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I would hardly call this a horror film. It is a surrealistic lycantropic love story, in the cast of a dream of Red Riding Hood. Its meditative pace and sexual excitement make it a lasting memory, almost as a dream one has had.
I was very pleasantly surprised. It is rare that you find a horror film so masterfully done. The cinematography was excellent. The entire film was like dream. Very similar to Snow White (the Grimm Brother's horror version)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale isn't something one
would show to young children although it isn't as shocking as its (UK)
18 certificate would suggest; there is no swearing, no nudity, one very
subtle sex scene and the violence is at a lower level than many fifteen
certificate films. I can only imagine that the rating is because much
of what happens is a metaphor for Rosaleen reaching puberty and her
The film opens at a large house in rural England where a young girl is having a strange dream. In this dream she is living in a village in a forest and is visiting her grandmother who lives outside the village. When she gets to her grandmother's house she is told cautionary tales about werewolves and what she must do to avoid them herself. When young Rosaleen returns to the village she heeds her grandmother's advice although her parents think that it is mere superstition. On a later visit to her grandmother she is given a bright red hooded cloak which is much brighter than anything anybody else in the village wears, this soon gets the attention of an amorous village boy. They go for a walk in the forest but get separated, she hides from him by climbing a tree, at the top there is a birds nest where the eggs hatch to reveal something very strange. While she is there the boy finds a cow that has been killed by a wolf; he returns to the village to warn everybody. I won't say more to avoid spoiling the ending.
The film feels quite old now but is still good, the studio setting gives the village and the forest and somewhat unnatural look which suits the fact that it is meant to be a dream. Sarah Patterson is excellent as Rosaleen, I was amazed to learn that she was only twelve or thirteen at the time this was filmed.
Everyone has been told of the story of "Little Red Riding Hood". Well, this one comes with a twist! Nightmares come forward and plagues a young woman, and the story gets even more interesting. Her older sister gets killed by wolves, and the stories are getting more morbid by he minute. Her grandmother(Angela Landsbury) tels the tales of men who are wolves in sheep's clothing. When people are getting killed of by these lupines, the stories get creepier by the minute, every time. I liked the part where this woman get pregnant by the man who needs up marrying someone of high-class, she turns the reception into a royal dog show while the servants take a break. To me, this horror movie makes all other wolf movies look ordinary. I liked "Wolfen" for it's modernization, and this one is for it's classical taste. Anyone puts this movie done is foolish. If anyone falls asleep on this one, don't say I told you so! *WOLF HOWL!* 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS!
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)!
Speciality films like this are always hard to digest. In Christian
societies, the fetish association of sex and violence is taboo. But,
this may not have been the case in pagan societies.
The litmus test for this film may be what it tells us about ourselves. Perhaps in the post-modern era, the film is intended to dispel romantic notions about sexuality, and conventional notions about humanity. Although I don't dig it, I respect the makers of this film for the pursuit of their artistic vision.
Is it a classic? It doesn't have the budget or big-name cast to be a Hollywood classic. But, it is admired and imitated. So, it is a classic for those who dig it. Get it?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Neil Jordan co-wrote and directed this mishmash of a story within a
story within a dream within... herein lies one of the major concerns.
What exactly are we watching? Beginning with a young girl's nightmare
we journey through various tenuously connected - if at all - stories,
flashbacks and sub-plots. we enter a nightmare world which is seemingly
unbound by anything as urbane as geographical or historical context;
realism being usurped by surrealism.
Apropos of the general confusion Angela Lansbury's lilting accent seems to defy any attempt to pin it down to even a country let alone a particular district. Added to this is her propensity to chew the scenery in an attempt to play the doting grandma doling out words of wisdom to the strangely unlikeable heroine Rosaleen played by Sarah Patterson.
There seems to be little in the way of a structured plot although the general ideas seem to involve the killing of werewolves and a rather strange updating of Little Red Riding Hood. The confusion continues scenically, chronically and symbolically.Giant mushrooms, haunted forests, a Rolls Royce, eggs hatching to reveal...? Settings, along with special effects are at times almost comical, at others rather unsettling. With little in the way of light-heartedness (oh how I prayed for Brian Glover to wrestle a werewolf!) and underlying - although frequently surfacing - sexual references the whole becomes a dark dingy effort which, even at 95 minutes seems overlong.
As with other efforts by Mr Jordan I feel as though I have been invited to a private party where everybody else knows the in-jokes...
*** 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".
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