Attention SPOILERS! You can consult the list of films mentioned at the end of the article.
Out of almost 30 films seen, the number of films depicting male and / or female werewolves is almost similar. We often have the representation that a werewolf is a man, when it is not.
The werewolf represents marginality. But this transforming body also refers to that of the woman. We left for the analysis of the representation of the werewolf.
- The moon
- The wolf and the human
- The appearance of the werewolf
- The werewolf, a shield against gender-based violence?
- Love, elexir of the curse
- Bestial sexuality
- The wolf packs
- Conclusion: the wolf is in you
A werewolf (or lycanthrope therefore), is a human being who transforms completely or not, into a wolf. It can transform unintentionally, (often on a full moon), or intentionally. So there is one version of the beast that dominates, and the other that endures.
The 1st written record of the werewolf myth dates from the 5th century. Suffice to say that the lycanthrope had time to know several stories.
Although the werewolf is considered a powerful, malignant beast, he is viewed negatively:
- It is a punishment of Zeus on Lycaon (Greek king),
- He is associated with murderers and child eaters. As for example Gilles Garnier in 1570. We will note here the link with the Big Bad Wolf,
- To become a wolf is to be linked to the beast that kills cattle (which represents food and clothing),
- There was a werewolf hunt like a witch hunt,
- Feeling like a werewolf can be a symptom of a mental disorder.
It is the writer and politician Gervais de Tilbury who is behind the connection with the werewolf who transforms during a new moon (and not a full moon as it is now portrayed). He writes it in his Book of Wonders in the 12th century.
The moon is a satellite that has an important place in our beliefs, whether they are ancient or not.
Moreover, it is very present through everyday expressions: being in the moon, getting the moon, being badly mooned, even being beautiful as the moon …
It has several symbols:
- Change. A lunar cycle goes through a different perception of the moon. We talk about new moon, 1st crescents, quarters, waxing gibbous moon, and once the full moon is reached, the cycle starts again in the other direction. A gradual transformation therefore.
To evoke a changing mental disorder, we speak of lunatic people.
- Fertility. With his lunar cycle of 29 days, he is close to a menstrual cycle, usually around 28 days. It took no more for our Greek and Roman ancestors to associate the moon with the feminine (although there is no scientific evidence of a link between the 2). Thus, according to Aristotle, the full moon would facilitate the delivery.
The moon therefore has its Greek goddess, Selene, and Roman, Luna. Note that these goddesses are transformed into witches (obviously evil) on new moon nights, following a pact with the Devil.
- The power of nature. It is for this reason that witches are said to keep their Sabbaths, this feast, during a full moon. A symbiosis between nature and gods / goddesses, in an isolated corner, which will allow the magic not to be disturbed.
It’s not surprising then that the moon is directly linked to the idea that the werewolf is a direct return of man, to nature.
These elements make it an undeniable reference to the feminine.
If we look at its more scientific side, it is not devoid of interest either. We can note:
- Its link with the Earth. The moon is often associated with the sun when in reality its pair would be more with the Earth. Indeed, 4 billion years ago, the Earth and the moon were one, and it was after a collision with another planet that they were fractured. It is for this reason that rock compositions are found on the moon, which are similar to the Earth.
Thus, if we associate the moon with the transformation of man into a werewolf, we can see in it the fusion between the moon and the Earth. The latter obviously represents Men.
- Its link with the sea. The moon is a source of reassuring light for sailors.
But above all, the combined forces of gravity of the moon and the sun, regulate the tides.
2-The wolf and the human
Before getting to the heart of the matter, it’s worth noting that the werewolf movie subgenre has a reputation for offering a lot of (very) bad movies. And I will not go against this received idea, which is rather true (even if we find some pearls).
What questioned me, however, is why? Because horror subgenres featuring more or less monstrous animals are common in genre cinema. And if everything is obviously not successful, that does not prevent us from having very good films ranging from Alien, via Cujo, The Thing or The Fly, which for some tackle a transformation of the human being.
