The Company of Wolves (1984)
The Company of Wolves (1984)

Genre: Fantasy and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: July 10th, 1984 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Neil Jordan Actors: Angela Lansbury, David Warner, Stephen Rea, Sarah Patterson, Graham Crowden, Kathryn Pogson, Micha Bergese, Georgia Slowe




hile napping in her room amid a wealth of unusually creepy dolls and other toys, young Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) dreams of her older sister, Alice (Georgia Slowe), running through a forested labyrinth of oversized, animated figurines (such as stuffed bears), frightened by giant flora and fauna, grabby creatures, and a pack of crimson-eyed wolves. It’s not exactly a nightmare, however, as Alice often harasses Rosaleen, giving the younger girl a certain sense of satisfaction with this particular vision. Segueing from one dark fantasy into the next, Alice is dead and buried, leaving Rosaleen in the care of her grandmother (Angela Lansbury), away from her grieving father (David Warner) and mother (Tusse Silberg).

“Hush now, foolish child.” The first dream is an obvious nod to Alice in Wonderland, while Rosaleen’s journey through an overgrown, foggy copse with her granny is clearly a derivation of Red Riding Hood. Even within the dream is another tale (as well as characters sleeping within their sleeping spells), as the grandmother narrates a story of a bride (Kathryn Pogson) and groom (Stephen Rea) on their wedding night, which is interrupted by a full moon and howling wolves. When the groom disappears, the bride eventually moves on, remarrying and having children. Years later, the groom suddenly materializes on her doorstep, bedraggled and with long, unkempt hair, ravenous and enraged at the sight of an unfaithful wife.

From here, the visuals take on a hilariously gruesome blend of “The Thing,” “The Howling,” and “An American Werewolf in London,” showing a flesh-ripping transformation from man to beast, with a striking axe-decapitation for a rewardingly macabre conclusion. Of course, it’s really just the beginning; Rosaleen hasn’t yet awoken, fueling further reveries of intermittently horrific happenings in the carnivorous canine-infested woods. “What about a kiss for Granny?”

Like in many real dreams, people seem familiar but behave rather oddly; explanations lack clarity, appearances shift, and the impossible is eerily possible. Bizarre symbolism, creepy-crawlies, and morbid imagery further blanket the protagonist’s troubled dreams. Yet despite some clever visual concepts (generally dwelling on magnificent grotesqueries, aided by makeup and prosthetics) and an excellent animatronic monstrosity or two, the film’s somewhat low budget and television-movie aesthetics (aspect ratio, limited sets, minimal characters, and more) tend to diminish the theatrical potential.

“You’re not afraid of anything, are you?” Written by Angela Carter from her own story, and directed by Neil Jordan (“Mona Lisa,” “High Spirits,” “The Crying Game”), this anthology of sorts curiously delves into unexpected areas, from bloody violence to religious condemnation to sexual suggestiveness to gothic poetry. It’s certainly an adult take on typically child-friendly fairy tales. While the main premise is imaginative and amusingly uncanny, the execution stumbles from time to time, drawing out the moments in which the gore and body-horror special effects can resurface to keep up the pacing and shocks. Nevertheless, the sustained weirdness, unnerving ambiguity, and classical music are highly winning traits.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10