SHOCK editor sits down with his kids to watch classic horror movies.
Last week, in our first installment of Monster Kid Theater, my three sons (just call me Fred MacMurray) and I sat down over two days to take in 1958’s THE FLY and its immediate sequel, 1959’s RETURN OF THE FLY.
To refresh, I have three little boys. Jack is 9. Elliot is 7. Ben is 5. I have not really pushed a cinematic agenda on them. They have just liked hanging out with me. And I watch plenty of movies. And many of them are…odd. I have ensured that when we do sit down to watch movies and when we go to the cinema, that I try to spin everything into education. I break down shots, discuss film history, talk about special effects, acting, metaphor and allegory. Some of it they get, some they will eventually get.
But they are my joy. We are a team.
So, with that, we decided for the purposes of this column to chase our fantastic and mildly frightful THE FLY double bill with a picture that used to jolt me as a teen – not a kid, a teen – when it popped up in the wee small hours of the morning on TV. That film is director Nathan Juran 1973’s hair-raiser THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF, which fell back on my radar when I found Scream Factory’s brand spanking new Blu-ray release in my mailbox.
THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF was rated PG upon release and still carries that rating, though as every serious horror film fan is well aware, a PG rating in the early 1970s is no indication that the movie in question will be gentler than its R-rated kin. Levels of sex and violence may be dimmed, but the ’70’s American PG horror flick could still do a number on the young. 1978’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, I’m looking at you.
But after excitedly revealing the basic plot of WEREWOLF to The Unholy Three, I could see it in their eyes: they were sold. They wanted to see this movie.
So watch it we did. On a Wednesday morning. At 8am, just to ensure that any terror they might endure would be softened in the bright light of day.
THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF begins with a bang, with a little boy (Scott Sealey) and his dad (Kerwin Matthews, who also starred in Juran’s THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD, another movie they kids have seen but have no doubt by now forgotten about) cottaging in the woods, while a well-tailored and feral looking werewolf leaps around athletically, hunting for prey.
“That doesn’t look like a werewolf,” Elliot remarked.
“Yeah, it’s more of a wolf man…he’s half man, half wolf” I said, defending Tom (CAT PEOPLE) Burman’s impressive werewolf mask.
He accepted this reluctantly and on we went.
“Dad,” Jack said.
“Yes?” I replied.
“You lied. You said the dad was a werewolf. But the dad is right there!”
“Just wait, Jack!” I blurted out in frustration. Kids have zero patience, I swear.
Anyway, the fit wolf man gets in a scuffle with the dad and, while Junior screams in the background, the beast bites the old man, before Dad pushes the creature to his death, impaling him on a stake.
When the monster turns into a man, both father and son are confused. Dad chalks up his perception to the stress of the battle. The boy, however, is steadfast that his dad was attacked by a werewolf.
With his dad’s wounds healing nicely and the police investigation into the killing closed, the lad goes back into the woods with his pop. But when night falls, the werewolf infection takes hold and Dad changes into the very horror that he slew. Indeed, Dad becomes a snarling werewolf, roaming the woods and murdering tons of people. Removing their heads. And burying those severed noggins like a dog buries a bone!
THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF is a goofy, fun watch for grown ups. And when the group of hippie Jesus freaks show up (the leader is played with gusto by writer Bob Homel), it’s an intentional riot. But for kids, admittedly, this flick is pretty damned harrowing. First of all, the sound of the wolf’s howl is blood-freezing and shrill and the eyes of the (presumed) stunt man in the make-up are wild, crazed. Little Ben didn’t much care for wasting his morning with such intensity and I took him into the next room to draw some pics, keeping an eye on the screen myself while Elliot and Jack sat riveted.
Really, at its core, this film is every child’s nightmare.
It echoes such classic pictures as NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, where little children are burdened with terrible knowledge that they cannot convince anyone of. Grown ups are to be mistrusted. Parents are to be feared. It’s a traumatic movie in many respects and the kids no doubt put themselves in the boy’s shoes, empathizing with the terrible situation he was now trapped in.
Sixty minutes into the film, our babysitter arrived as I had to, y’know, work.
This babysitter is 15. She’d never seen a film of this vintage. To her, this was an alien experience. And she was on the edge of her seat! I sat with them ’till the end and everyone was disturbed to note that not only was this movie scary, violent and emotionally affecting…it does NOT have a happy ending!
After that we watched the only feature on the disc, the trailer, a double feature with the film that THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF shared its initial bill with, 1973’s SSSSSSSSSS (did I include enough S’ in there? Too many?).
I’m not so sure about SSSSSSSSSS, though, with its baroque visuals and snake mania.
What do you think? Too soon?
Monster Kid Theater will return…