John Landis’s An American Werewolf In London has what is the most impressive human to wolf transformation sequence I’ve ever seen. You can dump your wallets out and buy all the CGI effects at hand, and none of them will ever match the tactile weight that practical effects have, the combination of hair, putty and latex that assures you there is *something real* on screen, and not the hollow timbre of computer driven wizardry. Everything in the film builds up to this shock and awe moment, and up until then it’s a fairly low key, atmospheric affair in which you never quite see the beast that kicks off the inciting incident. Griffin Dunne and David Naughton play the two American backpackers who find themselves wandering the moors of northern England, positive there is some kind of creature hunting them. The crusty locals avidly deny any such presence, but aren’t convincing and furtively shift their gaze, clearly not being honest. Sure enough, Naughton is attacked and bit one night, and he begins to exhibit those good old symptoms. The change happens all at once and is quite startling; this isn’t a sleek, aesthetic werewolf either, it’s a lumbering behemoth, all fur fangs and fury, storming about the cobbled streets of London like a coked out grizzly bear out running zookeepers. We only get to see him in London for a brief and chaotic end scene, but it’s worth it, taking the slow, misty nocturnal buildup and switching to broad daylight, revealing what was unseen before and bringing it jarringly down to earth. I can’t speak for the sequel, as I’ve never seen it, but this one remains one of the most well crafted, fun werewolf films you can find, and my personal favorite.
“Some will fly, some will fall..”
Snow Angels is an agonizing film to put yourself through, as it determinedly focuses on two people who are losing track of their path in life. Their emotional and psychological clarity is dimming, blinded by possible mental illness and lingering tragedy, mentally snowed in, so to speak, like the ironically idyllic Midwestern town they call home. Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell are Annie and Glenn, a couple wading through a bitter separation that is taking a damaging toll on their little daughter (Gracie Hudson). Glenn embarrassingly clings to Annie and what they had, leaning on the crutch of alcohol and making a pitiable fool of himself. Annie is lost and fragile, unsure of appropriate action at this particular crossroads in life. Their story is laced with that of other residents in the town, and you’ll be pleased to know it’s not all doom and gloom: a budding romance plays out with the talents of Michael Angarano and the wonderful Olivia Thirlby. There’s also work from Griffin Dunne, Nicky Katt and the excellent Tom Noonan in an extended cameo that bookends the film’s enigmatic emotional climate. Rockwell seeths with regret and heartache, lashing out passively at first until his behaviour becomes very destructive to himself and those around them. Beckinsale has never been better, downplaying Annie by bottling up her feelings, and letting them corrosive erupt in a third act of unimaginable tragedy that demands courage and compassion from the viewer. A highly complex, grounding story of lives gone off track and the not always so simple way in which we humans conduct ourselves with each other. A must see.