Saturday, 3 December 2016

A First Look at Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

As I recently wrote on Facebook, yesterday evening I went to the cinema to see the latest instalment in the Underworld franchise and as promised, I’m here to write my initial impressions. It’s a pretty rare occasion to be able to write a post like this, since hardly any werewolf movies are shown in cinemas around these parts (unless they’re part of a more-or-less known series like this one), so I’m pretty happy to be doing this. Also because I haven’t written anything in ages again, but I digress. Now, let’s get this show on the road!

(This is where the spoilers start, so in case anyone thought this would be spoiler-free, cease and desist right here and come back once you’ve seen the movie. Sorry! If you don’t mind being spoiled, though, keep on going.)

First off, if going to this movie you thought it was all over – well, for better or worse, it’s not. Contrary to what the trailers and promotional posters would lead you to believe, this does not seem to be the end of Selene’s tale. If you expected Blood Wars to end with some kind of resolution to the current plotline, then you’re in for a disappointment. The only “peace” that is achieved here is an internal peace among the remaining vampire covens and it very much seems like we are in for another sequel if this one sells well enough. The conflict with the Lycans, which is still the underlying reason for everything that has been happening for a while here, still hasn’t seen any lasting resolution after five movies. But let’s look at things one at a time.

So the basic premise of Blood Wars is this: Selene is still being hunted by both the vampires and the Lycans, but for different reasons – the vampire council wants her caught for her killing Victor and consorting with a Lycan/hybrid a.k.a. Michael, while the Lycans want her because they think she can lead them to her daughter, Eve, whose blood they ultimately want. Problem is, Selene doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know where her daughter is in order to ensure her safety. So why do the Lycans want Eve’s blood so badly? The overall motivation remains the same since the beginning of the franchise – they want their species to evolve (and I mean that as a plural, because they want both the Lycans and the vampires to do that), so that the bloody conflict between the two ‘bloodlines’ could come to an end. As it’s to be expected, the vampires do not want to hear any of this (even if it makes sense) and are bent on winning the war and ensuring the purity of the bloodlines at any cost.

When it comes to Selene, for most of the film she seems to be caught in the middle of all this wishing she could be left alone and in peace. I do kind of get where the writers are coming from with this – after learning that her whole life as a vampire had been based on a lie forged by Victor, becoming an outcast from her own coven, losing Michael and then technically losing her daughter as well, who wouldn’t become all mopey and resigned to their fate? She does recover from all this a little at the end, though, due to the events that transpire.

As we had already known for a while, Scott Speedman would not be reprising the role of Michael in any more Underworld movies, so the writers did the only good thing they could have done with his character, in my opinion, and got rid of him. Yes, in Blood Wars it’s finally confirmed that the Saga of Michael Corvin has come to an end. Seriously, it was high time we were done with Michael – for a while it looked like the writers didn’t know what to do with him, so it’s better this way. After all, since his introduction in Underworld: Awakening, David has been a much better sidekick for Selene than Michael ever was, in my opinion. But the hybrid saga does not end there, since now it seems we’re in the middle of the Eve Saga. While in Underworld it was all about getting to Michael and in Evolution everyone wanted him dead because of him being a hybrid, in Awakening and in Blood Wars it’s all about getting to Eve because she’s a hybrid. In other words, Selene can’t catch a break, because there’s always a person she has to protect.

Finally, I would like to touch on the subject of Lycans themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, we at last have a female Lycan! Like, they really exist. At least it seems so, because, disappointingly, we only get one and it’s for a few short scenes where not much happens and she’s not even given a proper name. So, uh, is that a yay? Yes? Maybe? I guess? But jokes aside… If I want to talk about the Lycans, I have to mention one more thing – if it wasn’t obvious already, it seems that since Awakening the Underworld series has become centred on Selene and the vampires to the point that we are encouraged to root for them. Now, this has become a problem for me, because the original Underworld as well as Rise of the Lycans provided us with a backstory of the vampires’ abuse of their sister race, which gave us a solid reason why some of us could root for them. While at the beginning the reason the Lycans wanted to create hybrids was closely tied to Lucian’s personal revenge on the vampires, now they strive to evolve and perfect their species to secure a lasting peace – of course, that would also mean they would become more powerful than the vampires – and, who knows, perhaps they would exact their revenge on the other faction by wiping them out (and can we really blame them?), but hey, nobody’s perfect. However, all their attempts at achieving this are thwarted in the end by Selene and David who eventually rejoin the Eastern Coven and actually become members of its leadership. In Awakening, Blood Wars (and even Evolution I would say) the franchise has been following a pattern that is quickly becoming predictable and mundane: the Lycans become organised and/or unified under a strong leader, try to evolve/perfect their species, but in order to do that they need something related to Selene and the vampires, so they attack her or the covens, initially it seems like they might actually succeed, but in the end are decimated by the vampires and everything returns to the status quo. And speaking of organisation, at one point Selene remarks that the Lycans are organised and have become a danger to the vampire covens because of a strong leader. She even states that “there has never been a Marius”, which should set off a red light in everyone’s who’s seen all the movies up to this point head, because have the characters already forgotten about Lucian? The last time the Lycans were competent enough to get something done was when they were led by Lucian. So saying there’s never been an (insert name here) is pretty ungrateful to the late Lucian’s memory. Ouch! Not to even mention another striking similarity between Lucian and Marius – the fact they were both romantically involved with members of the vampire coven, which was part of the reason they strived for the unification of the bloodlines, but that’s just a cherry on top. What I was getting at, however, is that in Blood Wars the trend continues, where it appears that the creators are trying very hard for us to root for the vampires only, because we know that whatever the Lycans do, in the end, they will fail.

All in all, Blood Wars is basically more of the same – vampires and werewolves still engage in bloody shoot-outs, the vampires hold out against the Lycans, whose plans inevitably fail, and the whole thing ends on another cliffhanger. I was really hoping that this would be the movie that would tie up the series and bring us a conclusion to the vampire-werewolf conflict, but that just wasn’t meant to be. While there are some good things about it, it just seems like another decent-but-nothing-special instalment in a franchise that probably should have ended already. The effects are okay (they’re pretty much the same as what we saw in Awakening), the music is pretty good, but at some points I thought the acting could have been a little bit better. For example, for the first few scenes after Thomas arrived at the vampire coven I got the impression that Charles Dance was delivering his lines into the air, because it seemed like he didn’t want to make eye contact with any of his supporting cast, but fortunately that soon changed. (I have to say, seeing him engage in a swordfight was one of my favourite moments of the movie.) There were also a couple of awkward scenes that could have been shortened or perhaps omitted altogether. It seemed like the good scenes, although there were many, always ended up being pulled down by the bad/awkward ones. It did seem to happen more at the beginning and towards the middle of the movie, though, and less towards the latter half, fortunately. We also seemed to get fewer Lycan wolf-form scenes than in the previous movies – the reasoning behind this being that the Lycans are paradoxically the weakest when in wolf form because they cannot use weapons and their judgement is clouded too much by bloodlust.

So what would be my verdict on Blood Wars? I would say this – it’s definitely not the worst movie you could go and see right now, but it’s also not the best. I’d say it falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum – it’s a decent action movie to watch if you’re into the monster genre and of course it’s worth seeing if you’ve been a fan of the series. Just don’t expect any fireworks. It could have been worse, but it could have also been better. We will see if the story will continue in time, but until I can whip up a full-fledged review once Blood Wars has come out on Blu-Ray, I will leave you with this.