It remains very complicated to represent the transformation of a human into an animal that is close and known to us. Especially since humans have little to do with a canine, morphologically speaking. It is therefore a tour de force to succeed in making a human body evolve into the body of a wolf. Especially if we have to represent the body which becomes human again. There is a bit of an absurd and funny side in the end. Like a disguise.
On the other hand, the link between man and wolf is very old. These are 2 species that quickly got along. They are social, work in packs, eat similar foods (which explains their clash over cattle, even though we know there are more dogs that kill them than wolves).
The wolf and the man are also attached to the notion of territory to defend, to mark it, to conquer it.
But we also know that Man became the first predator of the wolf in the Middle Ages, when their extermination really began. Clashes between inhabitants of mountainous regions and wolves are still raging today. The wolf has therefore been a protected species since 1990, which does not prevent some from killing them, exasperated.
The situation is worsening with global warming, which pushes humans and animals to live closer and closer.
Yet this cohabitation is ancestral; we just lost the habit of living in harmony with animals. A habit that we will surely have to resume.
The human being who must live in peace with wolves. In the same way that the werewolf materializes this challenge for humans to live in harmony with their wolf side.
Man is an animal like any other
With Man transformed into an (other) animal, werewolf films often question Man’s relationship to his animality. The way the bestial aspect takes over, and the consequences that affect his life.
As if we were starting from the principle that Man is not an animal, but a civilized being (even if we should define what we put behind the word civilized).
Indeed, we know that the genetic differences between apes and humans are minimal. In addition, it should be known that the man is the only one of his kind to strike and kill his companion.
So, there are now anthropologists, who tend to put men and animals on a similar level.
3-The appearance of the werewolf
Visually, the werewolf offers few variations. The main difference that can be noted between films, is the choice to show a gradual, partial or radical transformation.
Progressive female transformation
This is the first difference in treatment between male and female werewolves that can be noted.
In the vast majority of cases, we see a gradual transformation of women. That is, we see the character’s face evolve; but she keeps her human appearance.
When I say gradual transformation, I mean stages that you see for a shorter or longer time in the film. I ignore the gradual transformation that can occur just before the total transformation.
This is the case in the Ginger Snaps saga. We can also note a gradual and partial transformation in the magnificent Danish film When animals dream.
Gradually, Ginger and Marie’s face wrinkles, giving them a sharp and pointed appearance. The hair becomes lighter, and the eyes become sharper. Ditto in I Am Lisa.
Their faces are reminiscent of the painting by the German Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Two Women at the Street (1914).
In this painting, he represents two women who show their new independence with sensuality and confidence.
The angular lines, the vigorous hatching give an impression of a lively and violent movement. The sharp lines and masks of the faces refer to the primitivism that Kirchner greatly appreciates.
The independence that goes with their maturity is precisely what characterizes Ginger and Marie.
Note that this appearance also echoes a fairly common representation of the old witch.
Long, fair hair, long nails and sharp teeth, damaged skin, sometimes with unnatural eyes.
This refers to the witches present in the full moon myths mentioned above. As well as the Goddesses who are endowed with evil powers, also during a full moon.
In the broke but nevertheless partially interesting I Am Lisa, we do not see the total transformation of the heroine. You have to get to the end of the film to see a partial transformation. If the result is not shameful, we are moving away from an aesthetic linked to the wolf. We are more on a representation of demons.
So here we are more in the idea of evil powers (like the Greek and Roman Goddesses, which I mentioned above).
Wildling offers quite a few progressive transformation sequences, and besides her end state is quite close to human (she is rather halfway between a werewolf and a “wild” human being)
In contrast, the film dwells on the gradual effects of this transformation on her psyche, her relationship with the new world she is discovering.
We mainly see a gradual transformation of women, unlike men
Finally there is only in Wildling, and especially She Wolf of London (but when you know the ending you know why), in which the werewolf keeps a relatively human appearance.
Note that in the case of these 2 films, the protagonists fully accept their condition. In Wildling’s case, since she’s been deprived of her body for years, she takes advantage of it. In She Wolf of London, she very quickly suspects herself of having committed murders at night and decides to isolate herself. She therefore undergoes gaslighting throughout the film, while the threat is very real, even if she is wrong about her origin.
