tale getting a retelling mixed with a werewolf mythology, reminded me of a slightly older re-weaving of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale that also had werewolf-like mythology throughout. So yes, the 2011 Red Riding Hood is neither innovative nor unique in weaving werewolf mythology into the fairy tale. Not surprisingly it is directed by the director of Twilight. To the film's credit the screenwriter is the dude that gave us Orphan*.  But I dunno if that will help the movie at all or not.

As for whether or not The Company of Wolves is the first to merge werewolves into the Red Riding Hood tale, I'm not sure. It is the first to my recollection of the movies I've seen to date.  I'm sure there's a film historian out there who knows for sure. However, reading up on the Red Riding Hood tale's origins I see that there were werewolf overtones in some of the 16th/17th century versions already. So nobody wins the originality award.

But this entry isn't about the potential merits or deficiencies of Red Riding Hood. It's about The Company of Wolves.

In a nutshell: a young girl has a dream sequence that is pretty much the span of the whole movie. Her dream-self lives in a small village in the woods, and her sister is killed by wolves. She begins regularly visiting her grandmother, and grandmother's stories all revolve around men who become wolves.  Although most of the tales are enactments of the grandmother's stories, the dream-self eventually becomes the retold Red Riding Hood story.
The grandmother's tales are obvious metaphors warning the girl that men will now be sniffing around her as she's just come into her Red Riding Hood (metaphor for blossoming sexual maturity), to worry about their sweet words, sharp teeth, and deceptions. 

Yes almost all of the sets look like soundstage sets, but it is a dream sequence, so that's excusable. Actually I just read the trivia at IMDB about the film and it mentions the soundstage use, the use of dyed dogs as stand-ins for wolves, etc. I saw how it looked, but I let it go.  I think their effects were probably limited due to budgetary concerns. The effects look dated, almost comical at times, even though the movie was made after the effects-groundbreaking An American Werewolf in London (1981) and partially benefits from those effects.  One transformation that stood out was the guy ripping his face off and the skinless wolf-body bursting through his skin.

Some of the stories were more interesting than others, but how everything weaves into the greater story is the strength of the film. It really isn't horror fantasy, though it is billed as such. Anything that might be considered horrific or terrifying is pretty tame compared most horror films.

I don't think this same film could be made today - today's movie audience has different sensibilities and expectations than the audience of the 80s. Even with updated effects, the pacing and box-within-a-box storytelling style of the original film would probably still land outside the mainstream, and chances are that the way movies are financed these days there would be so many production notes from the various money sources that the resulting movie would look nothing like the original vision.

I think this is the third or fourth time I've watched this film since its release. A couple years ago I watched it because I remembered that I had seen it before, but couldn't recall if I liked it or not. And now, a few years later, I watched it again because I still couldn't remember if I liked it or not.

I find that I do like the film overall, it is interesting in its way, but seeing as I easily forget its impression over time it might just be one of those eventually forgettable films.Still, if one is on a nostalgic movie kick this might be an okay movie if you're in the mood for a little more laid back fare.

* OMG moment - I never reviewed Orphan!? I guess I probably watched it before I started the whole "review movies on Facebook because I have nothing else to put on my wall" business.  Bummer - I liked that movie because it was messed up. I may just have to re-watch it just to write about it.

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