This whole article is based on my personal opinion after all, so let me know what you thought about the movie in the comments! And if you’ve yet to go see it, I hope you enjoy it anyway regardless of what my impressions were (I mean, I enjoyed it, but not as much as I’d hoped to) – after all, we all like different things and that’s what makes us all awesome. In the meantime, I hope you all have a great day. Take care and I will see you next time!

P.S.

I am still planning on releasing those video reviews, it’s just taking a lot longer than I expected to get everything sorted…

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

News from the dark side of the moon #3


And no, I am not dead yet, I've just been so snowed under with all the other stuff that's been going on that I've hardly any time to watch, read, or write anything related to werewolves. It's been another very dry season, I admit, but hopefully I'll be able to breathe some new life into the blog in the near future. In the meantime, be sure to check out Werewolf Theory's Facebook Fan Page and Twitter for random short updates. And, of course, a great many thanks to all the visitors who either still frequent this corner of the Internet or have stumbled upon it for the first time!

See you soon!



Friday, 22 April 2016

News from the dark side of the moon #2

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Good news everyone!

Hello and welcome again! I've been silent for a while, but that's because I've been busy with many, many things, not only those related to werewolves. Once again, I must apologise for not posting the promised review in time for this month's full moon, but I have some other great news. 

Namely, the first official Werewolf Theory design is now available for purchase on various products in my recently-opened store in association with Spreadshirt. Titled "The Change", this design depicts the stages of werewolf transformation from human to wolf. Products available include: t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, panoramic mugs, thermal mugs, buttons, shoulder bags, tote bags, a backpack, a mousepad, baseball caps, as well as mobile phone, tablet, and Kindle cases. The prices in the shop are in euros, since I am based in Europe, but from what I know Spreadshirt ships globally. Speaking of shipping, from April 25th till May 2nd worldwide shipping will be free for orders of two products or more (Code: TWOWOO). And for those of you in Poland, do not fret - the design will also be available in the Polish version of my shop as soon as I get down to translating the title and descriptions of the products. The aforementioned promotion will of course take place during the same period of time, with the same code, also in the Polish shop.

So that is all I wanted to write for now. I hope to post something new to the blog soonish. Until then, I wish you all the best and would like to thank you all very much for visiting Werewolf Theory - we've broken 166 thousand views! This makes me very happy and gives me encouragement to continue doing what I'm doing.

Until next time, then!

Update

The Werewolf Theory design is now also available as various products in the newly-opened US shop here: http://mang1314-us.spreadshirt.com . Enjoy!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Undertaker’s Moon (Moon of the Werewolf) by Ronald Kelly (1991), Part 2

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Kindle version of the novel.
Greetings and welcome!

As promised, here is the second part of the article about Ronald Kelly’s werewolf novel Undertaker’s Moon. If my rambling piques your curiosity and you decide you would like to read the book yourself, you can find a direct link to Amazon’s Kindle e-store to the side. In this second (and last) part, I would like to first talk about the portrayal of werewolves in the novel; afterwards, I will say a few words about how different characters in the book view lycanthropy, and, finally, I will end with my general impressions and evaluation of the book. That said, let’s get down to business, because there is quite a lot to talk about.

Werewolves in Undertaker’s Moon

As I’ve mentioned before, in this section I’d like to talk a bit about the way werewolves are presented in the novel. There is a lot that can be said on the subject, so without further ado, let’s get started with what we can glean from the text.

The first thing to be said about the werewolves in Undertaker’s Moon is that they are immortal. They don’t suffer from diseases that are fatal to humans and are resistant to physical damage in the sense that inflicted wounds, even those seemingly severe, merely inconvenience them. They possess extremely fast regenerative powers, which let them heal any damage they suffer practically instantly. Needless to say, they can virtually live forever and do not seem to age physically past their prime – although Devin and Rosie became werewolves as small children, they still kept growing, while McManus, being at this point over a millennium old, had not seemed to have changed since his prime back in the 8th century.

The werewolves’ only weaknesses seem to be: silver, which causes an acute allergic reaction, other werewolves, and the two mysterious Celtic amulets owned by Ian Danaher. The amulets and the gems embedded in them have the power to weaken any nearby werewolf, draining them of their powers. The origin of said amulets is never fully explained, apart from the fact they were kept secret by the Irish monks who lived in the Kells monastery in the 8th century. We can only speculate about their genesis and the reason why they possess their supernatural properties. Since the source of the Silver Beast’s curse is a pact with the devil, the crosses may work as they do due to being holy relics. Unlike silver and werewolf-inflicted injuries, the amulets themselves aren’t lethal to werewolves. They simply diminish their powers, even as far as quenching their hunger for flesh and preventing transformation altogether if worn, as it is in the case of Ian Danaher.

As for ways of getting rid of werewolves permanently in the novel’s universe, it is stated that the only way they can be killed is either if another werewolf kills them or they are killed with the use of silver (bullets, knives, swords, daggers, and the like). Both contact with silver and being injured by another werewolf cause sizzling wounds as if one was burned by a very hot object.

Werewolves here are able to transform at will, but the process isn’t instantaneous – it takes a while for them to assume their werewolf forms and the act of shapeshifting seems to be quite painful, since their bodies basically rebuild themselves. However, it does seem that the more accustomed one is to their curse, the faster this process will be. Moreover, they are also able to only partially transform, as shown when Rosie defends Brian from Mickey by slashing the latter with claws, as well as later on when Devin threatens Jake and confronts Brian about his sister. Even in their human form, the werewolves possess superhuman strength, agility, reflexes, and heightened senses.

Once transformed, their werewolf forms are those of bipedal, seven-foot (or more) tall human-wolf hybrids. There are some traits that the werewolves retain from their human selves – their human body build is reflected, while their fur is the same colour as their human hair colour; also, their eye colour remains the same. The werewolves can communicate with each other in what the author calls ‘the snarling tongue of the wolf’ (Chapter 12, loc. 1658), but it is unclear whether this form of communication is intelligible only among the werewolves or not, because there’s no instance where any werewolf successfully communicates using this method with a human. As I see it, any dialogue between the lycanthropes (which, nota bene, is written in italics) is limited to them only and cannot be understood by humans, to whom any utterances of the kind simply sound like lupine growls and barks.

As far as the process of becoming a werewolf is concerned, it is a little bizarre here. As shown numerous times throughout the novel, people becomes werewolves similarly to what was shown in the movie Underworld: Evolution in the case of werewolves created by the elder werewolf William. Here, same as there, in order for one to become a werewolf, one must be killed by another werewolf. And yes, by that I don’t mean being brought to the brink of death – I mean they actually have to die, after which they come back to life, their injuries healed, as werewolves. According to Ian Danaher, there is a magical element in the process of being infected through a bite (it seems like it’s not possible to be infected through means other than a bite in this universe) – this is possibly because of the fact that the roots of the curse are supernatural, since McManus first became a werewolf with the help of the devil. Upon healing their injuries, characteristic white scar tissue covers those parts of the body of the new-born werewolf that were damaged by the other werewolf. This scar tissue is also a kind of a mark binding the infected to the curse, because when they are killed, these white patches are healed and disappear.

A defining feature that drives the whole plot of the novel is the werewolves’ craving for human flesh that increases as the moon gets closer to being full. This irresistible, burning hunger is the underlying cause for the novel’s premise – the whole reason why McManus lives with the O’Shea family and helps them maintain the undertaking business is to be able to sate that hunger with as little risk of discovery as possible. As he himself admits at one point, hunting humans became too risky as the world developed over the course of the centuries – it was no longer as easy to kill human beings without being hunted down as in the past. That’s why, in order to survive, McManus and his unwilling lackeys were forced to resort to scavenging. Migrating from town to town depending on where the fatality rate is highest, the werewolves use the undertaking business as a cover for their monthly feasts on dead, but still human, flesh. Their attitudes towards this practice differs, but up until the events in Old Hickory, they all accept it as a necessity for their survival.