Progressive male transformation
As I said, there are rarely gradual transformations of male characters.
On the other hand, there are representations that I would say partial (that is to say that we do not see a wolf monster strictly speaking). In other words, man can always be distinguished through his transformation into a werewolf.
This is the case in Wolf, or The Curse of Werewolf, Werewolf of London (1935) or A werewolf boy. But their faces are never disfigured. They are especially hairier!
In addition, it has the consequence that one does not see any potential pain.
What are the consequences of these progressive transformations?
Representing these partial transformations assault the face (in the same way as in the representation of possession, it is the women who most often have damaged faces). What represents the very identity, is touched. These women are portrayed in a monstrous light, which can arouse a certain disgust.
Moreover, these gradual transformations are often painful, physically or mentally. The character has to adapt to this changing physique. What puts these female characters in a weak position, rather in the process of undergoing this transformation.
On the contrary, werewolf men, rarely knowing this intermediate stage, do not live this in between.
No complicated bodily situations to experience.
They are most often shown in the light of a complete transformation. This establishes their strength and power, and causes not disgust, but rather fear. And therefore represents a domination.
Note that this difference may seem trivial, yet there is research, notably by Pierre Ancet in his book Phenomenology of Monstrous Bodies which shows the opposite. He notes that we have a real repulsion towards deformed bodies close to human (and therefore our own relationship to the body), unlike plant nonsense or strange rocks. What is more, if a subject is perceived as monstrous, it is first of all because he is seen as such by others. We agree here with the importance of the notion of looking at women.
Moreover, it implies a notion of attraction for this body. Indeed, this strange body gives a lot of unusual things to see, so we experience a fascination (which women are often the object of in genre cinema).
But this attraction / repulsion duality means that we no longer see the other as a whole person. You can only see it through this deformity. Thus, we find here the notion of woman as object.
You see what I mean? This disfigurement of female characters has an emotional consequence, or a look at these characters, of which we are not necessarily aware. All the more so if we are used to seeing these progressive transformations mainly on a genre.
And above all, unlike the possession which takes its inspiration from the ways of discrediting women with hysteria, I see no reason for this difference in treatment. In the collective imagination, the werewolf is a man, so maybe we wanted to treat the female characters in a different way. Maybe you have some answers?
In most films, we represent the werewolf (man or woman), without intermediate step, as in Wolf, Teddy, Trick Or Treat, Cursed, The werewolf of London, The werewolf of Paris, The good manners or even Howls.
This obviously does not prevent the classic tracks of transformation from being launched to the public: the senses increased tenfold, the appetite for meat, for sexuality …
Perfect equality of treatment, if I may say so.
Except that, the most impressive complete transformations and on which one insists, concern mainly the men. Even when the film features a male and female werewolf.
In The Company of Wolves, we are entitled to 2 striking scenes. The very graphic 1st, based on blood and skeleton, which reflects the brutality of a man who has become a beast, and who attacks his former companion.
The other more moving, with a more carnal aspect, which corresponds to the “subtext” of sexuality concerning Little Red Riding Hood.
However, a female character and the heroine transform at the end. Except … that it is suggested (we do not forget to put a naked one on the other hand). For one, she changes very discreetly in the dark, and the other she is discovered already metamorphosed.
Wolf offers 3 werewolf characters. The 2 male characters played by Jack Nicholson and James Spader are transformed. But not Michelle Pfeiffer, whose transformation is suggested via her beautiful evolving eyes.
In The Werewolf of London, Bad Moon we witness one (or more) transformation (s) in a frontal way.
Much like in Howling, the transformation of man is shown in an evolutionary way even though fast. It is interesting to note that the man is sublimated during his transformation through his sexual performance. As for her partner, she is back to the ground, without seeing the evolution of her face.
You will also notice that the man maintains a head quite close to his human condition, unlike the woman.
