Monday, May 27, 2013

10 Greatest Movie Werewolf Designs

The werewolf has captured our imagination since childhood and ran away with it. The idea of being a man, or woman, and becoming something more has always been a fantasy for the human race. Even if that something is a beast, it still hits home in our psyche because we all have the hidden urge to be primal, to be a beast, a predator.

The first depiction of a man-wolf was inscribed on a cave wall, suggesting they go back at least as far as the caveman. The Book of Daniel (4:15-33) is the first written account of the werewolf. King Nebuchadnezzar had symptoms of being of werewolf for about four years. The Greek legend of King Lycaon of Arcadia, was transformed into a wolf by Zeus after serving the God a meal of human flesh. This started the scientific word for werewolf, "Lycanthrope".

In the middle ages, Gilles Garnier was a peasant who suffered from Lycanthropy and is easily the most recognizable story from the era. His four-month rampage resulted in the death of four youngsters. His tirade was witnessed by over 50 locals who swore they saw him in the guise of half-man, half-beast. After admitting to being a werewolf, he was burned to death on January 18, 1573.

So as you can see, the werewolf has been around longer than all of us living in present day. The legend has  been told and carried throughout the ages. We still try to find truth to the stories, and make them in movies as our imagination interprets them.

This is not a countdown of the greatest werewolf films ever made, that would be a different list altogether. This is simply the best looks our favorite cinema beast has had throughout the ages. And yes, if you notice, there's no real wolves used on my list. I think werewolves should show that they are part man and not just a regular wolf. I find that tactic very uninspiring and a cheap cop-out. It's also extremely overused.

It baffles me that 'True Blood' creator, Alan Ball, said that he uses real wolves on the show because it's original and hasn't been done too often before. Yeah...he actually said that. Leave it to the people who are experts in the genre, Alan. I don't understand how it's original when most werewolves in TV and film are portrayed that way. Hell, Twilight does it!

On this list you'll find only werewolf's that actually took effort to make, and that fit the true definition of what a Lycanthrope actually is. The monsters listed are the most alluring, and well crafted werewolves of all-time. The ones that found that balance of being a man (or woman) transformed into a monster.

10. The Wolfman (1941)

Lon Chaney Jr. wasn't the first person to play a werewolf, even though that's popular belief. No, the first werewolf  film came about in 1933 titled "Werewolf of London". However, Lon Chaney Jr.'s portrayal as The Wolf Man went on to find it's way into all of our hearts, captivating us all.

This is my least favorite werewolf look, but this guy got werewolves recognized. It was the fame and attention gained by this film that pushed werewolves mainstream. I couldn't not include him in the list. He's the all-time classic werewolf and without him, we wouldn't have such killer designs for werewolves in movies today. Regardless of how dated his look is, the movie still plucks chords in our hearts.

FUN FACT: Lon Chaney Jr.'s makeup took six hours to apply and nearly three hours to get off.

9. Silver Bullet (1985)

I still consider 'Silver Bullet' to be one of the best werewolf films ever made. Based off of Stephen King's short story titled Cycle of the Werewolf, this film packs a wallop. There were quite a few werewolf films released during the 80's. Some of which aren't even watchable, and others are now all-time classics. This film has such good and rich storytelling, and a great movie for siblings. My sister and I are really close, so this film always hit home to us and will always be cherished as a favorite.

However, I had to put this guy next to last because even though I like the design of the werewolf, at the end of the day it still looks too much like a bear to me. A really mean bear. But, the howling and growling sound so authentic, that it's terrifying. 

DID YOU KNOW: Dino De Laurentiis was very unhappy with the werewolf used in the film. He was disappointed in both the way it looked and the way the costumed actor  moved. This proved to be a bit of an insult to the actor wearing the suit as he was an accomplished modern dancer and was hired specifically for his movement skills. 

8. The Howling (1981)

Based off of the book by the same title by Gary Brandner, everybody knows of  'The Howling', it's one of the widest recognizable werewolf films ever. I consider this to be the 2nd greatest werewolf film of all-time, it's absolutely brilliant! My favorite horror movie poster and cover art are from this movie. The woman screaming through clawed fabric is terrifying and tells you what you're getting into before you watch it. This film also has one of the best endings to a werewolf film ever.

