The Company of Wolves
Company of Wolves, The (1984)
★★ / ★★★★
Rosaleen’s sister was murdered by wolves in the woods. After her funeral, Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), the remaining daughter of Father (David Warner) and distraught Mother (Tusse Silberg), is taken by Granny (Angela Lansbury) to her home to tell the grieving teenager folklores about ravenous and cunning werewolves. Completely rapt in the stories, this inspires the red-hooded girl to have adventures in the forest and tell scary stories of her own.
“The Company of Wolves,” written by Neil Jordan and Angela Carter, attempts to tell a much darker shade of Charles Perrault’s “Little Red Riding Hood” by means of focusing more on the sexual implications of the timeless story. Images that symbolize innocence are abound: the camera’s strange fixation on featuring close-ups of dolls in contrast to the protagonist’s eyes, nightmares of giant stuffed animals stopping Rosaleen from “exploring” in the forest, and the red cloak tantamount to one’s virginity. As strange as some of the images presented, it is enjoyable, on occasion, to figure out why the filmmakers decide to show them and under what context.
However, there are many times when symbolism get in the way of the story. For example, Rosaleen stumbles upon bird’s nest in which the eggs are moments from hatching. When when one of them does, a bird does not come out of the shell. Instead, it turns out to contain a figurine of a baby. What does it mean? Is it supposed to be a fetus which implies that the main character is pregnant and is not aware of it? After all, she finds the eggs after running around with a boy (Shane Johnstone). They eventually share a kiss, but it does not show them doing anything more. In fact, Rosaleen quickly becomes disinterested–or even disgusted–of the act and pulls away. It goes without saying that kissing does not make babies.
The material should have focused more on the message. That is, the path to adulthood can be a horrific experience. The grandmother always admonishes, accompanied with a stern look, “Don’t stray from the path,” the path of righteousness–of remaining a virgin until marriage. We do not really get a chance to see Rosaleen stray so there is a lack of excitement. Through her creative stories and wild dreams, we have some ideas of what she craves to experience, sexual or otherwise. It is one thing to want to do something but it is another to actually do it. The writers needed to explore the latter if they hoped to take the picture to the next level.
Lansbury should have been front and center more often. She is excellent as Granny: tender but feisty, frail-looking but holds a certain level of authority. Her voice makes the story she is telling a bit more grim. “The Company of Wolves,” directed by Neil Jordan, takes risks in showing his audiences otherworldly elements but only about half of them pay off. Lastly, although the special effects involving the werewolf transformations seem dated, there is an artistry in the way the skin is shed so slowly, it is difficult not to look away.