The Company of Wolves

Year: 1984
Production Co: Incorporated Television Company
Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: Neil Jordan
Cast: Angela Lansbury, Sarah Patterson, David Warner, Terence Stamp

When this film came out it was the perfect storm of disconnected elements. Since the months of nightmares and terror after An American Werewolf in London, I was fascinated by anything to do with werewolves. Unfortunately, I was a kid bought up on the films of Spielberg and Zemeckis and anything this esoteric was bound to leave me cold.

Watching it years later I understood how it's a Russian doll of a movie, fairy stories inside fairy stories, bookending devices and a meta-narrative with a loose throughline about mankind's true nature.

We start with a stately home in England where two parents drive home and ask their daughter to go upstairs and wake her sister, who's in bed having a nightmare. In it, the very sister banging on her bedroom door trying to rouse her is being chased through a gothic forest landscape by a pack of wolves before dissolving into the main story.

Rosaleen (Patterson) is close to her no-nonsense Granny (Lansbury) in medieval times, and their relationship forms the backbone of a Red Riding Hood story. Except in this version, the wolves to watch out for are werewolves, and instead of supernatural monsters roaming London eating people like I expected (and wanted), they're allegories for the beastly sexual desires men feel for Rosaleen as she comes of age.

There are a few scenes of gore and genuine horror – particularly during one of the most inventive werewolf transformations where the poor victim tears skin off his body to reveal the wolf underneath. And with the benefit of hindsight about movies that don't have a straight narrative I can appreciate the artistry more, but it still might just be too weird for you.

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