Friday, April 29, 2011

For Whom the Wolf Howls

Werewolves are fucking cool.  Even as a kid I loved the idea of werewolves.  I don't know why, but the idea always appealed to me.  As a kid I suppose the coolest part about werewoves was the Hulk factor, which I suppose is actually the Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde factor.  The idea that a normal dude actually has this bloodthirsty beast inside of him ready to break free is a very romantic idea that appeals to the underdog (pun intended) in us all.  It gives hope that the 98 pound weakling has the chance to become the big swinging dick on campus, if only for one brief, shining moment.  Never having lived as a woman (yet...) I can't say for certain, but the werewolf idiom seems to be a more masculine fantasy.  The desire for instantaneous transformation into a relatively indestructable, physically dominant specimen seems to be a mostly male concern since the social construction of masculinity still revolves a great deal around physical prowess.  And even though I am aware of this construction I cannot escape its effects nor can I honestly say that I entirely disagree with the basic premise.  Being physically strong is beneficial in alot of ways and I think Darwin would agree with me here. 

Plus it would just look pretty fucking cool to transform into a giant wolf.  Imagine being at a party where some boring prick is talking about how awesome his snot-nosed little brat is at playing the clarinet or some such nonsense, or some douchebag starts talking about how he lost a shit-ton of weight with the Bowflex and "gave all of his fat clothes to his fat friends" (well, ex-friends now, I suppose dickhead), or some moron starts going on about how great the latest MacBook is, and you just step into the middle of the room and TRANSFORM INTO A FUCKING WOLF and the head of the clarinet-playing kid's dad just explodes from the sheer awsomeness.  "Yeah, well, I'm a werewolf," you say as you casually disembowel another yuppie and eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.  You'd be the toast of the town in no time.  You'd be so fucking popular you could hire yourself out to parties for a million bucks a pop.  You'd make women wet at the drop of a hat, then dry them off with your giant, werewolf tongue.

And that's the other component to why the werewolf fantasy is so compelling.  As I grew up I began to realize that at its heart the idiom of the werewolf was a sexual construct.  The metaphor of transforming into a frothing-at-the-mouth monster is really a way of representing the unleashing of raw, sexual energy.  There's the obvious anaology of the man turning into the beast representing a dick becoming erect, but even beyond that there is the idea of that uncontrolable, insatiable appetite inside of us being unleashed.  In the context of the werewolf mythos violence becomes a metaphor for sex.  Hunger for flesh is hunger for flesh.  Instead of hunting for your next meal you're hunting for pussy instead.  Instead of eating your prey's inards you're eating her pussy instead.  Something, something, something... pussy... something, something, something.  (The thought just occured: there must be a huge niche market for werewolf porn.) 

In the movies, however, I find that werewolves have generally been getting the short end of the stick recently.  I mean, there's AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON which is still totally kick ass and features the single best werewolf transformation ever captured on film, but beyond that there's really nothing great.  UNDERWORLD had a lot of potential and I tried really hard to like it, but it still lacked that something special.  THE WOLFMAN remake was complete shit and I hesitate to even mention the TWILIGHT series because I'm still not sure if those movies are meant to be taken seriously or if they're some kind of giant practical joke.  THE MONSTER SQUAD had a pretty cool werewolf, but he was seriously underused.  Then there was 1994's ridiculous WOLF in which the filmmakers inexplicably had a hard-on for fast motion and Jack Nicholson's werewolf looked like Jack Nicholson with some mutton chop sideburns.  But most of those werewolves are a bunch of chumps that I would be ashamed to be murdered by. 

