Sunday, October 25, 2015

What Makes a Good Werewolf Story?

Location and Legend!

I’m writing an erotic horror novella dealing with werewolves. It came to my mind as I wrote a werewolf story that this subject never seems to run out of steam. It’s like zombies and vampires, except that both of them are undead. A werewolf is technically man and beast.

This concept compels me even more.

The animal side of man has the needs to eat, sleep, drink, seek protection from the elements and mate. In his human state and being reasonable and with conscience, he gets a job to pay for the things he needs, finds someone to marry, decides how many children to create, what to eat for supper.

The werewolf, however, has these needs and has no conscience about gaining them by killing, stealing and raping.

We are compelled to ponder; is a werewolf more wolf or more man? It walks on two feet but it looks like a wolf. Hmm… Which takes precedence for him?

They are most often portrayed as more wolf than man. There is a man host and it walks on two legs, but all else man-like qualities are overridden by the wolf. What if a werewolf were portrayed as having a conscience? Showing intelligence? Or able to hold out on instant gratification?

A good and inventive werewolf story should give us an element we haven’t seen yet. What if a successful businessman was also predatory, eating his foes in the board room or devouring competition in a very chillingly civilized manner? After all, a werewolf that is simply a wolf on two legs is not particularly threatening. Two legs doesn't bring exceptional agility compared to a four-legged wolf. What scares us about the man-wolf concept is that he can be among us, appearing as us, and the suddenly go feral.

For my upcoming erotic horror novel, "Pagan Bloodlust," I chose a magical and idyllic location, but gave the forest a curse rather than a particular person. 

Location and legend appear to be the two elements most critical to a good wolf story. 

A werewolf is an amazingly hard to believe creature, but if you were to drop him in the city where a wild animal wouldn’t normally be, you’ve now asked the audience to suspend their belief system two times over. (Remember when they did a movie putting “Predator” in the city—godawful! Or when they brought the dinosaurs from to our shores in the second “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” installment?) I’m not cool with city werewolves, though I’m sure it could be done in an interesting urban way, it just doesn’t scare me to think of a wolf running around with pushers and pimps, robbers and prostitutes. There’s no contrast between evil and evil-er and no sense of a feral woodland wolf having the upper hand in his own setting.

I admittedly liked certain werewolf movies purely for location, such as “The Howling” with the camp in the California mountains that portrayed the concept of a commune of wolf-people (a technique used in "Blood and Chocolate" also). The wolf itself looked rather comical and tazmanian-devilish, but the location was prime! 

I also enjoyed “The Howling V” but that was because it took place in a castle. Not a bad location to lock up a wolf and let him feast in the corridors and hidden rooms. 

Ultimately, the woods are the wolf’s domain. Part of what scares us the most about werewolf stories is that people feel vulnerable in the woods to predators, but to have one that can run on two feet and is powerful—that’s really frightening. You’re in his territory, no help available, and he’s giving chase.

"An American Werewolf in London" did a fantastic job of putting a werewolf on the foggy moors and making it a chilling setting.

The legend of the werewolf is critical too. “Blood and Chocolate” did a neat job of giving us some background on a culture of people/wolves. Too many werewolf stories and movies have a simple bite turning into a full-moon maniac scenario. It has no cultural or mythological basis to seep it in generations of fear and cult-like fervor. We really want to believe this is possible and we really need the cult and the legend to mystify it for us.

It’s the loss of humanity in a werewolf who still looks rather human and sometimes by daylight is still human, that truly fascinates us. The werewolf is the conscienceless Michael Meyers but with teeth instead of a knife and actually more feasible than a dude who can’t be killed but is mortal…(never understood that one)

When going to movie form, I admit that I prefer my werewolf to mechanically transform. If you have to show full-frontal morphing, please do it like “An American Werewolf in London.” It should look organic and technically difficult. If a moviemaker wants to CGI the transformation, they’ve lost me. It’s too smooth and slick and too cartoonish. I want to hear agony and crunching and cracking sounds. To grow a snout—it can’t be easy.

"Blood and Chocolate" did a nice job of transforming, but they transformed into wolves, not man-wolf.

I believe it comes down to the cult and legend of the werewolf and the location in which he is let loose to prowl that ultimately make the werewolf story.

Here is a list of some popular werewolf movies - 

Blood and Chocolate
The Howling
An American Werewolf in London
Ginger Snaps
Dog Soldiers
The Wolf Man (1941) 
Wild Country
Red Riding Hood
The Company of Wolves
Bad Moon
Silver Bullet
Brotherhood of the Wolf


  1. I really hate the wolf portrayed as the mad killing machine because the wolf is actually an intelligent creature. I'd like to see a wolfman depicted as a nocturnal avenger. Like a hairy Zorro.