The Horror Honeys: Saturday Creature Feature with Suzanne!

Saturday Creature Feature with Suzanne!

Wolfen (1981)

I love a good werewolf movie. Hell, I love a bad werewolf movie. Wolfen, starring Albert Finney and Gregory Hines, falls somewhere in the middle and I love the shit out of it.

Finney stars as Dewey Wilson, a NYC cop with an attitude and a bit of a drinking problem. He gets pulled into the investigation of the bizarre murders of a high-profile land developer, his wife and their bodyguard. Initially thought to be the work of terrorists, Dewey reluctantly partners with criminal psychologist, Rebecca Neff (Diane Venora), who is using state of the art, infrared equipment to interrogate suspects. Dewey is also assisted by his friend and coroner, Whittington (Hines), who discovers hairs at the crime scene that belong to wolves. The investigation leads them down a path of Native American legend, shapeshifting, and revenge.

Wolfen is a horror movie wrapped in a crime drama and it works. With stellar performances by actors who were mostly Broadway and theater performaers, and hired for their lack of film experience, it doesn’t feel super cheesy, even when it’s at its worst and believe me, its worst isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other werewolf films of the time period. I’m looking at you Howling II & III. Along with Finney and Hines, who have fantastic buddy chemistry, are appearances by Edward James Olmos and, genre favorite, Tom Noonan.

Well, hello Mr. Finney AND your fine feathered hair!
One of the most important characters in the film is the city itself. Filmed on location in Manhattan and the Bronx in 1979, the gritty backdrop of abandoned buildings, demolition, and crime was an accurate portrayal of the time and lends itself to the grim atmosphere of the movie.

I'm just gonna scratch you on the snoot you wittle... OW STOP EATING ME!
This is one of the first films to use thermographic photography for the creature POV. Normally, I’m not a fan of POV, found footage, and the like, but it’s used sparingly and effectively. Much like Jaws, you don’t see the creatures until the climax of the film, but rather than resort to gimmicky effects, actual wolves were used for the shots. Wolves perched atop police cars and the surrounding the buildings on Wall St. make for an epic and thought-provoking scene.

You can't tell, but Gregory Hines is totally tap dancing out of frame.

Wolfen was just released on BD from the Warner Brothers Archive collection. The transfer is gorgeous and although it’s quintessentially 70s, it doesn’t feel too dated. Watching it for the first time in years, I remembered why I loved it. It is also available streaming on Amazon Prime if you fear the investment.

Do you remember the wolfy-ness of Wolfen?
Let's chat about it on Twitter: @suzebee04