Although the source of the werewolf curse is supernatural in nature and it’s stated at one point in the novel that there is a ‘magical’ element to the bite and the infection process, it doesn’t seem to only be limited to humans, as we find out at the end of the novel when it is revealed that one of Devin’s victim’s pet dog named Popeye has survived his struggle with the werewolf Booker brothers… and is now a werewolf-dog. This topic isn’t elaborated on, obviously, since it just serves as a cliff-hanger ending to the story, but it does seem like even a small creature like Popeye transforms into a large enough beast to carry a grown pig with ease. Whether this creature is different from the werewolves our human characters turned into remains unknown.

Finally, one more thing I wanted to mention here are werewolf babies. Yes, you read it right. In Undertaker’s Moon there are two instances where the subject of werewolf babies is brought up. First, during the novel proper, we learn of the possibility of a human becoming pregnant with a werewolf baby when Devin reveals his diabolical plan of populating the earth with his progeny to his lover, much to her horror. We learn that, apparently, the conception of such a child is not as easy as one would have thought, because, according to Devin, he had failed to actually make a human woman pregnant in the past. Another instance where we meet with the mention of a natural-born werewolf is in the novella The Spawn of Arget Bethir and this time we learn a little more about it. During his fateful visit to his hometown, Brother Ian learns the truth about his mother’s passing from his older sister. It is then revealed that Ian’s mother had fallen victim to McManus’s lust and had become pregnant with a werewolf baby. As we learn, this pregnancy did not have a happy ending – close to the time of birth, when the child was big enough, the full moon caused the foetus to transform inside its mother’s belly. Shortly after, the werewolf infant tore its way out of its mother’s belly, causing her death. Whether this would have been the fate of Devin’s lover had she not committed suicide is unknown, but there is a big chance that she would have shared the same fate as Ian’s mother.

The Characters’ Differing Attitudes Towards Lycanthropy

As I’ve mentioned before, each character in the novel has a slightly different stance on their condition. Some view it as a curse, others a blessing, while others yet see it as a natural part of their existence. In this section, I’ll try to outline how each major (werewolf) character sees lycanthropy. As an afterthought, I’ve additionally included one non-werewolf character due to his ties to werewolves even if he isn’t one himself.

Squire Crom McManus

The Squire is portrayed as the source of lycanthropy in the novel’s universe. A charismatic man that once lived in the early centuries A.D. Ireland, he struck a deal with the devil who granted him power and riches, but with a catch – although he would be able to shapeshift into a great wolf-like beast at will, every full moon he would suffer from insatiable hunger for human flesh that would force him to feed on the living. This, however, did not bother McManus in the least. Using his brand-new gift, he would quickly become a figure of legends among the Irish folk, recruiting more and more werewolves into his ranks, devouring whole villages at a time where his pack appeared. Needless to say, during that time, McManus openly defied every authority and boasted about his superiority to man every chance he got, relishing in the hunt. His attitude gradually changes with the passing of time. As human civilisation develops, he and his followers are no longer able to enjoy the same freedom as in the days of old. From hunters they become the hunted and are forced into the shadows of the underworld. McManus himself is forced to leave his native Ireland and he travels around the world, trying to survive, if not flourish, in a different place. Come twenty-first century, he admits to himself that he has grown old – mentally, if not physically – and remarks during the climax of the novel that although he is forced to live the life he lives out of the necessity of survival, he longs for the hunts of old and misses the time when everyone trembled at the sound of his name.

Patrick and Mary O’Shea

Patrick and Mary O’Shea were a happy couple with two young children before Squire Crom McManus crossed their path. They died by his hand and subsequently were forced into his service through the curse of werewolfism. They have memories of their lives before they became werewolves and because of that, they resent lycanthropy and the one who bestowed it upon them. Lacking the strength to oppose their master, Patrick and Mary are forced to be a part of his scheme. They view werewolfism solely as a curse that binds them in an unholy way to McManus and are themselves appalled at their deeds during the full moon. And yet, they are unable to end their lives by their own hand, choosing to continue living a life that is, for them, full of deeply hidden sorrow. It comes as no surprise, then, that they welcome their killers when they raid their house at the end of the book.

Rosie O’Shea

Rosie, the youngest of the O’Shea family, was still a toddler when she was made a werewolf. Hence, she does not know any other life than that of a shapeshifter forced to feed on human corpses every full moon. Due to this fact, her attitude towards lycanthropy is very different to that of her parents. Contrary to them, Rosie views werewolfism as a special gift that should be cherished. Despite that, she knows that it’s not something she can brag about openly. She does, however, make use of her abilities when her back is forced against the wall, especially if dear to her is in danger, partially transforming to fend off whatever danger looms ahead. She tries to live as normal a life as a teenager whose family is on the move every few years can live, her wolf side being just a natural state of things that she has to cope with, the Feasts of the Moon being to her like an old family tradition that one cannot free oneself from. Shortly after arriving in Old Hickory, Rosie falls in love with Brian – a teenager living next door – and is grief-stricken when the boy comes to her house to murder her because she’s a werewolf. She is angered at the fact that her secret became known and even suggests that Brian become a werewolf like her, so that they can be together, but she is met with refusal.

Devin O’Shea

Rosie’s brother Devin, who also became a werewolf when he was a young child, developed a vastly different attitude towards lycanthropy from that of his sister. He is not only the stereotypical upstart of the pack who refuses to comply with the rules set by his alpha, but he takes it a step further. He oftentimes clashes with McManus, pointing out to him that he has become too meek and that by leading a life of a scavenger he brings shame to any werewolf out there. Devin knows, however, that he on his own isn’t strong enough to overthrow McManus, so he resorts to plotting behind his back. To carry out his coup, the teenager plans to establish his own pack of werewolves, which he gradually starts doing over the course of the novel. He refuses to continue feasting on human remains, to which McManus orders him to hunt animals if he must, but forbids him from killing live humans – which Devin, of course, ignores. Additionally, Devin is fascinated by Hitler’s Nazi ideology of the master race – a fascination that his family dismisses as a phase that he will get over, eventually. However, Devin uses Hitler’s ideology as a basis for his own – in his mind, werewolves are the master race, while ordinary humans are to them merely prey, or slaves. Even as a human, he looks down on people around him and likes to humiliate others using his superhuman abilities. His obsession with the idea of werewolf superiority doesn’t end there. He embarks on a personal crusade to not only fill the world with werewolves he creates with his bite, but also to establish his line of werewolves born from human mothers. To this end, he seduces girls at school and tries to impregnate them, his good looks making it all the easier for him to do so. Because he feels invincible thanks to his powers, he doesn’t shy from partially transforming in front of people he wants to harass and even admits he is a werewolf and blackmails another boy, who witnessed him killing another boy during the full moon. He likes taking advantage of people’s disbelief in the supernatural, certain that even if he reveals his identity to other teenagers, no-one will believe them if they tell any adults about it. In the end, Devin’s ideology and his reckless campaign prove to be the cause of his family’s downfall (and McManus’s as well, subsequently).

The Booker Brothers

Billy and Bobby Booker are Old Hickory’s liaison with the underworld. As such, they are said to be able to procure anything illegal the local teenagers would ask of them, for an appropriate price, of course. It comes as no surprise then that being made into werewolves turns out to be right up their alley (well, except for the part where they first have to die by Devin O’Shea’s hand). Initially not fully aware what they’re getting themselves into, the brothers agree to become Devin’s lackeys in exchanged for the promise of immortality. In exchange for the curse, Devin orders them to supply him with living humans every full moon, so that he can feast on them instead of on corpses or wild animals. The Bookers are fiercely loyal to Devin and are prepared to take risks in order to destroy any evidence that could endanger him. They also serve as Devin’s henchmen, threatening and harassing whoever he orders him to. Moreover, with their new-found powers, they are not above murder if it is a way to silence those who have begun to discover their secret.

