Don't you just love it when you re-watch a childhood favorite and it turns out the film still has the exact same mesmerizing and enchanting effect on you that it had all those years ago? More than usually, it's the other way around. The movies you loved as a child too often become disappointing when seen through adult eyes, but luckily enough there are certain exceptions. Neil Jordan's "The Company of Wolves", for example, is a timeless masterpiece and truly expedient for all type of audiences, regardless of their age category. When I first watched this movie (admittedly when I was a little TOO young), I was disturbed, fascinated, overwhelmed and deeply impressed for life. Remembering the unique plot concept, the macabre and haunting set pieces, the continuously ominous atmosphere, the petrifying werewolf-transformations and last but not least the cherubic appearance of lead girl Sarah Patterson (she might even been my first crush), "The Company of Wolves" was the greatest cinematic experience I ever had and even now, approximately 15 years later, I like it possibly even better.
"The Company of Wolves" is much more than just a horror movie about werewolves. It's a totally unique and nearly unclassifiable fantasy event that requires your full attention and the fully operational activity of all your sensory perceptions in order to absorb and process all the little details like creators Neil Jordan and Angela Carter intended them. This is quite possibly the most uniquely structured film of the 80's, with stories within stories and flashbacks within dream sequences; characters leaping through different time eras or even universes and the content effortlessly blends contemplative metaphors with old-fashioned and simplistic fright elements. The storyline involves a re-enactment of the famous "Little Red Riding Hood" tale, but the script regularly strays off from this main theme (ironically, since granny frequently advises never to stray off from the main paths) and narrates other, smaller stories. They're all connected, however, since they all revolve on wolves. Rosaleen's granny teaches her to be wary of men whose eyebrows meet and who are hairy on the inside, yet somehow she always encounters them; whether during her walks through the woods or in tell-tales. The primal plot is outstanding, but the secondary stories are actually even better.
Apart from a profound and allegoric effort, "The Company of Wolves" is definitely also a rudimentary unsettling and disturbing movie. The moody landscapes (dark forests, fog-enshrouded swamps
) and nightmarish scenery (dolls and toys coming to life) all contribute in making this British folklore movie creepier than 99% of all horror movies. The make-up effects, and then of course the man-into-werewolf transformations in particular, are stupendous and easily among the greatest ever conveyed in British cinema. I know the transformation in "An American Werewolf in London" is legendary and deservedly so but the make up art here comes darn close. Neil Jordan's style is pretty much flawless and surefooted at all times, regardless of how complex the narrative structure sometimes becomes. He also had a great cast at his disposal, including Angela Lansburry (a marvelous role), David Warner and Stephen Rea. Lead girl Sarah Patterson is breathtaking in every way, and it's truly incomprehensible she didn't (want to?) become one the most successful actresses of her generation. There are probably a few shortcomings to be found in "The Company of Wolves", but personally I didn't notice any of them. According to me, this is simply put - a bona fide masterwork.
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