The end of the film mostly shows the heroine’s change of state through her eyes once again. And most importantly, when you quickly show her final state (before she gets killed, unlike male werewolves), she looks like a poodle …
This is undoubtedly to distinguish the protagonists from the antagonists. But that does not prevent representing it with a little more class all the same!
In Bad Moon, the werewolf is the unambiguous antagonist of this story, which aims to show the power of a single-parent family. To demonstrate this, the film shows the monstrosity of the character in his psychology (and his manipulation), and through his physique. So we see the werewolf in its entirety regularly in the film; which gradually increases the tension about the danger that threatens the mother.
We can forget the catastrophic representations of the complete transformations of Julie Delpy in An American Werewolf in Paris (3 writers for as much mediocrity is a lot) which are anecdotal.
Moreover, we can note that the staging thinks (a little) about the transformation of the male character, by trying to create a climax with the fountain where he hides just before appearing with a bang.
We dwell a little more on Judy Greer’s role in Cursed. The visual effects (already very ugly for the time) do not help, but above all the idea is to show the appearance of the physical monstrosity of the antagonist that the protagonists will have to face. Also, we see very little the antagonist in the film before. So the emotional impact is very different than if it had been Christina Ricci.
Even though the portrayal of women’s transformations in Trick Or Treat is excessively sexualized (I will come back to this later), there are a few interesting points that can be noted. You should know that at this time, they overturn the cliché of Little Red Riding Hood. They are the predatory wolves to be wary of. They shed their human skin, like a costume, which is a direct reference to the tale. It’s a way of shedding their appearance that makes them potential victims. The transformation is not quite complete, but it is coming very close. The case of this film is a bit special because it comes close to a narration of sketch films.
The bad western Blood Moon shows a complete live transformation I would like to say of a female character. The only interesting sequence in the film, where you can feel the body decompose, unfold. Unfortunately as no character is written in this film, this transformation brings nothing (the sequence even comes out of nowhere). Neither in the story, nor in the evolution of the character.
The only films where the complete transformation is portrayed frontally, which involves the willingness to show the final evolution of the character, is in Ginger Snaps 1 and 2 (written by women, I remind you!).
In general, either we put more emphasis on the staging, the complete transformation of a man, or it nourishes the character or the plot.
4-The werewolf, a shield against gender-based violence?
When the main character is female, the stakes are often linked to the idea of countering gender-based violence.
To return more specifically to the case of Marie in When Animals dream, the appearance of her real nature comes at the end of her adolescence (around 20 years old), unlike Ginger (her transformation comes at the time of her period). She is in search of her origins, and she understands that it is hereditary, her mother being struck by the same disease. Here the werewolf myth is used to survive male toxicity. Indeed, her mother found herself in a wheelchair; he was put out of action. She had killed men who had assaulted her. Yet she retains all her strength when it comes to defending her daughter who is in the hands of her father and the doctor.
From the first images, we know that what Marie will suffer first is the male gaze on her. She is half naked, at the doctor’s (the same one who will try to treat her despite his will).
Working in a male environment, she is hazed by men, immersed in a bath of fish waste. She is sexually assaulted by 2 colleagues.
Men not only pollute the environment of these women, but they also try to make them disappear because they are afraid of their rebellion.
This desire to deviate from traditional werewolf themes (total body transformation, animalization in the forest), passes through the decor. The action of When Animals Dream takes place in a small port town. No forest, trees or a full moon, here we are among fishes and fishermen, with no other perspective for the protagonists and antagonists. But as we have seen above, the moon is linked to the sea.
It is present in a subtle way. Elements that refer to the moon are placed in the same frame as Mary:
- Round objects (satellite dish, decorative objects, a small mill that spins in the garden),
- Round mirrors.
The moon, as we saw above is regularly associated with the feminine.
In my opinion, this supports the fact that Marie is surrounded by her status as a woman (and by the sea), which places her at the center of the animosity of the men in her village.
What I found particularly relevant in this beautiful film is that Mary, who has the status of an animal, is not portrayed as bad, evil. Unlike the men who are considered by the village as civilized beings (because they would try to protect the village from Mary and her mother).