Ian Danaher

Ian Danaher is McManus’s arch nemesis and has been such since the destruction of the monastery he was a brother at in the 8th century Ireland. Ian’s backstory is revealed in the novella The Spawn of Arget Bethir, found after the end of the novel proper. Deeply religious, Ian is nearly driven insane by the strange premonitions of him becoming a werewolf. Trying to find peace of mind, he is given leave to go back to his home village to his sister, the last of his kin. There, not only does he find his birthplace ravaged by the werewolf pack, but learns that his sister has become a werewolf herself. Having put her out of her misery, Ian goes back to the monastery, where he comes across the Silver Beast and his pack. Nearly killed by McManus, as a last ditch effort the man throws himself off a cliff to deny the werewolf the satisfaction of the kill. However, he survives the fall and wakes up on the shore, now a werewolf himself. Actually, keeping in mind the way werewolves are created in this universe, it’s more probable that he actually died from the fall and came back to life as a lycanthrope. Ever since, he treats his werewolfism as a means of conquering the evil that is the Silver Beast. Wearing his holy Celtic amulet allows him to keep the beast within at bay, preventing his transformations.

Brian Reece

While not a werewolf himself, Brian has some peculiar ties to lycanthropy. When we first meet him, we learn that he’s an avid fan of everything horror and likes to write monster-related fiction. However, subconsciously Brian despises werewolves, so in his whole gallery of horrors one would be hard-pressed to find anything much about The Wolf Man. And, as it is explained (kind of) later, there is a good reason behind it. Faced with the possibility of the O’Sheas being genuine werewolves, the teenager starts reminiscing about his late father and recalls an instance where he arrived home one morning naked and dirty, for no apparent reason. Also, he experiences a dream (which turns out to be based on his childhood memories) in which he cowers in his bedroom as a small child while a great black wolf-monster tries to reach and devour him, but is then chased away by his mother with the help of a silver-plated mirror. Based on that, as well as a newspaper article describing an accident (which, in fact, was a suicide attempt of his father’s) in the local silver mine, in which his father died. But although Brian realises his father was a werewolf, this plot point doesn’t seem to go anywhere further, apart from serving the purpose of some character development for the boy, I guess. Did this realisation have an impact on Brian’s attitude towards his love, Rosie, once he’d found out she was a werewolf? Could the mutual feeling between the two even be called love if it didn’t matter in the end?

Impressions and Evaluation

While I enjoyed reading Undertaker’s Moon very much, I’ve concluded that I still have mixed feelings towards it as a whole. I enjoyed reading it until the book started heading towards the conclusion, at which point my enjoyment began to decrease. It’s kind of like when a very expensive and tasty looking meal leaves a bitter aftertaste in your mouth or gives you heartburn.

This is mainly because of one reason. Namely, I was left frustrated with the direction the author decided to take. I’m angered at the one-dimensional approach that has been done so many times and I keep asking myself why the story couldn’t have ended differently. I’m not even going to mention the plot-point of the werewolf dog at the very end, because it’s just plain silly. At the same time, I do acknowledge that picking up this reading I wasn’t expecting anything more than a stereotypical horror story, where all the monsters are eventually slain (or was I?). In this sense, the book has done good by its genre; the rednecks managed to kill all the werewolves (well, except for the werewolf dog), enabling their town to go back to being the boring Southern backside of beyond it had been before.

What I found annoying and deliberate on the author’s part was the portrayal of the werewolves throughout the book. Let me explain. In the first, let’s say, half of the novel, the O’Shea family are presented as friendly, well-mannered folks (except for Devin, of course, and McManus to some extent) willing to be part of the local community despite their nature. The young Rosie even goes as far as establishing a happy romantic relationship with a neighbour teenager. Once the proverbial faeces hit the fan, however, and the human protagonists learn of the O’Sheas being werewolves and feeding on the corpses of the town’s deceased, this approach suddenly ends. In actuality, all portrayal of the characters apart from their portrayal as monsters that have to be destroyed at all costs and regardless of everything stops. From then on, the novel focuses on the human  characters, their investigation into the O’Shea family, and their plan to destroy them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Undertaker’s Moon is an excellent monster horror story for any fan of the genre. It’s well-written and gripping, which makes it a very good read for all fans of the genre. It also has a lot of werewolf references that us fans catch on the fly, e.g. the jukebox in the pub plays Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London and Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising, while another time a character makes an inside joke about the 1941’s The Wolf Man. However, for me, it became a little one-sided somewhere in the middle and turned into a survival horror with human protagonists towards the end. I just found it lacking; even though during the final confrontation the author tried to give the O’Sheas some dignity, it was still not enough. The line between humanity and bestiality, initially not so fine, becomes a crevice separating the werewolves from the local community. That, I think, is my biggest gripe with Undertaker’s Moon – that, in the end, no matter your intentions, be they good or bad, if you’re a monster, you need to be destroyed. Not even love, be it genuine or an infatuation, seems to make a difference here, which was very disappointing. And this, for me, was the biggest let-down of the novel, which left me dissatisfied after I finished reading it – the horror fan inside me was satisfied, I guess, however the lycanthropologist was definitely not.

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Thus we have come to the end of the second, and last, part of the article, and it’s time we finished up with Ronald Kelly’s Undertaker’s Moon. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and if I’ve sparked an interest in you in the novel, you can always find the link to its Kindle version by clicking on the image of the cover at the top. And if you don’t have a Kindle reading app yet, you can find a link to where you can download it from in the right sidebar (or, alternatively, you can click here). In the meantime, I’m off to watch some more werewolf movies and read some more werewolf books. Remember to follow me on Twitter @werewolftheory for any smaller updates I might post and I will see you soon!



Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Undertaker’s Moon (Moon of the Werewolf) by Ronald Kelly (1991), Part 1

Greetings, werewolf fans! The full moon is in the sky and, unfortunately, I do not have a werewolf movie review for you yet, but I’ve prepared something else for now that is a representative of a section of Werewolf Theory that is, sadly, a little under-appreciated. It’s time for some written werewolf fiction!

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Undertaker's Moon!
As I wrote earlier on Werewolf Theorys Twitter account (@werewolftheory), I’ve been reading a lot of werewolf novels recently thanks to Amazon’s Kindle app (and the fact that Kindle versions of said novels are much, much cheaper than physical ones). The novel I’d like to talk about today is one of those novels that I discovered by browsing the Kindle e-store. This will be one of those long articles, which is why I decided to break it up into two parts.

Moon of the Werewolf is the original title of Ronald Kelly’s novel, first released in 1991. In 2011 it was re-released as Undertaker’s Moon together with a novella, The Spawn of Arget Bethir that serves as a prequel to the events of the novel. It is currently available for purchase on Amazon in the form of a Kindle e-book (there didn’t seem to be a paperback version, at least at the time I bought it). If you’d like to get your own copy either before or after reading the following article, simply click on the image of the book’s cover that should be to the side, which will take you straight to Amazon, where you’ll be able to buy and download the novel to your Kindle device.

