The Company Of Wolves (1984)

Director: Neil Jordan

Starring: Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Micha Bergese, David Warner

“Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.” (Granny, The Company Of Wolves)

Director Neil Jordan is perhaps best known for his contributions to the vampire genre (Interview With The Vampire) and the “chicks with dicks” genre (The Crying Game) but in the ‘80s he also lent his directorial skills to a nifty little werewolf film called The Company Of Wolves, a film so rich in imagery and metaphor that its ideas and themes are still heavily discussed more than 25 years after it was originally released.

"Sorry, I'm currently feeling a bit ruff"

While the prologue is set in the present day, the vast majority of The Company Of Wolves takes place in the fairytale setting of a girl’s dream. In it, a small village lives in fear of the wolves that roam the woods nearby. Rosaleen, a twelve-year-old girl, is caught up in this hysteria when her older sister is killed by the wolves and she’s sent to stay with her granny for a while.

There her granny tells her a bunch of stories, which play out one by one over the course of the film – some told by granny, others recounted by Rosaleen to her mum later on. Eventually, Rosaleen herself becomes the subject of one of the tales – a werewolf version of Little Red Riding Hood – and is confronted with one of the beasts in her granny’s house. 

"I know you said the bridesmaids were a bunch of dogs but I didn't really expect this if I'm being completely honest"

The Company Of Wolves isn’t fucking around. While it doesn’t have a lot of gory set-pieces, the ones it does feature are fairly extreme. One transformation scene in particular has a chap tearing his own face off until only his muscles are visible, at which point a wolf’s face thrusts itself out through his mouth. It’s a more fantastical take on werewolf transformation and while it’s incredibly unsettling to watch, it’s also difficult to take your eyes off it.

The film is rife with sexual imagery and metaphor throughout, and it’s fairly clear that the entire movie is one big allegory for Rosaleen’s coming-of-age. It all comes to a head during the film’s final Red Hiding Hood tale in which Rosaleen confronts a man who clearly wants to have his way with her and challenges her to a race to her grandmother’s house in order to try and win a kiss from her. She’s twelve, you paedo.

So he's a werewolf and a paedo? The poor lad's got nothing going for him

Underlying sexual connotations aside, this is an incredible-looking film. Jordan and cinematographer Bryan Loftus properly go to town with the film’s dream-like setting and create a forest world that it’s impossible to take your eyes off, interspersed with the sort of artsy-fartsy shots that usually have me dismissing a film as pretentious but work perfectly here.

The Company Of Wolves has something of a cult following and it’s not that hard to see why. It’s an impressive film rife with sexual metaphor and masterful imagery, and there isn’t really much like it out there. While it does lose its way a little at times and get a tad too showy for its own good, it’s still a film I’d happily recommend tracking down if you like your films fantastical and cerebral from time to time.

UK wolf-lovers can get The Company Of Wolves on DVD – BANG – and on Blu-ray – BOOM. The Blu-ray is pretty cheap at the moment and both versions have an excellent commentary by Neil Jordan explaining a lot of the messages hidden in the film.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to read more, here’s a complete list of reviews on That Was A Bit Mental.

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