This is also the observation that can be made in the exploitative erotic horror La lupa mannara, but with a very problematic point. Which shows that the same subject does not necessarily tell the same story …
The moon is constantly associated with the heroine (who by the way is not really a werewolf, but more like a vampire).
Thus, the montage regularly associates the moon with its face. In addition, car headlights are frequently used to remind people of the moon. I would even add that, in this specific case, the moon and the headlights are the symbols of the voyeuristic male gaze (especially of the director) on the heroine. Indeed, it only exists through its status as an object of desire and domination (the rape scene is also very representative of the stinking rape & revenge of exploitation cinema of the 70s).
But there is no shortage of sexist comments in Lupa Mannara. The heroine is portrayed as the evil witch (she is depicted as in the legends of witches dancing on the evening of a full moon, which I mentioned above). Indeed, it is staged in a communion with the forces of evil, or in nature with a cauldron.
She also becomes puritanical. A victim of rape in her youth, she has since hated sexuality. So she starts killing … women who are sexually active (she will not kill her sister, but will punish her by killing her husband and insulting him). And when she is raped again, she won’t use that same superhuman strength to defend herself. It is her new companion who will leave his skin there, wanting to save her. In addition, his life is ruled by his father. And despite everything she went through, she will die locked in an asylum.
The staging, which excessively sexualizes women, only lowers them to the status of a body. So yes, the aim of the film is to vulgarly attract the male customer. But it seemed important to me to point out how this type of work is still a problem.
If Wildling gets lost along the way, entangled in a Twilight-style vibe, Part 1 of the film is clever at portraying the heroine’s control of the body.
Anna is the survivor of a wolf hunt. She is picked up (and kidnapped) by a hunter who has no heart to kill her. But having a horror of the werewolf species, he drugs it dangerously to stop its period, and therefore its growth.
He therefore takes control of his body from his childhood, which he will try to take back at the end of the film. He tries to perform a cesarean on Anna, in order to recover (again) a child. We can see a subtext on incest and pedophilia, but also on the massacre of the Amerindian population.
The main stake for Anna in the meantime is to regain her body, her mobility, and of course to taste the joys of adolescence. A bodily and psychological change. Here again, his more “wild” state than a wolf, will allow him to defend himself against the sexual assault of a young person of his age (who will be represented by the way as a wolf).
The case of I Am Lisa is special. It is explicitly stated that the heroine is a lesbian, and she is assaulted by women, following the refusal of advances from one of them. Left for dead and bitten by wolves, she will take revenge, werewolf for her condition.
Here we find the classic patriarchal scheme, but executed by women. Lisa also helps women (her best friend, a teenage girl abandoned by her mother…).
If the film botches its subject too much, and that it can be perceived as lesbophobic (especially since it is directed and written by men), it has the merit of illustrating that patriarchal domination is not exercised. than by men. And that it can be quite internalized by women. Thus, it is a way of destroying the argument often used by men to justify sexism, namely that it is validated by women.
In A werewolf boy, it’s the werewolf isn’t the danger. He is the bulwark against misogyny. We can obviously see the inability of the heroine to defend herself, but to the extent that she comes to the aid of her werewolf lover in another way, I rather retain a form of equality between the 2.
It should be noted that unlike the very dark depictions of love in other films, the vision of love is sublimated here. Everything is overexposed, clear, yellow, happy, bright.
5-Love, elixir of the curse
Love is often a major issue in werewolf movies. We find him in The Curse of Werewolf, Wildling, Blood & Chocolate, An American werewolf in Paris, When Animals dream, A Werewolf Boy…
Indeed, it should be known that love is often brandished as an element of care, even a remedy, for the evil of the werewolf.
This is the case in The Curse of Werewolf and its reboot / remake Wolfman. The female character is incidental, it exists only through the hero, to serve the hero.
In The Curse of Werewolf, Christina (who is presented only as a character promised to marriage), wishes to live her freedom in love with Leon, the werewolf. We will not know anything more about his desires, his personality; it represents care.
