Sunday, October 11, 2020

15 Favorite Horror Movies: The Company of Wolves (1984)

This must have been on the shelves in the video store I worked in as a teenager, because I remember seeing it dozens of times in the '80s. I was so in love with the gothic aesthetic and the fairy tale and the werewolves and just the sheer weirdness of the plot. And maybe a little bit with Sarah Patterson, the actor who plays Red Riding Hood.

It was directed by avant-garde filmmaker Neil Jordan (his second film) and it feels deeply personal. Jordan worked with novelist Angela Carter to adapt her short story by the same name. The structure is cool and strange with Patterson playing a modern girl named Rosaleen who's sleeping and dreaming about her and her family in medieval times. In the dream, her older sister (whom she doesn't get along with in the real world) is killed by wolves, sending the forest village into a panic. David Warner plays her dad, Swedish actor Tusse Silberg plays her mother, and Angela Lansbury is her grandmother who of course lives deep in the woods by herself.

Inspired by the local interest in wolves, Grandmother tells Rosaleen lots of stories about wolves (which always turn out to be werewolves) and these are enacted on screen as well. So there are all of these stories within a dream, turning The Company of Wolves into sort of an anthology film. There's a werewolf transformation in every one and they're all different from each other and original. I don't think I've seen anything like them before or since.

The locations and sets in the film are wonderfully atmospheric and captivating, both the modern day manor and the medieval forest village. And Jordan does a great job depicting the wolves as both frighteningly deadly and alluringly social creatures, usually at the same time. Some films seem like they were made specifically with you in mind. This is one of mine.

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