Speaking of Kindle editions, this would probably be the place where I would start my e-book rant, but instead I’ll just say that for the lower price than that of a paperback I am able to overlook the amount of typos in the text. But seriously… does anyone even proof read e-books? Because there are a lot more mistakes than you usually see in paperback editions, which still makes me frown on digital copies of books. And no, putting an acknowledgement at the end of the novel that the readers can notify the publisher of any mistakes in the text doesn’t make me happier. Why? Because it’s located at the end of the book, so by the time I see it, I’ll most probably already be done reading it. It would be so much better if this message was located before the text… That way I could have actually marked mistakes as I was reading and then I’d have been able to write a constructive e-mail to the address provided. Instead, I was left feeling disappointed, because I remembered some of the typos, but I wasn’t able to pin-point them in the text. And I didn’t feel like re-reading the novel from the start just to find them again – Kindle should have their own people to do that before a book is released, right? …Right?

But that’s enough of complaining from me – without any further ado, let us dive into the contents of the novel at hand. Oh, and before we start, the following article contains spoilers, because writing a post  where I’m trying to analyse the novel in the context of werewolfism and at the same time trying to not reveal anything plot-related would be like writing with my hands tied behind my back. I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum so that it’s still an enjoyable read for those of you who decide to give it a shot, but there are some aspects of the story that can’t be interpreted without knowing a thing or two.

General Plot Overview

An Irish family arrives one day in the small town of Old Hickory, Tennessee, USA to take over the undertaking business after the previous mortician retires. They are warmly welcomed into the local community, but things start going downhill after the first full moon of their stay. A teenage boy is killed and devoured by a bipedal monster, while his friend is severely injured, but survives. Although he saw his friend’s death with his own eyes, nobody believes in his account of a werewolf running around the town. Sometime afterwards, the new undertaker’s son reveals to the boy that it was he who murdered his friend and admits that his whole family are werewolves that feast on the flesh of the town’s newly-departed every full moon. As time goes by, the events in Old Hickory begin spiralling out of control and a small group of its inhabitants band together and formulate a plan to put an end to the werewolf family once and for all.

Synopsis

Patrick O’Shea is an ordinary Irishman living in a small town near Cork, Ireland. He works as the town’s only undertaker, has a wife and two children: a son and a daughter. One autumn night, as he is returning home from the local pub, he finds his family brutally murdered. As he investigates the house, he encounters his family’s killer – a werewolf. The great beast attacks him and rips his throat out, killing him.

However, it turns out Patrick isn’t as dead as he thought he was. He wakes up some time later at the local graveyard, where he is accompanied not only by an elderly-looking stranger, but also his wife and children, who also seem to have risen from the dead. Confused, he is then forced to dig up a freshly-buried corpse by the stranger, after which Patrick, along with the others, undergo a terrifying transformation and feast on the deceased’s flesh, the full moon hanging in the sky above them.

Fast forward sixteen years to the sleepy town of Old Hickory in Tennessee, USA. After the local undertaker retires, an Irish family moves into town to take over the business. Of course, the family is none other than the O’Sheas accompanied by the elderly gentleman-werewolf by the name of Squire Crom McManus. They make a good impression on the locals and proceed to lead a secretive, but otherwise uneventful, life among the townsfolk.

Throughout the novel, most werewolf characters (excluding Patrick and Mary O’Shea, since they seem to be the least fleshed out in this regard) develop various relationships with the locals. McManus starts seeing the divorced owner of the local newspaper; Rosie – Patrick’s daughter – falls in love with a neighbour; and Devin establishes himself as a patron and the de facto leader of the local gang.

As it is gradually revealed over the course of the novel, the reason why McManus – nearly a thousand-year-old werewolf once known as Arget Bethir, “the Silver Beast” – chose the O’Sheas is not mere coincidence. It is part of a strategy that the old werewolf had developed in order to ensure his own survival and, at the same time, keep his existence a secret. The O’Sheas are just one of numerous undertaker families he had bound to his will through the centuries. The reason for this is the burning hunger for human flesh the werewolves experience, which peaks during and around the full moon. In order to sate this hunger, McManus and the O’Sheas bury the newly-deceased without embalming, so they can eat their remains during the nearest full moon.

Fortunately for McManus and the O’Sheas, a local woman falls down the stairs of her own house, breaking her neck in the process. She is then buried and soon becomes the family’s first meal in their new place of residence. That night, the werewolves’ transformation and the subsequent desecration of human remains is witnessed by a former custodian who used to work at the mortuary, now taken over by the O’Sheas. The man runs away and dismisses what he saw as alcohol-induced hallucination, but the seeds of doubt begin sprouting in his mind.

During that night’s feast, however, the family becomes divided. The young Devin – Patrick’s son – refuses to eat dead meat and runs off to hunt on his own. Disregarding McManus’s order not to kill humans, Devin murders and devours a local teenager who’s out camping with his best friend by the river. The latter is spared, but is severely injured by the werewolf.

The news of the murder spreads like wildfire through the county and the sheriff’s office launches an investigation into the matter. However, the sole witness’s account of a bipedal wolf monster killing his friend is outright dismissed as lunacy. Instead, the officers begin tracking a wild animal that they think is responsible. The investigation into the murder of the teenager increasingly baffles the sheriff’s office, as more and more new evidence that corroborates the surviving boy’s statement comes to light.

Soon after, Patrick’s son, Devin, embarks on his personal crusade to create a werewolf pack of his own. He strikes a deal with two brothers running the underworld of Old Hickory and turns them into werewolves, thus making them his lackeys. In his thirst for blood, Devin orders them to supply him with living humans every full moon – this being the only condition in their arrangement. Additionally, he reveals to Jake – the boy whose friend Devin murdered – that he is the werewolf that attacked him and his friend while they were camping on the riverbank. He also tells him that he’s not the only werewolf living in the town, since his whole family is cursed. Using his superhuman powers, he starts harassing Jake into silence about the true nature of the undertaker’s family. He does the same to the boy his sister, Rosie, begins going out with, trying to force him to stop seeing her.

However, as time passes, as a result of Devin’s reckless actions, a few inhabitants begin connecting the dots and launch their own inquiry into the nature of the O’Shea family. With the help of an Irish drifter, who seems to know more about the matter than he at first lets on, the two boys threatened by Devin, and the widower of the woman who became the werewolves’ first meal hatch a plan to put an end to the O’Sheas (as well as the two werewolf brothers in Devin’s service) once and for all. The widower, who runs the local gun shop, prepares silver bullets for the weapons they are planning to use during their raid and they decide to carry out the deed before the next full moon.

First, they head to the farm where the brothers live. After a fight, they kill the two werewolves and free a man captured to be served to Devin during the nearest full moon. Afterwards, the group splits up, each person assigned to take care of a different member of the O’Shea family. Regardless of their feelings towards each of the O’Sheas, they all go through with their plan.

Aware of what’s coming, McManus flees the residence, leaving his fake family to die at the hands of the humans, certain that he can find a new group of people to enslave in the future, but nonetheless furious at the turn of events. During his escape, he comes across Jake’s mother and decides to kidnap her in order to vent his anger on her and thus make her an example for her son to see for crossing the legendary Silver Beast. However, he is chased down by the Irish drifter – who turns out to be his arch nemesis, as well as his worst nightmare. The man is revealed to be the sole survivor of an order of monks whose monastery McManus and his pack attacked and destroyed in the 8th century. Accidentally turned into a werewolf during his confrontation with McManus at the time, the man vowed to avenge all the people that the Silver Beast had murdered and had been hunting down the lycanthrope throughout the centuries.

As a final showdown to settle the matter in one way or another, the two engage in an all-out werewolf battle. Although at first it seems like the monk has the upper hand, McManus still manages to inflict a fatal wound on him in the end. His victory is short-lived, however, as he is immediately stabbed in the back with a silver carving knife by Jake’s mother – her desperate move ending the legend of the Silver Beast.