In the same way that Gwen in Wolfman is first the wife of a werewolf who will eventually be killed, only to fall in love with her brother, also a werewolf. How, in times of mourning, did she discover feelings for the hero, Larry? Mystery. In any case, she is once again the only issue for the werewolf hero. I am thinking here of an editing problem, because we feel a character who undoubtedly had more visibility.
Love interest is sometimes central, and even defines the characters.
This is the case in Blood & Chocolate, where the half-human, half-wolf heroine waits for a man to come into her life to emancipate herself. In fact, the only time we will see her transformation is to defend her lover. He is also the only reason she will attack her fellow human beings.
A similar pattern takes place in An American Werewolf in Paris. Werewolf Serafine is saved from suicide by the hero Andy. Subsequently, she believes she has infected him, and the rule is that to ward off the curse, the contaminated must eat the heart of the werewolf who attacked him.
The symbolism is obvious, Andy, werewolf, must literally tear the heart of his sweetheart. Note that twice, Sérafine wishes to die (from her wounds, and by suicide). Twice, Andy will be the savior. However, instead of trying to save herself (or to exist apart from her stepfather, the toxic men around her and Andy), she will systematically seek to save her lover. Trying to pull him away, almost giving up his life there, even trying to relax him by putting his hands on her chest. Normal.
All of these examples refer strongly to what is called nurse syndrome.
For fear of not being loved, to heal an injury, or quite simply because the structural functioning of society is the responsibility of women to take care of others (family, husband, children, etc.), many women seek to cure an illness that gnaws at their companion. To the detriment of their own life, desires, needs.
The only example where love is the central subject of the film and which does not correspond to these observations, is the wonderful Good Manners. The 1st part evokes a love between 2 women (which is not the subject of the film). Part 2 shows a mother’s love for her child who is physically different from herself. If the film obviously evokes marginality, it is reminiscent of the problems encountered by mothers who have an adopted child who does not look like them. Black director Amandine Gay regularly evokes these differences which have very concrete consequences on a daily basis.
The werewolf, a concrete manifestation of human animality, has to do with sexuality. Which I personally have always found quite funny, but I touched on the subject in the introduction, above.
You see me coming, so this is an opportunity to come back to the treatment of sexuality according to the gender of the protagonist!
So the female werewolf in Howling is only there to tempt the male.
In Trick n Treat, we are entitled to many close-ups of the breasts of the werewolf who transform. Big breasts, very standardized bodies, all added to the fantasies of the costumes… we are swimming in a rather ridiculous excessive sexualization.
Note that these 2 examples refer to the dimension of the evil witch, and their dances in the middle of nature, as I mentioned in the introduction on the symbols linked to the moon.
We regularly find the illustration of nurse syndrome
Julie Delpy devotes herself with all her body to relax the hero in An American Werewolf in Paris.
And obviously Ginger Snaps illustrates the discovery of the body and sexuality, while not sexualizing its heroine (unlike the other examples).
There is obviously the deplorable case of La lupa mannara, the problems of which I have already mentioned above.
There are also cases where the woman is sexualized through the male gaze. This is the case in Cursed. The heroine becomes sexually attractive to all men.
This is also the point that can be made in Cat People (although here it is a panther and not a wolf). She exudes such a strong attraction that a passer-by (yes it should be noted that there is still a passer-by!), Seems to love her (if we can call that love), to the point of wanting to marry her. (too) very quickly.
Moreover, this state in the heroine rather creates a fear of sexuality. With the help of unsubtle metaphorical images of the padlock and the key (Freud’s concept to symbolize penetration), we understand that she does not know how to manage both her physical state, but also the reactions that it creates on men (both her husband and her doctor). In fact, the first time she kills, it will be to defend herself from sexual assault.
