The Day of Blood continues.
Teen Wolf (1985) from MGM
Who: Written by Jeph Loeb (who went on to write for Smallville, Lost, and Heroes, among other shows) and Matthew Weisman (Commando, 1980s Teen Wolf TV series), starring small, spunky, sincere Matthew J. Fox as the boy-turned-werewolf, and featuring make-up and SFX by Christopher Biggs (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Nightmare on Elm Street 4), and Thomas Burman (The Goonies, The Godfather: Part III).
What: Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is a painfully normal high school kid who, like most teens, wishes he were special. He plays basketball for an average team and moons over the pretty girl in his school—who is dating an older guy from a rival team—and complains to his best friends, Stiles and “Boof.” One day he goes through a crazy transformation and learns that he is from a long line of werewolves. He decides to use the Wolf’s power to change how everyone thinks of him at school, and for a while it works perfectly…
Where: Probably as part of the effort to keep the cost of the movie low (the whole of it costing approximately one million dollars), it was filmed entirely in California in relatively easy-to-reach locations like South Pasadena and Montrose. One of these spots was the John Burroughs Middle School, which has been a popular school location for quite a few Hollywood films. In addition to being in Teen Wolf, it has appeared in Nightmare on Elm Street, Pretty in Pink, Pleasantville, Never Been Kissed, Family Matters, Caspar, and Bad Teacher, among others.
When: Teen Wolf was released on August 23, 1985. The influential Back to the Future had been released only a month and a half earlier on July 3. Michael J. Fox was becoming quite the hot commodity after his run in the popular TV series, Family Ties, and then in Back to the Future. He agreed to do this film because apparently one of his Family Ties costars was pregnant and the series was on a short hiatus. It’s safe to say this film would never have made it without Fox.
1985 was sort of an odd banner year for the film industry. It was the year of many of the 80s cult classics (and actual classics). The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, The Color Purple, Brazil, A View to Kill, The Return of the Living Dead, Rocky IV, Clue, Re-Animator and Weird Science all came out in 1985.
Why You Should Watch It: It’s a mostly fun blast from the past with a ridiculous supernatural twist. Fans of the current MTV Teen Wolf series might enjoy the few bits of the old movie that made it into the television version. I kept wondering, though, at all the angst that would be missing from quite a few series and films, if every town were as chill with werewolves as Beacontown. The werewolf make-up itself was well designed and I think the guys who played basketball and danced in full, furry wolf make-up are the real stars of the film.
If one were to look at this film as a parody of high school in which the werewolf powers act as a stand-in or hyperbolic version of high school sports prowess, it would make the film have a bit more value. At a time when the high school microcosm was the favored theme in popular 1980s films, a film that hinted at the frankly overblown nature of the rise and fall of some of those teenage characters would have been a witty change. To do so in the guise of a supernatural comedy would have been extra grand.
Why You Could Maybe Skip It: I have no proof that Teen Wolf was meant to be a parody at all. And in between the Wolf doing cool stuff, you have to deal with other people doing weird or mundane 1980s high school things—like wearing sunglasses at night and acting really badly in a school play. This had a lot more teen and a lot less wolf than I wanted it to. Throw in stupid sexual politics, in which winning the girl is still a part of the story, and a random homophobic slur, and you realize that there are some aspects of the 80s that are best left way behind. My advice to you werewolf fans is go watch the modern MTV series or BBC’s Being Human for real lupine drama.
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