From fabric-store fur to Lee press-on nails, werewolf transformations on film have a checkered past.
Movie versions of the werewolf metamorphosis usually rely on the actors to stare wide-eyed at their furry hands and creepy nails and emit panicky, mortified screams, although not nearly as convincing as the ones that must have escaped them at the movie’s premiere.
Most werewolf transformations–let’s face it–are epic fails. The “Twilight” movies opt for an instantaneous flash transformation over the stare-and-scream method, but then again [spoiler alert] the guys in question are not actual werewolves, but shape-shifters. Thus, they don’t really count.
But lest you think werewolf fails are a phenomenon of the pre-CGI past, I call your attention to the otherwise excellent BBC series “Being Human.” (Warning: there’s a nekkid tush in this video.)
#1: “Being Human”
He screams a lot, then screams some more, then turns briefly into Cindy-Lou Who before going full werewolf. I give “Being Human” sci-fi points for the physiological explanation, but the visuals of the transformation are an utter fail.
#2: “Teen Wolf”
The Michael J. Fox classic “Teen Wolf” enjoyed a feature-film FX budget, but didn’t fare much better.
Step 1: Grow long, lustrous nails
Step 2: Look in mirror; observe bubbles moving under facial skin; put hands over face
Step 3: Open mirror, perhaps in search of astringent for bubble-face issues
#3: “The Howling”
The werewolf in “The Howling” also suffers from bubble-face/hand-staring syndrome (BFHS):
In addition, he also experiences theatrical snout-stretching with little accompanying facial reaction, which meshes nicely with the “when will this be over I would really like a latte” expression on the face of the gal witnessing the transformation. I’ve seen more fear on the faces of people waiting for the plumber’s estimate.
#4 “American Werewolf in London”
If we were to break down the transformation checklist for “American Werewolf in London” (tush warning #2), it would look a little different from the classic BFHS sequence:
Step 1: Grab head
Step 2: Shed clothes
Step 3: Looking-at-hand sequence (see previous)
Step 4: Morph into Harry from “Harry and the Hendersons,” while keeping downstage leg positioned to avoid NC-17 rating
#5 “Bad Moon”
Don’t let the cheesy production values scare you away: This movie has an original take on low-budget werewolf FX. Keys to the transformation are a Vaseline-smeared lens and, possibly, a taxidermied polar bear. Steps are as follows:
Step 1: Develop sudden orthodontia issues
Step 2: Scare the crap out of Mariel Hemingway
Step 3: Go really blurry and kinda lumpy
Step 4: Bust out of Reeboks
I’m sure I’ve stomped on some of your favorite werewolves, so please, tell me if I’m wrong. And if you know of a good werewolf transformation caught on film, do tell.