The Company of Wolves (1984)
What’s it About: Basically this is a Gothic horror film based on the old fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. A young girl dreams that she lives in a mystical forest with her parents and grandmother who knits the girl a bright red shawl to wear. The main narrative is the girl flirting with the possibility of being courted by boys her age and an attractive older huntsman she encounters in the woods who happens to be a werewolf. Other stories-within-the story are based around sexual awakenings, puberty and the allegory of lycanthropy.
Is it Actually Scary: I can imagine if I was a young prepubescent kid (especially a girl) that this movie would give me the willies. Sure, we all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood since we can remember, but this time it’s visually horrifying with scenes of man to werewolf transformations;,tearing and ripping of the flesh and people being stalked by wolves. Even if young kids cannot grasp the allegory of the werewolf that this movie is trying to imply they still have to watch people graphically mutate into wolves. These transformation scenes unfortunately cannot hold a candle to Rick Baker’s awesome and sublime transformation in An American Werewolf in London but they are decent for its time and budget.
Scariest Moment: There’s a transformation scene in the beginning that has the werewolf actually ripping and tearing off his face and hair to reveal his bloody muscular flesh. Then his face slowly morphs and changes shape to that of a wolf. Like I said, not as effective in realism as An American Werewolf in London but it adds the element of gore instead. I never saw this movie as a kid, even though I always saw the VHS box with the wolf snout coming out of the man’s mouth (See the DVD cover above) and thought that was pretty frightening.
How Much Gore: Surprisingly very little. The ripping of the face is really the only gore you see in the entire picture and no one is seen getting killed by a wolf or pack of wolves—only implied. But since this movie was geared for young adults and teens I don’t think they were aiming for gory.
Dumbest Moment: Very hard to remember a dumb moment in this film. The only scene I can nitpick is one of the stories-within-a-story where a young boy meets a charming well-to-do gentleman (Terrance Stamp, supposedly playing the Devil), riding in a Rolls Royce in the forest, who gives the boy an elixir. The boy consumes the drink and immediately screams in anguish as the formula monstrously alters him. You don’t see the boy transform into anything but you do see a nice patch of chest-hair grow on the boy. I took this as symbolically meaning puberty but why is this told as a parable and why is the antagonist the Devil in a Rolls?
Any Nudity: Not really. There’s a naked she-wolf, who is more human in form than wolf running in the woods in the last story-within-a-story but you don’t see anything.
Overall: I’m not sure what I would have thought of this film had I been more curious about that awesome VHS box in my neighborhood Easy Video and rented this as a kid. I think I would’ve been very bored and expecting more werewolves and attacks like most werewolf flicks. However, as an adult I can appreciate the allegory and symbolism the film is effectively portraying about werewolves, puberty and sexual feelings. The film’s production design by Anton Furst (Tim Burton’s Batman) is fantastic as well as the music. It’s a tad dated but worth the watch if you like Gothic horror.Score: 8