Life in Old Hickory soon returns to its previous flow. The O’Sheas are thought to have died in their sleep due to a gas leak, while McManus and Devin are considered missing (since their bodies have been thrown into the river by our human protagonists). The novel ends with a cliff-hanger, though, as a dog that used to belong to one of Devin’s victims is found by a man and his son. Thinking they ran it over, they decide to take it home until they can get it to a veterinarian. But it is not to be so, because the full moon triggers a transformation in the dog – which was bitten by one of the werewolves during a struggle when its owner was captured – and the hulking werewolf-dog (yes, you read it right) runs off with a pig the father and son were transporting. Fortunately, no-one but the pig is hurt, but the matter of the werewolf-dog is left unresolved.


* * *

And so, now that we know what’s what (I’ve really been trying to leave out as many details of the plot as possible to not spoil the book completely), I thought this would be a good place to end Part I of the article on Undertaker’s Moon. In Part II, which I plan to submit within the next few days, because it’s nearly finished, I will be taking a look at the characteristics of the werewolves in Ronald Kelly’s novel, as well as the characters’ attitudes towards their own lycanthropy and lycanthropy in general. I will also write my impressions of the novel at the end of Part II, so please stay tuned! I hope I’ve sparked your interest at least a little bit in this piece of werewolf fiction and I’ll see you next time, when I post the second part of the article. Until then!



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Monday, 8 February 2016

Cinema & TV: The X Files, Season 1, Ep. 19: Shapes (1994)


Greetings everyone and welcome!

It’s been a while, but I am back! As I recently tweeted, I’ve been working on a number of different articles at the same time, which in practice meant that I wasn’t able to finish any in a reasonable amount of time. That’s in addition to other real-life commitments, of course, so I’ve been pretty busy since the last time I posted. But let’s remedy that today and break the dry spell.

This time I would like to present to you an episode of a TV series we all know and love (well, at least many of us do, myself included) – The X Files. During its original run that spanned from 1993 to 2002, David Duchovny’s and Gillian Anderson’s characters of agents Mulder and Scully became an indispensable part of the 1990s’ pop culture and remain that, if a little forgotten due to the passing of time. However, now that the duo has made a long-awaited comeback with a brand-new season currently airing on TV (although not for as long as originally, since it will only be six episodes) it felt like a good opportunity to talk about at least one of its two episodes (possibly three now, since the most recent episode, which aired on February 1st 2016, smells like a werewolf episode, too, but I can’t say for sure, since I’ve not seen it yet) which take on the subject of werewolves (or, at the very least, werewolf-like creatures). Since I basically grew up with this series and love it to bits, I knew I would write about it sooner or later – but this simply gave me a good opportunity to do it instead of doing something else (*cough* The Wolfman review *cough*). So here we go, first up is episode 19 of Season 1: Shapes.

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Finally, since I am now part of Amazon’s Affiliate program, you can support me by purchasing a copy of your own of The X Files: The Complete Season 1, which includes this episode. Alternatively, if you only want to watch Shapes, you can do so over at Amazon Video by clicking here. Thank you and enjoy!

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This episode follows the “monster of the week” format and takes on the subject of lycanthropy with a Native American twist. Let’s get this show on the road – here’s the synopsis (and a bit of analysis, as always) of the plot.

In the introductory scenes, we become acquainted with the two characters who end up being the main witnesses when agents Mulder and Scully are called to the scene to investigate. Investigate what, you ask? A murder, but not a straightforward one, or else the FBI wouldn’t call in their inexplicable case specialists. Two cattle ranchers, father and son, from Montana decide to put an end to whatever’s been killing their livestock – and they mean to do it once and for all, the guns in hand kind of way. While searching the barn at night once the ‘beast’ arrives (which is announced by wolf-like howls pervading the midnight air), they split up to track it down, but the monster saves them the trouble by finding them first. The son is attacked and wounded by it before his father manages to come to the rescue. If you had any doubts still that this was a werewolf episode in disguise of a Native American legend, here’s a screenshot of the monster’s face.

My, what a big nose you have, Grandma.
Looks like a pretty standard movie werewolf face to me, wouldn’t you agree? But anyway – shortly after the father gets to where the sounds of a struggle are coming from, the monster is shot and falls to the ground, dead. Having made sure his son is still alive, the father directs his gaze to the monster, but – to his horror – finds a naked Native American man where the hairy beast was just a moment ago. The way this scene is shot and the fact that it’s out in the open reminds me a bit of the scene where David is clawed by the werewolf in An American Werewolf in London.

Obviously, the whole incident draws the attention of the authorities and because the two suspects claim they didn’t kill a man, but a beast, the case becomes classified as an X File. During the investigation, Mulder and Scully learn that the Parkers (the owners of the ranch) have had a lasting territorial feud with the local Indian reserve, which doesn’t really help their case. Off-record, the son describes to the agents the feeling of unease he would feel over the previous few months whenever he would go out of the house at night. He says that not only did he feel watched, but that it seemed strange to him that the usual predators, for which cows were always are a tasty meal, suddenly disappeared from the vicinity. This would make sense, since werewolves – possessing both lupine strength and agility and human intelligence – usually become the alpha predators of their hunting grounds. In other words, they intimidate any other predators and scavengers in the area (similarly to how the werewolves scared away boars in Wolf Children).

In the eyes of Scully the Sceptic, the homicide is nothing more than a result of the farmer’s conflict with the local Indians, but Mulder becomes even more intrigued after he finds human footprints that abruptly change into animal-like tracks in the mud covering the ranch’s corral.

That’s quite a fast transformation, if you ask me.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mulder additionally finds quite a large patch of what looks like moulted skin, which probably came from when the werewolf transformed. But shouldn’t there be more of it lying around if what we see on screen suggests that the man arrived at the ranch only partially transformed?

In order to get the other side of the story, Mulder and Scully then visit the Indian reserve that used to be the victim’s home.  Just like in An American Werewolf in London, they try to learn a thing or two at the local bar, which is filled with locals who know more than they let on, and are given an equally warm welcome (and, of course, I mean this ironically). The only person that’s semi-cooperative is the local sheriff, who leads them to where the deceased’s body is so that Scully can examine it. At first glance, all three of them notice a large scar around the man’s collar bone in the shape of a claw wound. This leads Scully and Sheriff Tskany to speculate if the animal which also attacked Goodensnake (for that is his name) in the past could indeed have been the culprit, but we all know that the scars are the reason the Native American became a werewolf in the first place. Their theory, however, becomes not so probable anymore when Mulder examines the dead man’s teeth and finds that not all of the werewolf has vanished upon his death, for he still has unnaturally long canines. Unless he had cosmetic dental surgery to have these (big reveal: he didn’t), it’s a pretty darn big sign that something’s amiss.

When will moviemakers stop insisting
 that canines grow like this? They don’t!
Unfortunately for Mulder, who would love Scully to perform an autopsy on the victim to see if she can find any other abnormalities (is he looking for fur on the inside?), Indian customs forbid even qualified criminal pathologists from ‘desecrating’ the bodies of their dead in such a way. And so, the only thing the agents can do is look on as Goodensnake’s body is burned on a funeral pyre the following evening. The shaman leading the ceremony having a wolf skin over his head is a nice touch there, by the way.

What follows is a stereotypical discussion between the two protagonists where Mulder tries to persuade Scully that the case is supernatural and Scully rebukes his claims with scientific explanations.

