Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)

Warning: there will be spoilers for this more than forty years old movie

Child of divorce Richie (Scott Sealey) is spending a nice weekend with his Dad Robert (Kerwin Mathews) somewhere in a cabin in the country. Under the light of the full moon, they are attacked by a classically styled wolfman (also known as the “dog-faced boy” type). Robert manages to fight the monster off and kill it so that it turns into a dead human but he is bitten in the process. Robert convinces himself they have been attacked by a maniac. It’s a variation of the sort of interesting delusion all characters in the film will share, for everyone here laying eyes on a werewolf in form of a human with a dog’s head walking on two legs and wearing clothes will say they have seen an animal. Which is rather peculiar, unless the wildlife of the USA have seen some rather interesting developments nobody told the rest of the world about.

Well, all characters will talk that sort of nonsense except for Richie, who will always insist on werewolves being werewolves, a fact that won’t bring much happiness to him and his family once Robert starts turning into one too. Not a great development to happen just at the point in Robert’s life where plying his ex-wife Sandy (Elaine Devry) with chauvinist nagging and alcohol seems to start having an effect on her. Not the one consisting of applying boot to ex-husband genital you might wish for, alas, so perhaps lycanthropy actually is for the better.

Sometimes, a film just stumbles upon a way to talk about a lot of the anxieties of its time and space without seeming to actually notice. The Boy Who Cried Werewolf most certainly is such a film, and while it’s not terribly effective as a horror movie, it is such a capsule of early 70s white US middle class anxieties it is worth watching if only to point and gawk at how unfiltered a lot of this stuff here is.

There’s the whole D.I.V.O.R.C.E. angle, Robert’s honestly confused and slightly bitter reaction to his ex-wife having a career that’s just as important to her as his own is to him and being able to handle that and being a good mother too (the film pleasantly never playing the card of making Sandy crap at raising spawn). That’s just the beginning of the sheer 70s insanity. Little Richie, for example, apparently has his own psychiatrist despite seemingly coping well with the divorce and not showing any other signs of mental illness; a psychiatrist, I might add, who believes in werewolves and talks about the occult a lot. Then there’s a sub-plot about the shenanigans of a band of Jesus hippies (“Freaked out on Jesus!”) being threatening, ridiculous and dishonest in turns, random psycho babble and other bits and bobs that must have looked like a good idea at the time.

All these bubbles of random anxiety somewhat overshadow how bleak of a film this would be if it only were emotionally involving. This is after all a movie where a little boy’s father turns into a raving monster that’ll even try to kill his ex-wife, and ends up killed by a torch-less mob in the end - but not before he can bite the little boy. The bleakness as well as the obvious metaphorical reading of the main plot don’t come as much to the surface as one might hope, though. I can’t help but think veteran director Nathan Juran – not exactly a child of the 70s – didn’t terribly care for that sort of thing.

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