In the comedy My mom is a werewolf, a mother is pushed back with mental strain, and neglected by her husband. This need for love on the part of her husband and children, leads her to give in to the advances of a werewolf. She will not be released from anything, because he actually wants to make her his wife. Besides that, her new state will provoke sexual desires towards her husband, who miraculously regains an interest in his wife. But her situation will become more complicated, torn between her husband and the werewolf. From being a woman trapped in her home, she will pass to a woman trapped between two men. Not to mention that she keeps the same classic injunctions on women (shaving your legs then becomes a real problem!). So yes this is an unpretentious comedy, but the trigger for the film which responds to the protagonist’s basic premise is supposedly depicting a shift, in the form of the werewolf. However, it is not.
Women werewolf wolves rarely hunt their prey unlike men
Men increase their power tenfold
On the contrary, this werewolf power allows men to be sexually active, powerful, and dominant.
This allows them to seduce women much younger than them (Wolf), gain popularity and / or seduce women (TeenWolf, Cursed, The Curse of Wolfman, A werewolf boy, The Wolfman, The Company of Wolves) .
The most egregious example is in Cursed. In this (bad) movie, a male and female character are transformed into werewolves (although we don’t see a final transformation). The way of experiencing the transformation is radically different.
The suffering heroine hides in the toilet. While his brother lets his new manhood explode, which will finally give him confidence.
The purpose of the film (treated superficially) is to show that (almost) all men are beasts, and therefore potentially dangerous. It’s interesting to note that the answer to that, is to place a female antagonist (who only kills women), who attacks the protagonist for the simple reason … that she stole her boyfriend. . Instead of a patriarchal systemic observation, we always prefer to attack women.
The example of Werewolf of London (1935) shows a scientist close to Frankenstein, who once became a werewolf, only attacks women. But women who commit a sin: to walk around alone at night, or to be the mistress of a husband. This is a projection he makes on his own wife, who bonds with an old friend because she is neglected by her own husband. Eventually he will attack them, to no avail. It is not good to have sex outside of marriage …
In Bad Moon, the hero sees his companion devoured by a werewolf in the midst of a sexual frenzy. He obviously becomes a werewolf afterwards and hunts. But forced to move away from where he lived, he found nothing better than to settle in the garden of his sister, a single mother. He is curiously deliberately endangering her (while warning her!). When she finds out the truth, she is insulted copiously against a backdrop of comments tinged with sexism. Thus, throughout the film, he maintains a power over her, threatening her living space.
Interestingly, I take this opportunity to note that the man is portrayed as the dangerous animal, through the eyes of the family dog. The dog’s point of view is also used regularly in the film, which helps to create real empathy with him, showing that he understands the situation. It’s rare enough in genre cinema to notice this.
The only example that seems to me to counteract these findings is the protagonist of Teddy. Rather, his transformation into a werewolf destroys what he had (his stammering interactions with the villagers, his girlfriend, his plans), and worsens his predicament. And if he writes Carrie-style vengeance, he spares the one that broke his heart.
Note that female werewolf rarely becomes predatory. Ginger in Ginger Snaps defends her territory more than she hunts, Marie in When Animals Dream retaliates, Lisa in I Am Lisa takes revenge on her abusers. In Cat People it’s about watching over husband and mistress, and in Company of Wolves she doesn’t get the chance to attack anyone.
It’s only in Cursed, where the antagonist hunts rivals.
Whereas in Bad Moon, Werewolf of London, The Curse of Werewolf, The Wolfman, Wolf, Blood Moon… men hunt with more or less reason in mind.
In either case, it is not good to be a werewolf, as the outcome will often be fatal. The concrete animal part of Man does not seem to have its place!
7-The packs of wolves
I’ve talked a lot about werewolves, those beasts that are a fusion of human and wolf to form yet another monster apart.
But there are also a few movies where if it’s about transformations, it’s not about werewolves. But wolves, quite simply.
This is the case with Blood & Chocolate, Wolfwalkers, Wolfen (although there is actually no question of transformation) or Twilight.
What these films have in common is the pack. The protagonist evolves in collectivity. Unlike the werewolf who is alone (except in Howls where the pack is quickly shown).
In Blood & Chocolate, humans transform at will, especially during a hunting party. A way to stay in tune with their second nature.
