The transformation scenes in The Wolfman, starring Benicio Del Toro, were, of course, top-notch and excellent. You get nothing but class and skill when Rick Baker is involved. Hell, even Anthony Hopkins turned into a damn werewolf in the movie – an old werewolf, as was depicted by it having gray hair.
The Beast, indeed, has had its day throughout the history of horror cinema. Cool werewolf transformation scenes have been going down since the original Wolf Man in 1941 (bite your tongue, it was awesome – cross-dissolves rule!). Here are a few of our favorites.
The Wolfman (2010)
True, Benicio Del Toro kind of already looks like a werewolf without any makeup and CG magic, but the effects team still brought their A-game to this one. Director Joe Johnston and makeup maestro Rick Baker knew that audiences go to werewolf movies not so much to see the werewolf but to see how someone becomes a werewolf, and the “how” makes for some of the best moments in the movie.
Benicio’s first transformation – while crawling up the steps from his father’s “crypt” – is an old-fashioned horror movie moment, as we only get glimpses of various parts of his body transforming: his foot, his hand, his ears, etc. The real doozy comes later when Benicio is strapped to a chair, being declared insane by a bunch of haughty doctors. “I will kill all of you!” he exclaims. And he does.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
This movie rules. John Landis is a maniac. And he set the bar with the transformation scene here, which seems like it takes 20 minutes (20 awesome minutes). It’s the true sense of physical agony that’s the ace card here – David Naughton screams not only in fright but in horrible pain as his entire bone structure stretches and contorts itself from human skeleton to wolf.
Yeah, this was Rick Baker’s work. And he had a ponytail back then, too.
The Howling (1980)
The transformation of the pornshop-lurking creep Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo) is the showstopper in director Joe Dante’s werewolf flick. The film itself hasn’t aged very well, but who cares? It has werewolves living in a New Age healing commune in the woods, and it has the woman who would later be the mom in E.T., and it has at least one kick-ass wolf-out scene, so watch it and love it.
The Howling trumped An American Werewolf in London by a year in laying the groundwork for actually seeing the shape of a human’s face change into that of a wolf’s — the snout elongating, the ears growing, the teeth sharpening. The context of the scene is a bit strange, as it takes Eddie quite a while to get into full wolf mode and Dee Wallace has little to do but stand there in shock for what seems like five minutes. No matter; the resulting beast is something truly monstrous and terrifying, and getting there is quite the impressive effects showcase.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
A little-seen gem, Trick ‘r Treat features Anna Paquin and other lovely ladies turning into werewolves somewhere in Ohio on Halloween night. While the actual resulting lady-wolves are nothing too unique in terms of design, the transformation techniques are certainly something to behold: they strip and tear away their human skin to reveal the wolf-creature underneath, all while poor Dylan Baker watches on in horror (and perhaps a bit of lust, too — you know how it goes in horror films).
This sequence is definitely the highlight of the film, featuring disorienting shots of nearby bonfires and set to Marilyn Manson’s cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
Honorable Mentions: The Wolf Man (1941), The Company of Wolves (1984), Teen Wolf (1985).
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The Wolfman 2010 (c) 2010 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.