Note: This is the first in several posts where Spellhawks Crew members recommend frightening reads or views for a specific horror subgenre. So grab some candied apples, sit back, and discover (or remember) some awesome Halloween entertainment!
If magically (or painfully) transforming into a different creature wasn’t cool enough, werewolves also have the magic of the moon and subconscious power of the human id overtaking the ego. They may not get the acclaim of the vampire or witch, but they’ve fascinated us for hundreds of years. Which of us has not admired the physical affects of American Werewolf in London or The Howling? Or been awed by the powerhouse lycans of the Underworld series?
Read on to find some old gems or some lesser-known titles featuring lycanthropy victims that respond to their affliction in a variety of ways.
Books to Keep You Up on a Full Moon Night
Cycle of the Werewolf
Most would know this material as the movie Silver Bullet, however, this slight volume by Stephen King left quite an imprint on me when I read it in junior high. Gritty and dark, this was nothing like the campfire stories of my youth. Add in the incredible inked illustrations of horror comic book legend Bernie Wrightson and you have a story with an unexpected hero and unconventional bad guy to tear at your peaceful sleep. Buy here.
The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men
Any short story lovers out there? If so, you’ll probably enjoy this collection featuring 25 hair-raising stories from authors such as Graham Masterson, Neil Gaiman, and Clive Barker. Some of the Mammoth books don’t measure up, but this one does with some unique perspectives of lycanthropy mixed in with some more old school tales: A little something for everyone. Buy here.
I list this knowing full well this isn’t truly a werewolf tale. It’s a hero’s journey of a young boy, but his sidekick and protector is an unusual creature: a werewolf shepherd. Yes, shepherd. From the minds of Stephen King and Peter Straub, The Talisman spins a yarn that not only touches on the supernatural, but crosses worlds and creates a sympathetic werewolf that you actually root for. Buy here.
The Ragged Edge
This one is by our own Dustyn McCormick! Even though werewolves are not the main feature in this urban fantasy, it is notable for featuring a pack of them – including a homosexual Cajun loup garou. This is an overall fun ride, and we suspect we might be seeing Ben the werewolf again. Buy here.
Movies to Curdle Your Blood
“Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!” – Spoon
This 2002 film used little to no CGI for its werewolves. A lot of the buildup is similar to Jaws in that you barely see the aggressors. The film focuses on a team of soldiers doing field exercises in the Scottish wilderness only to be ravaged by a pack of werewolves. This film has some of the best death scenes for its victims. Notable actors in the film include Kevin Mckidd and Sean Pertwee. Get it here.
Though it may not have the flash of some movies laden with CGI werewolves, this Canadian film has created a following by focusing on two sisters as well as themes not often found in werewolf stories. First, this film is interesting because these girls are already outsiders, so the disease is empowering for the first to be afflicted rather than a curse.
Second, there’s the interesting (if not so subtle) connection between coming of age, sexuality, and sister loss from becoming an adult that is here represented by a werewolf curse. In short, the concept of the werewolf “curse” gets conflated with another so-called curse. It’s in interesting take, especially if you tire of the “guy gets bitten, guy starts mindless killing and struggles with it” trope. Find it here.
The Wolf Man – The Legacy Collection
OK, you might think I’m getting picky by citing this collection rather than just the original The Wolf Man. First, seeing some lesser known, but atmospheric and wonderful, Universal werewolf flicks is an excellent idea for the werewolf aficionado. The Werewolf of London and She-Wolf of London stand on their own even if they aren’t as well known.
Now let’s talk about Lon Chaney Jr. as the lead man in the other two films in the set. No, Chaney Jr. was not a great actor (at least not as evidenced in these films), but The Wolf Man was his baby, and he made us feel for poor Larry Talbot and his struggles with the curse. And he was kind enough to reprise the role twice, including in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which is a fun mashup of two genres. Buy it here.
OK, that’s a wrap on our werewolf roundup, though we could go on: Brotherhood of the Wolf, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, and Robert McCammon’s The Wolf’s Hour, to name a few. If you have any suggested books or movies featuring our furry monster friend, let us know in the comments!