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The Company of Wolves is a truly underrated little gem of a horror
flick. With a unique story, solid acting, cool fx and a fantastic feel,
the movie delivers much, much more than it doesn't.
The movie, more than anything is a coming-of tale of our leading lady. A very pretty young girl who's dealing with her budding sexuality and her growth into adult-hood. Combining this with horror themes and that of the fable Little Red Riding Hood, The Company of Wolves excels amazingly. Grandma tells Rosaleen stories of wolves, or should I say men, who act like wolves. Stories of trust, loyalty, loss of innocence, there are numerous hidden and not so hidden themes being talked about here. Even something that I've always thought rang pretty true. Men with uni-brows are weirdos. It's true! You can't trust them!
A flick that I always saw because of the wildly cool cover, but for some reason or another never took the time out to rent it. I'm glad I finally have because not many films can meld fantasy and horror like this one. Company of Wolves was a really solid flick that any fan of horror/fantasy should check out.
"Never Stray From the Path, Never Eat a Windfall Apple, and Never Trust
a Man Whose Eyebrows Meet." and please add always go straight
home.....the consequences are.....????? Magical, enthralling, and
dangerous as all knowledge....go ahead eat that apple / eat the peach &
embrace the consequences. It would seem that there is a certain gnostic
bent to all of this. Indeed, dealing with, approaching a
transformational state (in this case from childhood to a sexually
mature woman) is best done in a cryptic , symbolic way, it allows for
the power of symbols (human's sui genris)to guide us.
I had been underwhelmed or, more precisely, baffled by this film on
first viewing and would probably have rated it no higher than **1/2
(Leonard Maltin was even less impressed than me)! However, having just
read its enthusiastic entry in the "Time Out Film Guide" (by Gilbert
Adair, no less), I decided to purchase the R2 SE DVD when it was
recently discounted at Play.com
and I'm extremely glad that I did
because I loved the film this time around, feeling that it's almost the
equal if a different animal altogether, no pun intended of my
favorite "wolf man" picture ever, AN American WEREWOLF IN London
(1981)! But I've said that often enough (most recently in my review of
another contemporaneous werewolf film, SILVER BULLET ) so, back
to the matter at hand...
This has to be the screen's most original treatment of lycanthropy though director Jordan insists that it isn't a horror movie and who, on completing the film, was afraid that he had made a picture whose appeal was limited to teenage girls and wolves! with rampant symbolism throughout (having over-sized toys attempt to sexually assault the elder sister of leading lady Sarah Patterson, in the latter's dreams, is as effective a metaphor for a teenage girl's coming-of-age as any I've seen!) and a distinctly surrealist perspective. As per the accompanying Audio Commentary, the film had a myriad influences: Grimm's Fairy Tales (some of which are even integrated into the narrative, as adapted by Angela Carter from her own stories), Gustave Dore' paintings, the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and, most surprisingly of all, the work of Polish directors Wojchiech J. Has (whose THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT  inspired the film's tale-within a tale-within a tale structure) and Walerian Borowczyk (particularly LA BETE 's similarity to the middle story here, involving a ravaged girl who turns out to be a witch and disrupts an aristocratic wedding by turning the gathering into werewolves) plus more obvious ones like the German Expressionist films, as well as the Universal, Hammer and AIP's "Corman Poe" horror classics.
Despite the low-budget on hand, the film's production values (cinematography, lighting, art direction, costume design) are splendid and richly evocative; besides, it features George Fenton's lush and memorable score which, along with the forest setting, reminded me quite a bit of LEGEND (1985; and which was filming simultaneously with THE COMPANY OF WOLVES!) not to mention brilliant animatronic work and make-up effects by Christopher Tucker, highlighting various methods of transformation (all equally spectacular) and two effective beheadings. The cast is notable, too: Sarah Patterson (one of the most beguiling teenage performers I've seen, whose acting career unfortunately got stalled practically immediately though Jordan says he has stayed in contact with her all these years!), Angela Lansbury (perfectly cast as a vaguely sinister, tale-spinning Grandmother with a live fox-fur as her familiar and who's featured most prominently in a re-enactment of the "Little Red Riding Hood" fable), David Warner, Micha Bergese (his unusual appearance and background as a professional dancer suiting the physicality of his role as The Huntsman), Graham Crowden, Stephen Rea (a staple in Neil Jordan movies), Brian Glover (who was also in AN American WEREWOLF IN London!) and Terence Stamp (stepping in for original choice Andy Warhol, in an uncredited 30-second bit as the Devil perhaps the film's most enigmatic sequence incongruously turning up in the forest, fitted with a suit and tie, in a Rolls Royce driven by a blonde Patterson, herself dressed up as a chauffeur!).
