You may know FrightFest is an amazing horror festival in London that’s been running since 2000 but did you know they also have a distribution label and a series of brilliant books? You should because two of them, The FrightFest Guide to Exploitation Movies by Alan Jones and FrightFest Guide to Monster Movies by Michael Gingold received reviews on this very site.
Now added to their book on Ghost Movies FrightFest and FAB Press bring the ultimate guide to Werewolf movies penned by Gavin Baddeley a writer specialising in the devilish, decadent and macabre. In addition to authoring numerous books, including the FAB Press volume The Gospel of Filth, he’s written for countless magazines, and is in demand as a public speaker and television research consultant.
Gavin has said: “I was flattered to be asked – I’m among pretty distinguished company with the other FrightFest Guide authors and contributors – and it seemed an ideal opportunity to explore why I’ve been so fascinated by werewolves since childhood, As a lifelong lycanthropy obsessive, an excuse to watch hundreds of werewolf films under the pretext of work was always going to be impossible to resist!”
For more than a century, a diverse pack of lycanthropes have memorably manifested onto our screens, in many hair-raising shapes and sizes. Within these colourful pages we will encounter reluctant wolf men, shapeshifting sadists, Nazi werewolves, werewolf nuns, big bad fairy tale wolves and lycanthropic nymphomaniacs.
Acclaimed author, broadcaster and occult historian, Gavin Baddeley, finds fresh perspectives on established classics, uncovers neglected gems, and even examines a few howlers among the two hundred-odd werewolf movies reviewed. In the process Baddeley shows how the myth has transformed; whereby werewolves become analogies for alcoholism or adolescence, or ciphers for sexual awakening or serial murder.
The guide opens with an introduction from one of FrightFest’s fearsome foursome Alan Jones filling in the reader on not only the geneses of the book but all the werewolf films FrightFest has promoted and premiered over the years including Ginger Snaps, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Wolfcop, Late Phases and Howl.
We are then treated to a credential crunching guide on Gavin Baddeley himself before the wonderful Neil Marshall provides a fantastic foreword. The acclaimed director of The Descent, Doomsday and The Reckoning amongst other horror’s what is most important is his 2002 Dog Soldiers which changed the game up in terms of modern werewolf movies.
Marshall discusses that film alongside his love of werewolves in general before we are treated to the in-depth introduction which Baddeley spreads across four terrifically informative parts. Starting with Hooray for Howlywood where we learn that most of the modern ideas of the werewolf were created by movies rather than folk lore or mythology.
Running through the important early movies especially Universal’s seminal 1941 classic The Wolf Man Baddeley then explains how he selected the films that make up his extensive guide throwing down some ground rules over the proceedings including the exclusion of anything but films as well as his criteria for what constitutes a werewolf movie.
“My aim has not been to provide a connoisseur’s guide to lycanthropy on the big screen” he writes “so much as a guidebook that could help you develop your own” a magnanimous and magnificent aim that is more refreshing and accessible than those preachy picky pretentious film books only focusing on films seen worthy of criticism by their awful boorish authors.
Homo Homini Lupus or A Brief Introduction to Lycanthropy takes us from 15,000 year old cave art to World War 2 in search of the origins of the werewolf in our culture. An insightful piece Baddeley moves through Ancient Greek and Roman legends to the influence of the Church on and Bible on people’s views on werewolves.
Particularly fascinating is the section on Viking berserkers, each associated with a different totemic beast one being a wolf, who it has been discovered may have gained there seemingly mystical invincibility and fighting skills from ingesting a certain herb one of the side of effects of which is the feeling that feathers or fur is growing from your skin.
Discussing Medieval werewolf motifs, famous fairy tales and Hitler’s obsession with wolves a stand out subject is The Book of Were-Wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould in 1865 which was a serious historical study of the phenomenon and included several famous cases of the time that shocked society and actually inspired future horror films.
Baddeley argues that Sabine Baring-Gould’s book details the first form of serial killer a concept that wouldn’t be created until the 1970’s when FBI Agent Robert K. Ressler coined it and became one of the world’s leading experts on violence and motiveless murders.
In Baddeley’s conclusion to the second introduction he suggests that we have no better idea of what motivates a serial killer now as they did at any point in history and that the concept of a transformation from civilised human to savage blood thirsty beast is as good as any other when trying to get into the mind of a psychopath.
The third introduction details movies about other animal human hybrids that didn’t quite make the guides cut. Titled Cat People, Wasp Women and Fox Families it runs through a whole host of altered humans including the West African Leopard and Crocodile societies which spawned the 1946 Tarzan and the Leopard Woman.
Other animal outings include the spectacular 1942 Cat People, 1957’s The Fly and Hammer’s 1966 The Reptile as well as more recent films such as horror comedy Black Sheep, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and even a discussion of Marvel’s Venom which was described by one of its stars as “almost more like a werewolf movie than a superhero movie.”
Finally the fourth introduction Underdogs and Dogsbodies delves into why the werewolf has always been seen as the lowest of all movie monsters. This is in part due to wolves relation to man’s best friend but also because werewolf heroes and villains are more often than not from the lower classes. Rarely counts like Dracula or doctors like Jekyll lycanthropy usually effects the more average amongst us and this perhaps has placed the poor werewolf at the bottom of the horror hierarchy.
Finally after 48 pages we move to the list of movies which runs in order of year of release starting with Nosferatu in 1922 and ending on several werewolf films from 2018 and 2019. In the 100 page limit I encountered entries on classics such as Universal’s The Wolf Man, Hammer’s The Curse of the Werewolf and Carry on Screaming alongside a series of more obscure films.
Especially interesting to me was the career of Paul Naschy who has played the wolf man more often than any other actor predominately in his films as Count Waldemar Daninsky starting with Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror in 1968. His Hispanic horror films range in quality but his commitment to the character is commendable.
A wonderful guide and essential for any horror fan Gavin Baddeley is an excellent and authoritative author entertaining and informing in equal measure. In The FrightFest Guide to Werewolf Movies he highlights the best and most barmy werewolf movies that ever existed offering the reader a must watch list of lycanthropy movies.
The FrightFest Guide to Werewolf Movies By Gavin Baddeley is available to order now directly from FAB along with all the other amazing The FrightFest Guides just click HERE. You can also read the rest of our 100 Pages of Horror by clicking the HERE.