The idea of the beast within us, just waiting to get out, is a potent metaphor, and one that the most thoughful werewolf movies often take full advantage of. Werewolf movies have managed to turn the metaphor to a lot of different ends - it can represent everything from coming-of-age, to mental illness and PTSD, to love and lust. But not every werewolf movie actually has a wolf (or a wolf man) in it. In fact, clinical lycanthropy, the belief that you are a werewolf without actually transforming into such a beast, was on the medical books for years.
Sometimes, that metaphor managed to get even a little more metaphorical. Rather than sprouting hair and fangs, the victims in these lycanthropic films may simply find themselves with uncontrolled passions. They may think that they're turning into monsters, or feel like they are - or they may want people to think they are, in order to gaslight or mislead them. Whatever the case, some of the wildest and weirdest werewolf movies don't feature werewolves at all - but they're no less hairy for that.
- Photo: ITC Entertainment
There are werewolves aplenty to be found in Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves, adapted from the stories of Angela Carter by Jordan and Carter herself, even if they mostly occupy the realm of fairy tales and metaphors. Which isn't to say that the film doesn't feature werewolves front-and-center - in a number of different ways, depending on how each story is being told. The beasts always occupy a place somewhere in a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, as the film nestles narratives to pull from fairy tales and genre trappings the metaphoric and thematic meat of adolescence, womanhood, class struggle, and much more.
It's a heady cocktail that nonetheless never forgets to be gooily visceral, with memorably weird practical effects that stick in the mind long after the final frame has run. It's not a typical werewolf film - nor a run-of-the-mill fairy tale - but it's a bit of both and a lot of something else altogether.
- Actors: Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Sarah Patterson, Graham Crowden, Brian Glover
- Released: 1985
- Directed by: Neil Jordan
- Photo: Universal Pictures
In the middle part of the 18th century, a monster stalked the Gévaudan region of France. Described as a great wolf, the so-called Beast of Gévaudan may have claimed hundreds of lives, and has still not been conclusively identified. "The best and most likely explanation is Gévaudan had a serious wolf infestation" rather than one monstrous wolf, according to Jay M. Smith, historian and author of the book Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast.
The legends that have grown up around the Beast over the years have proved fertile ground for filmmakers and storytellers, with perhaps the best-known dramatization being Christophe Gans' 2001 historial drama/horror/martial arts mash-up film, Brotherhood of the Wolf, which combines real history, palace intrigue, conspiracy theories, and lots of unlikely martial arts battles - along with a Beast designed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop - to create a weird and heady cocktail.
For most of the movie, it seems like the hunters are after a werewolf, but the final reveal, while less supernatural, is actually quite a bit weirder than that would have been.
- Actors: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Gaspard Ulliel, Mark Dacascos, Jacques Perrin
- Released: 2001
- Directed by: Christophe Gans
- Photo: Nordisk Film
This arty Danish flick has been compared (both favorably and otherwise) to Let the Right One In, Ginger Snaps, and Carrie, so it should come as no surprise that When Animals Dream channels coming of age themes into its story of a girl in a lonely fishing town transforming into some sort of werewolf-like creature as she gets older. There's plenty of horrific material to mine from adolescence, and the other-ness that most of us feel at one time or another as we're growing up.
When Animals Dream salts that familiar meal with elements of familial secrets and a town that seems to know more than it lets on about young Marie, her wheelchair-bound mother, and the condition that is leading her to transform into a beast-like state.
- Actors: Lars Mikkelsen, Stig Hoffmeyer, Jakob Oftebro, Sonja Richter, Benjamin Boe Rasmussen
- Released: 2014
- Directed by: Jonas Alexander Arnby
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Werewolves may not be real, but clinical lycanthropy - a term used "to describe individuals who believed they were wolves" - is very much a real thing, and was in medical texts for years. It's also at the heart of the 1946 film She-Wolf of London. Released following the success of Universal's Wolf Man pictures, She-Wolf was less concerned with supernatural horror than with a more mannered whodunit - though that doesn't stop plenty of people in the flick from tossing around the word "werewolf."
June Lockhart plays Phyllis Allenby, a young woman from a wealthy background who is about to be married to her lawyer boyfriend when a string of sinister deaths in the nearby park make her think she might be a werewolf. It turns out that she's being gaslighted by the actual slayer, but the elements of clinical lycanthropy are heavily invoked in the proceedings before the final reveal.
- Actors: June Lockhart, Lloyd Corrigan, Sara Haden, Frederick Worlock, Dennis Hoey
- Released: 1946
- Directed by: Jean Yarbrough