The film's classy visuals are beautifully rendered by the remastered DVD transfer though the audio was relatively weak in comparison and should, perhaps, have been boosted a little as well. The major supplement is an engaging and very informative Audio Commentary with Jordan; however, having just viewed the film prior to listening to it, this proved a bit too much to take in one sitting! The wonderful DVD artwork and reasonable insert booklet were a nice touch, too. I've been impressed by the majority of Neil Jordan's work including his other super-stylish 'horror' effort, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES (1994) but I have no qualms, at this stage, about singling out THE COMPANY OF WOLVES as probably his best film, certainly the most intriguing and satisfying (on almost every level)! I'll be watching his latest offering BREAKFAST ON PLUTO (2005) imminently, and might also get to WE'RE NO ANGELS (1989), IN DREAMS (1999), THE END OF THE AFFAIR (1999) and THE GOOD THIEF (2002) soon enough...
One final thought: I have to say that, despite the overall bad reputation cinema got during the 80s, I own quite a few DVDs from this era in fact, far more than in subsequent decades, when the medium was supposed to have seen a definite resurgence (though this was certainly not the case with the horror genre)!
In this strange mix of folklore, fairy tales, horror, symbolism and
sexual werewolves, that isn't understandable for the casual viewer. The
story nor the style is significant present enough with as a result an
unique but not so successful movie.
The directing by Neil Jordan doesn't seem daring enough. The style isn't enough present and the story doesn't quite flow like it should. I'm sure that the story works better in the book and I feel that this movie might should be remade by for instance Tim Burton or Sam Raimi, I'm confident that they could do more with the style and story.
The cast is quite good with a convincing Angela Lansburry and a good young Sarah Patterson in her debut.
Some of the scene's are pretty gross, thanks to the good special effects by Toby Philpott but it doesn't always look convincing.
Interesting movie that could and should have been made better.
well honestly in the theatre the first 15 minutes into it people were leaving. then by half an hour into it i was like oh my god! i'm watching little red riding hood!! this movie was terrible! just terrible!!! i mean if you have a uni-brow your a were-wolf?? i mean please!!!!it doesn't get any worse then this movie. so please do not waste your time watching it. trust me you'll regret wasting the precious time you could have been solving global aids or something
Whatever. I saw this film in 1984, 1994 and 2004, and I dislike it even
more each time I see it. Yeah, I get the "symbolism," and I can appreciate
the set design, but it is disjointed. The plot and concept are all over the
map, and the ending defies explanation. I've read the posts of other
viewers, and their responses/reactions to the film are rather vague. The
special effects are weak, regardless of the time period. People actually
find this film "frightening"????? Of course, considering this is a Neil
Jordan flick, I shouldn't be surprised.
Back in 1984, I remember 90% of the audience walking out within thirty minutes, and NOT because they were scared. Perhaps this film appeals only to a select "art house" crowd. Or, maybe one needs to be "enhanced" in order to appreciate the nuances.
There's a family living in an English estate. The younger girl Rosaleen
(Sarah Patterson) is tired and starts to dream of a magical world. In
that world, her older sister is dead. Her granny (Angela Lansbury)
tells her stories of a werewolf (Stephen Rea) and a maiden. Granny
knits her a red cape.
This is a three layered world. The girl dreams of a world where the characters tell fables. It's probably one layer too many.
Director Neil Jordan gives a much more sexualized version of Little Red Riding Hood. Sarah Patterson is able to project an innocent and sexual character. The big scene is when Rosaleen meets the Big Bad Wolf. I do wish that the rest of the movie had more of that energy. The other scene I liked is the Stephen Rea transformation. It's more bloody and grotesque than the regular werewolf transformations. It's very well done.
I remember when I first saw this film (many years ago); I found it
quite slow and plodding. This time I appreciated much more the measured
approach taken by the director. It gives the audience time to take in
the story and become familiar with the strange world he has created.
Yes, there are a few clichés in there, the medieval village with a 17th
century manor house and the fact the snakes (big ones) live in an
English forest did seem kind of wrong to me. Also in the 'dislike'
column came the musical score; sorry but synth's just don't cut it any
more. May have sounded cool at the time but now it's just too damn
cheesy. Okay, so what's to like; well, first there's the performance of
Sarah Patterson, who I though did a truly excellent job given the
talent she was working with. I also liked the special effects; all
mechanical with not a hint of CGI (after all, it didn't really exist
back then). I really liked the way the story was structured but it
could have done without the 'modern day' bits tagged on to either end.
Over all I found it an entertaining watch and something every horror
fan should have seen at least once.
SteelMonster's verdict: RECOMMENDED
My score: 7.3/10.
You can find an expanded version of this review on my blog: Thoughts of a SteelMonster.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The sweetest tongue has the sharpest tooth." "If there is a beast in
man, it met-its-match in woman." "Don't go into the woods, Little Red
Riding Hood." Neil Jordan's (The Crying Game, and Interview With a
Vampire)werewolf-fable really excited me upon its release in 1984, and
it is a film that has aged well. A sensual-retelling of "Little Red
Riding Hood", and a really detailed realization of how bloody and gory
so-called "fairy-tales" are in their uncensored-versions. Co-written by
Angela Carter and Jordan, the Red Riding Hood story acts as an arc
which numerous stories are hung-from, and it is even framed as a modern
girl's dream! It has to be said that Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers
Grimm" covers similar-ground in the wolf-areas, but more on that later.