I actually really like the design of the werewolves in this film, they're ferocious and induce primal fear. However, the bunny ears that they have going on, kills it for me. If they had normal ears this film would have ranked better in this countdown.

FUN FACT: Originally Rick Baker was doing the special effects for the film, but he left the production to do 'An American Werewolf in London'. Baker left the effects job for this film in the hands of assistant Rob Bottin. Both this film and 'An American Werewolf in London' were released the same year and both received praise for their makeup work.  

7. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

My #1 favorite werewolf film ever. This film has everything you need to have a great film about a gnarly beast. John Landis actually wrote the script in the 60's but, didn't get around to making it a movie close to two decades later. This is one of the werewolf films out there that doesn't try to glorify anything. Being a monster is a curse, not a blessing and this film exploits that with the most painful and well shot transformation scene of all-time.

As much as I adore the film, the wolf isn't the best it could have been. The roars and howls are the most terrifying ones in werewolf cinema. This is a vicious and savage beast. However, it looks too mangy for me to rank it higher. I'm not a fan of its posture, it's too low to the ground when walking on all fours for my taste.

DID YOU KNOW: Because of this film, makeup and industry technological contributors became recognized by the Academy Awards in 1981. Makeup artist Rick Baker was the first to receive an Oscar in the new category. William Tuttle was the first makeup effects artist to receive an Oscar (being an honorary one) for his work on '7 Faces of Dr. Lao'.

6. Bad Moon (1996)

Here is a movie with one of the scariest and most menacing werewolves of all-time. This thing is mean. When I first saw the film, the last 15 minutes of it had me paralyzed in my seat. I couldn't move but, even if I wanted to, I still wouldn't have. This film is scary as hell and part of it has to do with how authentic the wolf design is. It's a good film about a dogs love for its owners and what it'll do to protect them from harm...or a werewolf. The dogfight at the end of this film was brutal and nothing less than awesome.

I actually think the wolf design is almost impeccable! But they make the mistake of showing it roar and howl too much, revealing how obvious it is that the head is animatronic. The far away shots revealing the legs also lessen the look of this wolf because you can see how it's just a guy in a suit. In the picture above is how it looks best.

FUN FACT: In the scene in which Janet makes breakfast, her Brett is watching 'Werewolf of London' on the television, and he and his Uncle Ted argue about werewolf lore. Actually, the lore that Brett argues that "everyone knows about", such as details about silver bullets and wolfsbane, comes from 'The Wolf Man', which Curt Siodmak totally made up.

5. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

Being a fan of the first film, I have to admit that the wolf looked a bit silly. When this film hit, with a bigger budget, they were able to fix the flaws with the wolf. Other than that, I truly consider this film to be superior to the first, and in my top 5 favorite werewolf films. The wolf in this film is just vicious and terrifying to even look at. It has a permanent look of "I'm going to rip you to pieces" on it's face all the time. They also didn't overuse the wolf and show it too much, which is always a smart move.

The flaws of this wolf are that you can tell it's just a person in a suit, despite how fantastic the design is. The head looks a little stiff and doesn't give off a genuine appearance at certain angles shown throughout the film.

DID YOU KNOW: A lot of the film was shot on location (apart from Ghost's house and the vents), and was  the highest budget Ginger Snaps movie at 4.8 million Canadian Dollars (still a relatively small budget).

4. Underworld (2003)

When 'Underworld' hit theaters everyone was talking about the werewolves! I remember whenever a conversation came up about the film, someone always brought up the special effects. Probably the most believable vampire and werewolf story ever told, these lycanthropes are also extremely realistic. I'm not a super-fan of the transformations in the film, but the end result is pure genius. These things are big, and intelligent, and aren't to be taken lightly.

The thing that lessens them for me is that they have faces resembling felines. Their faces almost resemble Archer from the kids movie 'Small Soldiers', if you've seen that film than you'll know what I mean. Other than that small nitpick, these creatures are solid. Posture and all.

FUN FACT: Although Lucien is the lead Lycan, he only ever shifts once into his full werewolf form, and that's in a flashback scene.

3. Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Yeah that's right. Another werewolf from the Underworld films makes the list due to superb special effects and complete realism. William from the second installment in the series, is the first werewolf ever in they mythology these movies create. He's the very first, so he's burdened by not being able to transform back into human form. He's stuck in beast form for eternity. I liked his story and reason for existing as much as I liked the design.

The design is damn close to flawless and there's not many negatives I can say about this guy or, the remaining two on this countdown. These are the best of the best in realism, design and, scariness. What stands out about William is that since he's the first werewolf, he's completely covered in hair. This is unlike the regular Lycans from the series. Although he's covered in hair, he still comes off like a wolf man and not just an animal.

DID YOU KNOW: 'Underworld: Evolution' had a 71-day shooting schedule.

2. Dog Soldiers (2002)

The werewolves in this movie are so badass! Anyone who knows anything about horror films, not only likes this movie, but go crazy over the amazing werewolf designs. These things have the heads of wolfs and it's absolutely stunning! The head, groin and legs all consist of fur while the rest of the body is hairless. While humanly proportioned, they have the bodies of shaved wolves.. Look at the ribs and abdominal area, it's done to such precise perfection that it's unsettling.

Just the looks of these things are enough to send you running away. Nothing could give you a reason to stick around if you saw these savage beasts. And they're very, very, intelligent, knowing who to attack and attacking in packs when their victims least expect it. There is only one other werewolf design that holds 'Dog Soldiers' from wearing the crown.

FUN FACT: There is very little CGI used in the movie because the people involved in the film making believed that CGI was being over-used at the time and that it would take viewers out of the movie because they would be focused on how the special effects looked rather than the story, thus the werewolves are animatronics and body suits with stilts.

1. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

In a world where everybody wants to used CGI, some people are still getting it right. This werewolf is the best looking design ever to cross the silver screen. This is the perfect definition of what a wolf man is! It looks like a wolf, mean, gnarly, fierce, ferocious and terrifying. This really looks like an animal, but due to proportions you can see the man's in there as well. It isn't too much of one, and not the other. This design is flawless.

With 'The Cabin in the Woods' being a relatively newer film, this gives us hope that there are some film makers and makeup effects teams out there that aren't looking to take the short cut and will create the beast properly. The only fault I have isn't with the wolf, it's with the movie because I wish they would have shown this monster more. It was awesome looking at it for the first time! I found myself waiting and hoping they showed it again.

DID YOU KNOW: This film won 5 Fright Meter Awards, including Best Horror Movie, Best Director and Best Screenplay.


  1. The first werewolf movie was actually Wolf Blood (1926). I wrote about it for my "Women in horror during the 1920s" series of posts. It's a neat little movie too.

    No, "Ginger Snaps"? Ginger's tail is sooo hot! I'd suck on it for a while. :)

    1. No kidding? I stand corrected. Good call!

    2. There may even have been another in 1915, but it was a short and hasn't survived. Apparently, it was something about an Indian shamen turning into a wolf-spirit during a ritual.

      I didn't know about these either until I started looking up silent movies. Everyody forgets about the silent movie era apart from the big titles.

  2. I love this post. Maybe you'll do another with a different creature?

  3. Here is a list of the first werewolf movies. Great article by the way!

    The Werewolf (1913)
    The first werewolf movie ever filmed is a long-lost silent short directed by Henry MacRae. A vengeful young Navajo woman transforms herself into a wolf.

    The White Wolf (1914)
    Also Called: The White Hunter.
    A very obscure silent movie in which a Navajo Indian medicine man transforms himself into a timber wolf.

    Le Loup Garou (1923)
    Also Called: The Werewolf.
    In this little-known French movie, a murderer is cursed with lycanthropy by a priest and then struck by lightning

    1. Looks like I missed quite a few then actually. I've never heard of them or seen them. Looks like "Werewolf of London" was when the werewolf craze picked up.

  4. Great great story!!! You did miss my fav movie werewolf, the werewolf from Waxworks. Though I guess since he was a waxwork, he doesnt really count.

    1. Everyone keeps mentioning that one to me. A lot of people are in agreement with you on that one! It was close but didn't make the list.


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