We do, however, learn something interesting – namely, according to Mulder, the first-ever X Files case was created in relation to murders with suspiciously similar characteristics as the one they are looking into now, which occurred  for the first time in the North West as far back as 1946. Apparently, said murders have kept occurring every five years in the same region, many of them in the vicinity of the most recent incident, ever since. I can only assume that the reason why no-one ever decided to thoroughly investigate what’s been happening is that the culprits were always different, unrelated to each other persons, even if their M.O. was similar (killing livestock probably, maybe people as well, before being shot dead in the end) – and, well, the North West is a quite large area in itself.

For us, this begs a few questions. If we assume that what we’re dealing with are cases of werewolfism, why does the situation get heated only every five years? Most of the time in similar settings as in Shapes, when a werewolf appears somewhere, it goes on a rampage until it’s eventually killed by someone. Of course, the amount of time it takes for this to happen differs, depending on the werewolf and the people hunting it. Usually, killings occur once a month, during the full-moon and/or days close to it, in the case of werewolves that transform only periodically; whereas in the case of werewolves whose transformation is independent of the phases of the moon the frequency of attacks on people and/or animals varies. Attacks that take place every five years, then, are an intriguing conundrum. The time gap between them would suggest that they are separate, unrelated cases – however, if they keep happening in the same area, like Mulder states here, it is statistically improbable for there to be no relation between them. This begs another question, this time about the source of the curse that makes the local Indians turn into werewolves in regular intervals of five years. The reason for this is that the chain usually goes like this:

Original source of werewolfism à Infected person no. 1 (is killed when establishing the premise of the episode/movie) à Infected person no. 2 (is infected by the previous werewolf, either while being attacked by them or while trying to kill them) à Infected person no. 2 is killed à The chain is broken, no more werewolves

UNLESS, of course, the original source still exists and begins the chain anew. Now, in the case at hand, we would assume that Joe Goodensnake was the original source – but now we know that his case was one of many separated from each other by the span of five years, which negates this assumption. I will allow myself a little foreshadowing here for the purpose of completing my train of thought. The Native American tribe in Shapes claim that what is causing people to turn into beasts is an evil spirit called a wendigo, which belongs to a bigger group of spirits (usually benevolent ones, though) in Indian folklore called manitou. While wendigos traditionally aren’t exactly what we know as werewolves, they are said to be able to enter a human’s body and possess it, causing the human to transform into a half-man, half-beast creature that preys on humans. If this possession theory is what this episode of The X Files decides to adhere to, then we must assume that the original source of werewolfism is magical. If we go along this line of thought, then our diagram should theoretically look like this:

There exists an evil spirit à The evil spirit possesses a person à The possessed person transforms and goes on a killing spree à The possessed person is killed à The spirit leaves the person’s body upon the person’s death à The spirit recuperates and reforms until it is strong enough to possess another person

This reasoning would explain the five year intervals between each case. However, there is a big but to this theory. And it is this: if the transformations are caused by people being possessed by a wendigo spirit, then why is it possible for one person to pass this state to another by mauling them? We know that this is how Goodensnake was infected and we all know that Parker, Jr. has also been infected this way, because he bears the same scars now after the confrontation with the beast. If we source of the curse is supposed to be magical, then it should not be possible for it to be transferred physically from one person to another, at least in theory.

There is a possibility, I guess, (even though this idea seems a little far-fetched even to me) that the wendigo managed to switch hosts when the Indian man was shot dead during the attack on the Parkers’ ranch. In this event, the wound could serve as a connection between its previous and new host. Being injured, the new host would be sufficiently weakened for an equally weakened spirit to be able to switch bodies without having to return to nature and gather strength before it can strike again. Had Parker, Jr. come out of the fight unscathed, perhaps the spirit would be forced to leave and lay dormant for another five years. But like I said, this is just me trying to understand what the creators of the episode wanted to convey to the audience and I am really bending the laws of the werewolf world here (if we assume that there are some universal laws and that not everything can be made relative according to whim). In reality, it looks like the writers didn’t exactly know what they wanted to achieve themselves.

Oh look, it’s the same engraving
we have over in the right sidebar!
Let’s go back to our episode, then. We all know how strong Native Americans’ ties to nature are, with all the guardian spirits, totems, and spirit animals. Unsurprisingly, Mulder tells Scully about reports from the 19th century about Indians reportedly being able to transform into wolves. Stereotypically for werewolf stories, Scully rebukes this claim by telling Mulder about lycanthropy as a medical condition, because she obviously doesn’t believe in the possibility of humans to transform into wolves by any means, shamanistic or not.

Our protagonists then attend the funeral. Although as far as Scully is concerned there is no more mystery about the case at hand, Mulder doesn’t let go and tries to learn the locals’ thoughts on what happened, but to no avail. During the ceremony, Goodensnake’s sister, Gwen, gives Scully what looks like some kind of a charm, which belonged to her late brother. The charm looks like it’s made from the claws of a big animal, perhaps a wolf – could this have been the source of Goodensnake’s curse? But if so, then why doesn’t it affect Scully or anyone else who has it in their possession? For now at least, it seems that the charm in question is a dead end. Meanwhile, a commotion starts when the young Parker arrives at the funeral to pay his respects, but is angrily shooed away from the site by Gwen.

After the funeral is over and done with, it’s time for the trouble to start brewing again. At night, the old man Parker is cornered and killed by an identical creature as the one he shot a few days earlier. We are supposed to consider two options here: one – since he’s nowhere to be found, either the man’s son hasn’t come back from the funeral yet, or two – his son is the new werewolf (which is the option we already have chosen because of the wound he suffered during the recent attack). Why would he attack his father first? Apart from all the talk of how werewolves tend to hurt their loved ones first, I’d say it’s because his home was the most familiar place he knew, so even after transforming, that’s where he headed in the first place. The fact that he came across his father sitting on the porch unarmed was, well, unfortunate. During the struggle, we are able to catch a few more glimpses of the creature, including the side of its face and its silhouette, but since Chris Carter and his team were bent on showing as little as possible of the werewolf (or, how they insist, the Manitou), which in practice probably saved them a lot of budget, too, even this is hard without watching the scenes in slow-motion.

It doesn’t take long for Parker’s mauled body to be discovered by the police. We learn that both Lyle Parker (his son) and Gwen have gone missing since the funeral, which, I guess, is supposed to keep us guessing whether the creature that killed the ranch owner was his son, who could have contracted the curse from the Indian, or the Indian’s sister who held a grudge against the Parkers after her brother’s death, hinting that she could also possess the ability to shapeshift, just like her sibling.

Our doubts are soon dispelled, however, when Scully finds a naked Lyle Parker asleep in the bushes in the vicinity of the ranch. Meanwhile, Mulder investigates the area surrounding the house and finds more shed skin and a patch of brown animal fur. And since this is apparently a moment when everyone finds something, the Sheriff, who takes a peek at last night’s victim’s body, finds a large claw lodged in the man’s remains, which visibly worries him (no wonder). While Scully takes Lyle to the hospital, Mulder finally has an opportunity to have a man-to-man talk with Sheriff Tskany about what exactly is happening.

At the hospital, Lyle confesses to Scully that he got drunk the night of the funeral and didn’t go back home because he thought his father would be angry with him that he went to the funeral. He tells her he doesn’t remember anything after he started drinking, but can recall the image of his father sitting on the front porch of their house. This can mean two things – either that even after he’s transformed, Lyle kept a little of himself within the beast and therefore remembers bits and pieces of what he saw through its eyes, or that the memories of the beast are locked away in his consciousness, but he can only remember fragments of them.

