Time to get in the mood for Halloween! While werewolves predate Greek mythology, the story of Lycaon is still one of the earliest examples of a man shapeshifting into an anthropomorphic wolf-like creature. If you recall, Lycaon was transformed into a wolf after eating human flesh. Skip ahead to our times and shapeshifters abound on big and small screens everywhere. Here are seven you need to know.
1. Wilfred Glendon
Werewolf of London, released in 1935, is one of the first werewolf movies and one of the first depiction of werewolves as we know them now: bipedal monsters who are affected by the moon. While in Tibet searching for a mysterious plant, Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull), a botanist, is attacked by a werewolf. All the basic werewolf mythology is there. Glendon turns into a wolf under the full moon and becomes a vicious killer. However, in this version, lycanthropy can be temporary cured by the same plant he happened to gather in Tibet. Convenient, eh? The wolf designs are basic and don’t do much to obscure the human features, but makeup artist Jack Pierce’s look became the foundation for all subsequent werewolf depictions on the big and smalls screen.
2. Larry Talbot
Six years later, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is bitten by a werewolf (Bela Lugosi) while killing it with a silver walking stick in The Wolf Man. It was the first time that silver was used as a weapon against werewolves. The wolf makeup, also done by Jack Pierce, evolved a bit, creating a less human, hairier monster. Although Talbot dies in the original, the wolf man appears in a few other films, including Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, where Talbot is desperate to find and kill Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula. And in the land of denial, the 2010 remake doesn’t exist.
3. David Kessler
An American Werewolf in London features David Kessler and his friend Jack, American tourists in England. After they’re attacked, Jack dies and David is turned into a werewolf. That doesn’t stop Jack from coming to David, begging him to off himself in order to stop him from killing people. David ignores the warnings, transforms, murders a bunch of people and then is shot down. Not bad for a John Landis helmed horror comedy. Unlike the Wolf Man before him, Kessler’s transformation looks more wolf than man.
Hairy fact: Rick Baker’s special effect makeup designs were the first to ever win the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
4. Scott Howard
From the frightening to the ridiculous… Teen Wolf’s Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox?) uses his genetically-inherited lycanthropy to pick up chicks and win basketball games. Is it a metaphor for puberty? A lesson about accepting who you are no matter what? A way to capitalize on the success of the Back to the Future star? The werewolf design is really just a hairy Michael J. Fox in basketball shorts. Scott Howard made way for other cheesy werewolf underdog stories like in the Canadian TV series, Big Wolf on Campus.
5. Daniel “Oz” Osbourne
In a town filled with vampires, demons and praying mantis creatures, the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was no stranger to mythical creatures with bad special effects makeup. But at least the second season addition, Oz (Seth Green) was free from much of the angst that has plagued movie werewolves. His blasé attitude toward his curse and anything else that came his way was Oz’s key character trait. Unlike many other teenage werewolf depictions, Oz was cool (he played in a band) and got the girl without ever having to take his shirt off. Todd McIntosh’s werewolf design changed from season to season, going from full wolf to a man-faced hybrid.
Hairy fact: The part of the werewolf was never actually played by Green, but rather a rotation of stunt men.
6. Remus Lupin
What werewolf list would be complete without including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’s Remus Lupin, the poor, weary Defense against the Dark Arts teacher? In the Harry Potter universe, werewolves are common knowledge but there is a stigma to the curse. The supernatural elitism makes it difficult for Lupin to find work, even getting him fired from his teaching post. The Wolfsbane Potion helps prohibit some of the full moon side effects, much like the plant in Werewolf of London. The film’s depiction of the werewolf is CGI.
7. Bigby Wolf
In the comic book Fables, fairy tale characters come to New York City to live in their own society. Their sheriff is Bigby Wolf, formerly The Big Bad Wolf. Opposed to the normal werewolf mythology, Bigby is a wolf who’s transformed into a human, using a lycanthropy-stained knife. He doesn’t need a full moon to transform. In wolf form, he’s bigger and stronger than any opponent, although silver is a weakness. Bigby’s hair grows so often that he is forced to shave multiple times a day. His supernatural senses are so intense that he must chain smoke in order to down them out.
Oh yeah, and he’s in love with Snow White.