In Wolfwalkers, it is during their sleep that the 2 heroines transform. The staging makes strong reference to the Zelda video game, The Twilight Princess, with the scent traces clearly visible by the wolves.
It also brings about a significant change in appearance. The character is never a monster. He is still a creature that actually exists.
In addition, the transformation does not come through pain.
Finally, the power of the protagonists is not increased tenfold. They benefit from the characteristics of each state, whether they are humans or wolves.
In my opinion, this helps to quickly empathize with the characters. Whether in one state or another, these are familiar appearances. What’s more, the wolf is not the most terrifying animal. He looks a lot like the dog, man’s best friend.
What is more, these characters have the status of victims, exterminated by humans. They are not predators, which makes a big difference to the werewolf, which attacks more or less blindly and fiercely.
Finally, it gives a collective dimension, and reflects a systemic problem. There are many parallels with threatened populations.
It is a little used prism, which deserves more relevant works on the subject. Wolfen also explores this theme with intelligence, but it is not a question of werewolves or wolfwalkers, but of wolves outright.
8-Conclusion: the wolf is in you
We have seen that progressive and partial transformations are predominant in female characters. We focus much more on the pain of a transforming body and mind. The werewolf metaphor is therefore ideal for evoking adolescence or entering adulthood. It seems to me that this is consistent with the fact that women’s bodies change the most in a lifetime (adolescence, pregnancy, post-pregnancy body, menopause). It would therefore be interesting to use the werewolf to represent these crucial stages of life as well. And that would make it possible to portray older female characters.
It goes without saying that it would take more women at the helm for these stories to be seen on screen (whether writing, producing or directing). I note that there are only 2 female directors out of the 28 films I have seen for this article.
If sexuality has been used in many films, often to the detriment of the quality of the female characters, it would be interesting to explore it other than through the prism of punishment, frustration or manipulation. Sexuality (or non-sexuality) is a vast subject. Most of the movies are still based on a diagram of the mom (or the nurse) or the whore.
Finally, since the male characters see their manly power increased tenfold with the werewolf, it would be interesting to see films digging into Teddy’s example. Show the weaknesses of characters hidden under the appearance of a big strong man. Try to develop psychologies, instead of just showing a classic path that often leads to the same conclusion: death.
The figure of the werewolf will continue to fascinate me because I love the idea of showing that the human has no control over the transformation of his body. This lack of control is also found in the acts committed, which humans do not remember. This questions the degree of responsibility for our actions, our conscience.
And this way of visually linking man to animal is fascinating, all the more so now, with the animal condition which is more and more questioned and defended.
The werewolf movie has a bad reputation, but it offers a lot of possibilities for telling the human story. And I hope that new ideas will emerge through this prism.
Films seen / cited
- An American Werewolf in London by John Landis,
- An American werewolf in Paris by Anthony Waller,
- When Animals Dream by Jonas Alexander Arnby,
- The Curse of Werewolf by Terence Fisher,
- Good Manners of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra,
- Ginger Snaps by John Fawcett,
- Ginger Snaps 2 by Brett Sullivan,
- Ginger Snaps 3 by Grant Harvey,
- The Wolfman by Joe Johnston,
- A Werewolf Boy by Jo Sung-Hee,
- Wolf by Mike Nichols,
- Blood & Chocolate by Katja von Garnier,
- Wolfwalkers by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
- La Lupa mannara by Rino Di Silvestro
- Teddy by Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma,
- The Company of Wolves of Neil Jordan,
- Wildling by Fritz Bohm,
- Trick Or Treat by Michael Dougherty,Eric Red’s Bad Moon,
- She Wolf of London by Jean Yarbrough,
- My mom is a werewolf by Michael Fischa
- Cat people by Jacques Tourneur,
- Cursed by Wes Craven,
- Howling of Joe Dante,
- I Am Lisa by Patrick Rea,
- Blood moon by Jeremy Wooding,
- Teen Wolf by Rod Daniel,
- Werewolf of London (1935) by Stuart Walker
- Wolfen by Michael Wadleigh