In 1984, Neil Jordan, best known for The Crying Game and its surprise penis (too soon?), took us to a dark, fairy-tale world with the help of Stephen Rea and Angela Lansbury in The Company of Wolves.
Now we all know how I feel about fairy tales. I love them and this movie is a favorite. It's based on a series of stories from Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber which is one of the best short story collections, EVER, because it's entirely made up of grown-up, horrific, fairy tales! Carter and Jordan collaborated on the script.
Our story takes place in the dreams of a rebellious teenager by the name of Rosaleen. They involve her living in a forest with her parents and her sister but her sister gets eaten by a wolf which makes the village go all in a tizzy. During the period of mourning, Rosaleen goes to live with Granny.
Tied with Maggie Smith for "Best Granny EVER".
Granny, of course, tells her stories about a girl raised by wolves, a wedding party cursed by a serving maid done wrong and a man who goes missing, comes back, turns into a wolf when he finds that his wife remarried, gets killed by the new husband. She knits her a bright red shawl and tells her to avoid Freda Kahlo... excuse me... guys whose eyebrows meet.
It's a PARTY now, bitches!
When she goes back to the village, she has a boy chasing her that she doesn't care for and there's another killing. This time, when they kill the wolf it turns back into a human being.
Later, Rosaleen brings a basket of goodies to Granny. We can only assume it contains pot and booze because Granny tells some AWESOME stories. On the way, though, Rosaleen meets Freda Kahlo... sorry... couldn't be helped... a woodsman whose eyebrows meet. It's assumed he's handsome but I can't get past the cro-magnon brow ridge. Seriously, dude... tweezers. Invest.
Wow... Fabio, you ain't.
In standard Red Riding Hood fashion, he challenges Rosaleen that he can beat her to Granny's house. He does, natch, and he eats the stringy, old lady. Rosaleen finds the carnage, shoots Freda and and then feels bad for him after he transforms. When dad and company arrive, they are surrounded by wolves while Rosaleen and Eyebrow Dude escape into the forest where it is assumed that they will raise puppies.
Remember how I mentioned feminist horror the other day? This is it... kinda. Carter's short stories definitely challenged the "damsel in distress" and Jordan and Carter tried to bring that in as much as they could in the script. Granny wasn't frail by any stretch and Rosaleen was headstrong enough to decide her own life for herself. On the other hand, though, the werewolf figures are mostly male and their dominance almost, but not quite, pokes gaping holes in that feminist vision. It's only Rosalee coming out on top that cements the feminist vision.
The pair DID, however, manage to pull out ALL of the sexual undertones of the Red Riding Hood story and lay out the moral "Don't Stray From The Path" quite nicely. Even before Ginger Snaps, the werewolf story has been a metaphor for change, particularly puberty, and Carter and Jordan tack allusions to this EVERYWHERE in this movie. Put that in conjunction with the claustrophobic setting (Yes, the woods are claustrophobic) and you get this trapped feeling that all teenage girls possess.
The only problem that I have with this movie is that it meanders. It's like a ADHD kid walking through the woods. There's too much to focus on and it's jarring. You can't even get up for popcorn or you miss plot points. All in all, though, I think this is one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Take Ritalin before watching it, though.