While Scully is at the hospital with Lyle, Mulder proceeds with the investigation in his own, more ‘open-minded’ way. As he pays a visit to the one of the reservation’s elders, we are served a big chunk of exposition. What we learn is basically this. The elder was (conveniently) around at the time of the 1946 incident (the first X File, which Mulder mentioned earlier) and witnessed a man’s transformation into the beast in question, so he knows what is happening (but, of course, he decided not to do anything about it). He describes how the killer from that case was bitten by “something” in the woods – which apparently turned him into a werewolf. Or should I say, a Manitou, as the elder refers to it. Was it a wolf? Another werewolf? A wolf possessed by an evil spirit? Unfortunately, we will never know, because no more explanation is given. Although from what I’ve looked up the group of spiritual beings referred to as ‘Manitou’ were neutral or benevolent creatures, here the elder calls them ‘evil spirits’, which are able to possess a human’s body and make him change into a beast. ‘Evil’ would in this case be a better description of a specific kind of Manitou, the wendigo, even though it has as little connection to werewolves as Manitou themselves.

According to Ish, whoever is attacked by a Manitou then becomes one himself – pretty consistent with our werewolf lore. Unlike traditional werewolves, the Manitou makes a human undergo a transformation at night when its bloodlust reaches a high enough level – which, as we hear, repeats every night until the Manitou is killed. So… why the break after the first one was killed? Fortunately for us, Mulder asks the right questions. Ish, the elder, answers that the curse of the Manitou can be passed down genetically from parents to offspring (since it was passed from the first victim to his son) – which would indicate that, after all, what we’re dealing with here is pure, physical lycanthropy. However, there’s one problem – what we don’t get an answer to is whether or not the first Manitou conceived his son after he’d been attacked in the woods or before. Because if it was before, then our classification of pure, physical lycanthropy goes right out the window. Given how short the lifespan of a Manitou tends to be after he’s been infected before he gets killed, I guess it’s possible for the guy to have had a son during that short period of time, but very unlikely, if you ask me.

Ignoring the fact that Goodensnake had a big scar on his chest, Sheriff Tskany suddenly jumps to the conclusion that the siblings could have inherited the curse of the Manitou and before any further exposition is provided, the three are startled by a noise outside the house. Coincidentally (or not), Gwen has been listening in on the conversation and the three men corner her shortly after, trying to steal a car. Panicked, she tells them she was trying to get out of town after she’d seen old man Parker get killed by the werewolf. Manitou. Oh, come on. If the creators insist on the creature featured in this episode of the series being a Manitou (even though traditionally Manitou are generally benevolent spirits) and not a werewolf, then let it be, but… I’m just going to make use of a famous quote and say that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ to sum up what I think about it. Anyway, in case we needed even more confirmation that Lyle’s the Manitou, Mulder calls the hospital to get in touch with Scully and warn her that she’s pretty much in danger, as night is falling, and is informed that the blood tests revealed traces of Lyle’s father’s blood type in the young man’s blood, which the doctor claims could only have gotten there via ingestion. Unluckily, Scully and Lyle left the hospital and are on their way back to the ranch, where the episode’s climax awaits us.
At least this time the canines are
where they should be, eh?
Even though the elder claimed the full-moon had nothing to do with the Manitou transformations, we still get a complimentary shot of the moon in full as Scully and Lyle arrive at the Parkers’ farm. Once inside, the time comes for Lyle’s next change. Feeling sick, he goes to the bathroom, where his transformation occurs – with an unaware Scully just outside the door. Noticing that something’s wrong, Scully decides to take Lyle back to the hospital, thinking that he’s having some kind of attack or seizure (well, he kind of is…). During the next few seconds we catch a glimpse of the transformation described earlier by the elder. In spite of some changes visible on his face, the main chunk of Lyle’s change boils down to the werewolf literally coming out of his body, tearing apart his skin to reveal the fur. It’s one of the more popular depictions of werewolf transformation. Whether or not it makes more sense for a fully-developed werewolf form to ‘pop out’ every time a werewolf transforms akin to a butterfly bursting out of a cocoon instead of the body itself changing shape is a topic in itself.
The Manitou, who from this angle looks more like an 
ape-man than a werewolf. He’s got a lupine face, though, 
if you take a closer look.

Once transformed, Lyle breaks through the bathroom door and attacks Scully, who maybe now, after seeing a furry, clawed hand reach for her, will finally believe in what her partner’s been telling her from the beginning of the case (no, she won’t). Sometime later, Mulder and Sheriff Tskany arrive at Two Medicine Ranch and find the house seemingly empty. It doesn’t take long, however, for Mulder to find the werewolf, who doesn’t manage to ambush him and is instead scared off by the agent who shoots at it in defence. This provides us with the most we’ll see of the werewolf in the entire episode – which is still very little, considering that you have to watch it in slow motion to catch these few frames. It’s nothing to write home about and no wonder, since the creators’ idea was to show as little of the Manitou as possible. As a bonus, here’s a blooper I’ve caught while watching the scenes in slow-motion! When the light of Mulder’s flashlight hits the Manitou for the second time, just as it’s making a turn around the corner, the actor’s feet are visible… and his shoes are visible where the costume ends. Yeah, apparently there wasn’t enough budget to get matching feet for the costume – but then again, what was the point if the werewolf was to be on screen for less than a minute? (not sure if even that much, probably more like half a minute) On the other hand, had they invested in paws, crazies like me wouldn’t be posting pictures such as the following while trying to squeeze out as much as possible from the episode.
This is what I was talking about.
You can see the shoes in the zoom box on the right.

Coming back to what’s happening, Mulder follows the werewolf upstairs and finds Scully, unharmed. Because, conveniently, there is a power outage at the ranch, the two agents are left to navigate the house and search for Lyle at the same time without getting mauled. In the end, they follow the beast into one of the rooms where it suddenly jumps at them out from the shadows, but the Sheriff’s timely arrival prevents it from injuring anyone. Lyle is shot and tumbles down to the floor with a half-human, half-beast wail. In the light of the flashlight, the three find Lyle’s body, no signs of the transformation left anymore. Always the sceptic, should the supernatural stare her right in the face (yes, yes, it changes a little in the later seasons, but this is still the first one), Scully explains how she was attacked by a mountain lion. The two men look at her as though she’s the crazy one and not them (I would too) as they tell her the mountain lion is still locked up in its cage out back.

The next day (or a few days later, it’s unclear), with the investigation closed, Mulder and Scully prepare to head back to D.C. They are seen off by Ish, the reservation elder, who with a smirk bids them farewell until another five to eight years have passed, which indicates that the force behind the curse of the Manitou has an ability to re-emerge even if the chain of the infected is broken. This makes me lean towards my theory that the werewolfism here is caused by an evil spirit possessing individuals once it is strong enough to do so, however, how that happens remains a mystery. The last scene of the episode then shows a misty mountain and the howl of a wolf can be heard in the distance, leaving us with an open ending that suggests that the Manitou might still be out there and its return is just a matter of time.

And there you have it – chronologically the first werewolf episode of The X Files. It’s a standard monster of the week instalment, but that’s something that’s always been a characteristic trait of the show. It gives us a werewolf story pretending not to be a werewolf story (hence the word ‘werewolf’ isn’t uttered even once throughout the episode) that borrows from Native American beliefs to build its premise. It’s nothing new when it comes to werewolf stories on the silver screen, it pretty much follows the stereotypical plotline of a basic werewolf movie, but is nevertheless watchable. The next, a little less stereotypical episode that features a werewolf (or at least a kind of thereof, there is a little controversy here) is Alpha, found in the sixth season of the series, which we’ll tackle some other time.

That would be it for tonight, dear visitors. Like, comment, subscribe, or don’t if you don’t feel like it, that’s fine too of course – and I will see you next time! Oh, and lest I forget, I finally got the old Werewolf Theory Twitter account up and running, so I’ll probably be posting some short updates on what I’m currently up to over there. Until next time!

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