For some reason our culture is now obsesed with vampires and in cinema they seem to be almos godlike when compared to werewolves.  In UNDERWORLD the vampires always have the upper hand and when it comes to the final battle even though the werewolves are finally starting to fuck shit up, Bill Nighy just comes in and starts snapping werewolf necks like matchsticks.  Ditto for TWILIGHT were vampires seem to be all the rage and werewolves are second class citizens.  I mean, Jacob and his rippling abs can't even pull Bella away from pasty-faced Edward.  What the fuck is that all about?  Even when werewolves finally show up in True Blood they seem to be outclassed by vampires.  This is always seemed backwards to me, maybe because I've always had kind of had more of a hard on for werewolves.  But I mean, really, if vampires and werewolves existed in the real world (yet another worthwhile discussion) I really think that werewolves would just totally kick ass, especially if they were the kind of werewolves that just totally Hulked out as opposed to the werewolves who were still aware of their actions after the transformation (a la UNDERWORLD).  I mean, you have this giant, bloodthirsty beast versus a bunch of pale fuckers with some dental deformaties.  Just the pure savagery and bloodlust of the werewolf would easily make the vampire to werewolf ratio at least 10:1 in order to make it a fair fight.  Maybe some day they'll get it right.

Until then I'll have to be happy with movies like DOG SOLDIERS.  I remember several years ago when my buddy Joe told me about this movie.  He really built it up, but he gets easily excited about movies and I had a lot of other movies on my list.  It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago when Ryebone came over and we were cruising Netflix for something to watch that I came across DOG SOLDIERS and finally found myself in the mood for some good old-fashioned disembowlings and werewolf on human action.  I don't know whether the movie was a lot better than I was expecting or that I was simply in the mood for that type of movie, or whether all the asbestos in my house was affecting my brain in ways I couldn't yet comprehend, but I enjoyed the fuck out of DOG SOLDIERS.  It was just a ton of good fun and terrible, bloody death.

The story follows the promisingPrivate Cooper ( a post-TRAINSPOTTING pre-Rome Kevin Mckidd) and his fellow squadmates.  After a failed bid to enter the British Special Forces (or something) Cooper goes out with his squad on a routine military training exercise.  Unfortunately for them their training exercise happens to take place in the hunting grounds of an ancient werewolf family (the family that kills together stays together) who promptly wipe out another group of soldiers and force Cooper et al to flee toa nearby farmhouse.  Now the soldiers must fortify the house and hold out until sun up if they have any hope of surviving this horror.  Of course, nothing goes smoothly, and several attempts to flee in nearby vehicles result in some pretty gruesome deaths of several of the soldiers.  The werewolf attackers are relentless and the soldiers are running low on ammo and limbs and eventually Kevin McKidd has no choice but to blow the fuck out of the farmhouse and all the werewolves therein before having one last epic fght with the last surviving werewolf and walking triumphantly and sadly from the rubble.  Sometimes survival is the greatest victory.  Fuck, I should have gone into advertising.

DOG SOLDIERS was great for several reasons.  First, even though this movie was made in 2002, all of the werewolf effects were practical.  No shitty CG, just costumes, puppets, and animatronics coupled with quick cuts and darkly-lit sets.  And you know what?  It was fucking fantastic.  I am balls deep in shattered expectations when it comes to CG effects.  DOG SOLDIERS really goes to show how great filmmaking trumps multi-million dollar effects any day of the week.  The other reason this was great was because ever since Rome I have been a huge fan of Kevin McKidd and I'll give him a free pass for anything he does.  He even makes it a little more bearable when I'm forced to watch Grey's Anatomy with my wife (although to this day whenever I refer to Kevin McKidd to my wife I refer to him as Lucius Vorenus).  The third reason I loved DOG SOLDIERS was because it knew exactly what kind of film it was and didn't take itsel too seriously.  It as good, campy, cheese-covered fun with a side of blood and gore.  One of my favourite scenes was a good old-fashioned fist fight between one of the soldiers and one of the werewolves.  Fucking pure genius.

Either way, if you're looking to be entertained and you have 105 minutes to kill and the idea of an isolated bnd of survivors fighting off a force of werewolves with some guns, explosives, some household cooking supplies, and even a sword (boo-yah!) then definitely check this shit out.  I give DOG SOLDIERS a solid 7/10 = One Decapitated Head Being Used As A Hackey Sack By A Group Of Angry Werewolves


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