The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Werewolf (1996)

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This is one I've been wanting to get after for a long time now. Between the Richard Lynch, the Joe Estevez, and the fact that MST3K has hit it, it seemed like a sure bet. The question was, could I manage it without Mike and the 'Bots first?

Werewolf takes place in Flagstaff, Arizona, where some archaeologists led by Richard Lynch find what looks like a werewolf skeleton. Joe Estevez is one of a few local Native Americans hired by Lynch and his archaeologists-- and physically attacked by his ill-tempered colleague-- and he sees bad things in this skeleton, and he's right when his buddy turns into a werewolf too. Then some dude comes into town, and he's also attacked by Lynch's ill-tempered colleague, getting slashed by the werewolf skull. As you can imagine, he turns into a werewolf too, and all hell breaks loose.

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Wow, this is all kinds of bad. Slow moving broken up with some hilarious moments of ineptitude. Not to mention, the main stars after Lynch and Estevez all speak English as a second language, and sound stilted and unnatural when they deliver their lines, making for more unintentionally funny moments. What makes it a tough watch though is the long periods of inactivity. In a group this is something that could probably be handled, and if you can handle it, you'll be rewarded with some amazing stuff, including a werewolf driving a car into some exploding barrels, one of the funniest werewolf horror movie kills in the history of film, and a well proportioned female archaeologist wearing a white tank top with no bra in a chilly pool hall.

That being said, the MST3K version is the definite choice if you're attempting this solo. Think of it like rock climbing-- it's safer to have someone there to hold the rope and guide you through the route, and the MST3K guys are experts. This also had some pretty funny host segments, which wasn't always the case during the late Mike era. The best jokes for me came during the werewolf driving sequence, where they made cracks about him behaving like a dog: "I hope he remembered to crack the window for himself" "He's just going to run around in the back seat while he's driving" [about the traffic lights:] "Hey, I'm color blind!" They also used lycanthrope as a verb, referring to the werewolf transformation as "lycanthroping". Top to bottom an excellent episode.

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One of the things that struck me about the MST3K heckling was that they didn't know who Richard Lynch is. In one scene where he had a white sweater on, they joked about how much he looked like a grandmother. It really elucidated the dividing line between what we do and what MST3K does, because, while we both watch bad movies, they do it for a job, and we do it for fun. They have no idea who Richard Lynch is, and they're cool with that; we know exactly who Richard Lynch is, and with a movie like this, seeing his name on the cover is a selling point. Is that a bad thing?

Joe Estevez is only in this at the beginning, and then for whatever reason, he's gone. The hair is fantastic. He must've had other things going on, because he would've been great throughout the film, especially with that hair. The guy does like five or six movies a year, so I wonder if it's a deal where, if a film maker wants him in his or her film, they have to lock him up quick, or he's already committed to like three projects and the best they can hope for is a cameo at the beginning. He has over 215 acting credits on imdb. I wonder if that's a record, and if it isn't, how many he needs to break it.

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MST3K brought up a great point about werewolves: they aren't very canine-ish, if you know what I mean. They're more like felines in the things they can do. I mean, how many dogs do you see climb buildings or trees? How about use their claws to attack people? I get that they're supposed to be half human half wolf, but maybe half human half tiger would make more sense. Also, loved the Native American connection to werewolves in this, ten years or so before Twilight.

The stand-alone DVD of this is no longer in print, and can be kind of pricey on Amazon. The VHS is much less so, so that may be the way to go if you're thinking of attacking this without Mike and the 'Bots. The MST3K version, on the other hand, is available on Netflix Watch Instantly, which was how I watched it. I think you're better off letting them do the heavy lifting, but if you and you're friends are looking for a challenge, this could be worth it.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118137/

9 comments:

  1. How could something with this many warewolves be bad? I don't think I would watch this alone, but I will definitely watch the MST3K one. Especially since it's on Netflix streaming. Thank God for Netflix streaming.

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  2. Unfortunately, there weren't that many werewolves, and I guess therein lies the rub. I say go for the MST3K version on Netflix Instant, and you'll be perfect.

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  3. I tried the MST3K version of this one time. I think I shut it off...or fell asleep. Probably fell asleep. I can't sit through movies like I used to...

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  4. Loved the MST3K version!

    The bit where they keep cutting to the open-mouthed skull and Crow says: laaaaaaa! is hilarious!

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  5. Yeah, I've never attempted to sit through the un-MSTied version. I bought it on DVD for a buck one time but sold it at a flea market before I ever got around to watching it. I just don't think I'm a strong enough filmgoer. Like Dirty Harry says, "A man's got to know his limitations".

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  6. Yeah, the MST3K version is pretty sweet, and I would say it is probably the best way to go. You probably made a good decision there Video Vacuum, because I felt some serious pain. It definitely helped having Crow sing "laaaaaa" every time the open-mouthed werewolf skull was shown on-screen. If I were you Mr. Gable, I'd go the MST3K Watch Instantly route.

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  7. "Fun" fact: Joe Estevez is part of the reason why I'm in the world of b-movies. Back in 1990, I was 11 and had pay-TV at home. They usually showed only big blockbusters, but this time they showed Soultaker! I was already fascinated with films, but I remember seeing Estevez walking through this smoky area and thinking "What the hell?! That's not Martin Sheen and there's something wrong here!" Of course, now I know there was NOTHING wrong there :)

    As for Lynch being a selling point, of course it's not wrong. It actually shouldn't be wrong for mainstream audiences, either. He's a classically trained actor who's been in big theatrical releases. And he has a unique look, because he took acid and set himself on fire. Now, THAT'S dedication for you!

    Finally, I boycott the Werewolf DVD because it doesn't have the "incredible morphing package"!

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  8. I did know the facts on Richard Lynch, though I should point out that the "acid" you're talking about is LSD-- people might think you meant he used the chemical acid and set himself on fire on accident. I think I mentioned the classically trained thing in a previous post, but I don't remember, so either way, thanks for the info.

    And I didn't know that it was Joe Estevez who got you into bad movies, so thanks for sharing that story. If you're going to pick a bad one, then Soultaker is pretty bad! Mine was actually a pay-per-view movie as well, Showdown in Little Tokyo which I saw at a friend's house who had a descrambler and thought, "this is amazing!" Before that it was mostly 50s and 60s bad movies.

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  9. I once attempted to see this film without the riffing from a Spanish dubbing downloading blog which always had the films ready to be downloaded off of Megaupload (prior to it being shunned from the net). Other than the random nude scene (which some reviewers claim isn't even in the actual cut for some versions), this film will lull one to their pillow I'm sure. Then of course I resaw the MST3k version while on a marathon and it's still one of their best of the later era.

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