This is a fairy-tale for adults, and a really sexy, satisfying one
This film got a lot of attention at the time, because it deals with that tender period of puberty, and the end of adolescence. It's a painful-period for most people, male or female, and so Company of Wolves is essentially a story of innocence-lost. The irony is, Jordan doesn't paint this loss as being so bad, and that a surrender-to-passion can be a wonderful letting-go. But we lose-something, entering adulthood, a kind of magical sense-of-reality where everything is new, mysterious and alive. We lose Eden. Entering into an almost "UFA-expressionism", this is a story of feminine sexual-exploration and discovery, a real treat. It's definitely a feminist horror-tale, and has some interesting-takes on female-empowerment through sexual-knowledge.
Angela Lansbury plays the archetypal-Grandmother, a symbol of ancient feminine-wisdom. Her character reminded me of the Oracle of Delphi (the Oracle only tells us what we already-know!), and she is also a cautioner against the mistakes-of-youth.Jordan and Carter go-so-far as to have her demise reveal that she's made of porcelain--an open-admission that she's a symbol! Of course, the authors change things in the Red Riding Hood story, and the ending is pretty original and unexpected. Eventually, all lambs must become rams and sheep. Eventually, all lillies must wilt-and-die. We should enjoy the beauty and virility that we all have, while we have it. It's sad, we see the results of young-girls who aren't cautious in "the company of wolves", as the werewolf is really a symbol of bestial-mankind...serial-killers, and sexual-predators, and abusive-mates. These are the stuff of dreams, and nightmares.
This film was made in-the-wake of Ted Bundy and the public's awareness of the "serial-killer" phenomena. Bundy, truly a "wolf-in-sheep's-clothing", lured "young girls who stray from the path". In many-cases, he murdered and disposed-of his female-victims in the forests of the American Northwest. Conversely, whenever a mutilated-body was discovered in a Medieval town, city or village, it was often attributed to werewolves from the forests. Nobody could believe a human-being could do such-things, and fairy-tales were both cautionary-tales and a cathartic way of dealing with these murders. The same is true today with film, and I give enormous credit to Angela Carter and Neil Jordan for finding the connection between the fairy-tale and genuine-horror.
Sometimes, we are surrounded by lesser-wolves, and there is a part of us that is all-wolf. Another cautionary-aspect of the Little Red Riding Hood fable is the wolf's masquerade as "Grandma"--it warns of wolves in our own families, which was also covered well in Gilliam's "Brothers Grimm" with the father-subplot. The beginnings of "film-noir"? Not-exactly, but the cautionary-part of these ancient-stories is why they are still with us. They tell us things about ourselves and others that we ignore at our own peril. Most people--usually young--ignore them. Fairy-tales are part of our pagan-past, and the film is studded with fertility-images in frogs, and a wonderful dream-sequence with lipstick, nests, and baby-statues in eggshells. Dream-imagery.
If you ever wanted to see Stephen Rea rip his face-off, this film has it. A tale of a vanished-husband (who turns-out to be a returned werewolf who feels spurned) features an early-performance by him that is pretty hard to watch, and cautionary of choosing the wrong-lover. Sure, young-adults will make many of the same-mistakes (we all do and will), but these tales are still valuable in making them aware that some people are dangerous, and that they are wolves or bestial. With such an incredible UK-cast featuring the always-great David Warner (Time Bandits, Straw Dogs, The Omen) Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, V for Vendetta), Graham Crowden (If..., The Ruling Class, Britannia Hospital), and Angela Lansbury, it's a very entertaining watch. Such a moody, graphic, sensual film is a great date-film too! Your lady-friends will give-themselves-up to desire, give-themselves to the wolf...
Hen's Tooth has done a great job with this film on DVD. It's widescreen, with an excellent transfer, and very active sound. This is great, because it's a very subtle film, with a fragile cinematography and sound-design and score. Forget extras, get the aforementioned right, then we'll talk "extras".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Neil Jordan's company of wolves is a strange movie, to say the least.it is esoteric and surreal,and filled with imagery and symbolism.aesthetically speaking it is beautiful to watch.this is not a movie about werewolves per SE, but a commentary on the human condition and the beast that lurks within us all.the movie also contains strong sexual undertones and delves a bit into some disturbing subject matter including a young girl,perhaps fourteen or fifteen and an adult male.there are strong undercurrents of sexual chemistry between the two,and while nothing sexual does occur,the implication is clearly there.the movie is purely fantasy,of course, and at times cartoonish,sometimes to the point of absurdity.at times it is simply a parody of itself.the transformations are nothing spectacular,which may be intentional.the movie doesn't take itself seriously but is certainly not a comedy. it is certainly stylish,and also has substance,which is not readily apparent,at first glance.it is interesting to watch, and i can't say whether i will watch it again or not.i didn't dislike nor did i particularly like it.it is however a unique experience.i should mention that there is one scene which i found quite disgusting which occurs about twenty minutes in,so you might want to prepare yourself.certainly a hard film to rate, but i will give it 5* based on the look of the film and its uniqueness.not for everybody. 5* out of 10
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