Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Company of Wolves: Beware the Unibrow

I realized the other day that it had been a very long time since my last werewolf film. A quick look at the archives tells me that the last one was Dog Soliders back in June..! Yikes. I wonder what is responsible for my sudden decline in one of my favorite subgenres. I bet it's because great werewolf movies aren't that easy to come by. I've seen all the important ones already so that means no others had been recommended. I had only known about The Company of Wolves because I read Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber in college. I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize that I needed to see this film, but I'm thinking it had to do with how creeped out I was by the idea of Little Red Riding Hood being seduced by the wolf when I had originally read the story.

In fact, I'm still marginally creeped out by that and further more, what some of the hidden implications behind one of my favorite fairy tales really is. Aside from this, I'm insanely pleased that I saved this movie for my New Years Day movie. It's such an interesting, and tantalizing film. The atmosphere created is one that brings such a strange air of fantasy despite much of it looking rather plain. I would even go so far as to say that the environment created in The Company of Wolves far outshines the attempted fantastical, wonder that is Tim Burton's Wonderland.

For plot's sake, The Company of Wolves takes place entirely inside the dream world of Rosaleen. She dreams she lives in a fairy tale land where her sister has been killed by a pack of wolves. After spending time with her grandmother, Rosaleen learns of the truth behind the wolves,

and soon experiences their company on her own. The story largely uses the original fairy tale but adds a certain...sexual intrigue that I'm sure would make my grandmother quite uncomfortable. Oh all right fine it made me uncomfortable. I can't help it if I do not like bushy eyebrows.

I will start by saying two words to you; Angela Lansbury.

How can you not love her? My sister would be peeing her pants right now if she knew that I watched something featuring Jessica Fletcher and did not tell her. I don't blame her, Angela is cute as a button and makes the perfect feisty grandmother of Little Red Riding Hood. I screamed out loud at the end of the film watching something involving her....head and I may even have cried but we don't need to hear about those sorry details.

I wasn't sure if I would love The Company of Wolves when it first began. I got a strong vibe of TV movie, and I kept getting confused about the sudden jump in time periods, and dream worlds. I'm still not entirely convinced that the presence of the modern day was necessary. It's not really ever visited again save for the last shot of the wolf coming through the window. I would normally claim that such an ending is necessary to tie it all together and make some sort of comparison to the story and Rosaleen's dreams but in this case--I don't think that's true. We have all the comparison that we need solely because Rosaleen IS Rosaleen in her dream.

I'm thinking the added presence of the modern world and Rosaleen's dream was to explain the presence of the somewhat bizarre landscape of the environment.

The boa constrictors in the trees for instance, and the giant toadstools. I have mixed feelings about the decision to do this. On one hand it opens up the world nicely for a completely free form of narrative. On the other, it suggests that we aren't imaginative enough to just accept that this is the world in which our story takes place and yes--it is fantastic. I'm pretty confident in saying that I would have enjoyed The Company of Wolves much more if the dream world was the only world.

Perhaps most surprising is the impressive array of special effects and makeup done in this film. I was blown away by more than a few scenes involving a transformation and I was even startled by a particular scene that kind of made me want to vomit.

I absolutely loved how violent the transformations were. Not just violent in a painful way but tore off--it's brilliant! For some reason I had assumed that The Company of Wolves was one of those PG films that could be classified as a horror film if only for the scarring nature it had impacted upon younger minds. I'm always making stupid judgments like that but The Company of Wolves straightened me out quite well.

It makes sense of course seeing as how all these tales originally had darker intentions and that Angela Carter's story wasn't exactly a bedtime staple. There's all sorts of grotesque and horrifyingly beautiful elements that I briefly considered making this entire post a photo essay.

BUT I didn't. Obviously. Still, what a delicious feast for the eyes huh? I suppose no matter what context, a blood red cape shown over a snowy landscape will always be powerful.

Speaking of blood red capes, if you really want to get your childhood destroyed, you can read about the symbolism behind Red Riding Hood's cape. The story has often been seen as a sexual sort of metaphor. The red cape symbolizes her hymen being punctured (sorry gross choice of word) or her you know...PERIOD. Or something. When the wolf advances on Red Riding Hood he is threatening her virginity of all things. Clearly, The Company of Wolves focuses on this aspect as the wolf she meets is very much a man and his advances are needless to say, uncomfortable.

Also, the burning of her clothes is a lovely way to show the shedding of her former self, her youth and even her human skin.

While the ending of the film was sudden, I did much prefer it to the happy ending we are all familiar with. Sure I myself may have not chosen to become a wolf--although on second thought living next door to a boy that looked like this

and wanted to do seduce me

probably would have also driven me to such an end. While we're on the subject didn't this kid remind you of Alice from the Brady Bunch? He reminds me of some kind of woman but I can't put my finger on it.

Anywho, I deeply loved The Company of Wolves. I loved the stories interwoven between the main narrative.

I loved the landscape of the fairy tale land. I even loved that horrible part where all those mini tarantulas fell from the ceiling and onto Rosaleen's bible. There's really so much to love about The Company of Wolves and I'm so glad I had not completely given up on finding another werewolf movie to gush about. Beware the man who has a unibrow---honestly, I could have told you that Red.


Jose Cruz said...

Yes, yes, yes, and yes, my good woman. I adore this film. I'm a huge fan of lycanthropes myself and I avoided this one for quite some time just because it looked so... British TV special like you said! I even tried watching it once and gave up after I fell asleep. But after I gave it another chance, I fell in love with every aspect of this movie. The beautiful nightmare settings (dig that toys-in-the-forest opener!), the transformations, the Lansbury, and Micah what's-his-face as that insanely debonair hunts/wolfman. More horror fans need to know about this gem. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did! Wonderful review again.

Strange Kid said...

I can remember watching this with my father as a kid and having hideous nightmares because of that flayed transformation sequence. Gave me the boogens something fierce.

DVD Infatuation said...

Oh yeah! I love this movie! I was really impressed with those transformation sequences, but was also drawn in by the hypnotic atmosphere and dream-like quality of the movie as a whole. Excellent write-up of a fantastic movie.

Pearce said...

Oh god yes. One of the greats. I like to think that I somehow invoked this by mentioning Angela Lansbury in the comments for your Rosemary's Baby post.

I don't care if the transformation scenes were added just to make it more "commercial" (as if!) - they're the most striking ever. I remember being really, really surprised when the image from the poster actually happened in the movie!

March Hare said...

I love your blog and this film, interestingly Angela Carter did not like the ending of the film, I thought it was pretty cool though. Of course I love LRRH and werewolves so this was a clear winner for me.
Think if given the choice I would run off with the wolves too.

Anonymous said...

Best werewolf fantasy ever made, in my opinion. The symbolism is everywhere..but the child-like dream state it keeps you in is to die for.

Thanks for the great blog!