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Before Bhediya, here’s looking at Hollywood’s obsession with werewolf films

Varun Dhawan is all set to get into the skin of a werewolf in Bhediya that releases on November 25. Ahead of that, let's take a look at Hollywood's obsession with werewolves that will have you howling at the moon!

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Varun Dhawan in Bhediya.
Varun Dhawan in Bhediya.

By Grace Cyril: Hollywood was perhaps the first one to connect humans and the wolves to the moon. If you're a fan of classic movie monsters, then werewolves and bloodlust on the big screen must definitely be your thing. Over many decades, Hollywood has got the wolf pack together for a horror flick that brings the folklore of the werewolves to life. Just a few weeks after the Marvel special Werewolf By Night released on Disney+ Hotstar, Varun Dhawan-starrer Bhediya is all set to release in the theatres tomorrow. Interestingly, the shape-shifting concept in Bollywood first started in 1992 with Mahesh Bhatt-directorial Junoon.

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But, “Beware the moon, lads,” was said by two young Americans in An American Werewolf in London in as back as 1981. In fact, the 1913 silent film The Werewolf is considered the first werewolf film. It followed the story of Kee-On-Ee, a Navajo woman, who becomes a witch after believing that her husband has abandoned her. She teaches the same skills to her daughter Watuma, who transforms into a wolf. After this, werewolf continued to be an obsession for mainstream Hollywood.

WHEN HOLLYWOOD'S OBSESSION WITH WEREWOLVES STARTED IN THE 19TH CENTURY

Despite our love for shape-shifters, Bollywood has rarely explored that genre as compared to its Hollywood counterparts. Especially in the 19th century, werewolves were a mainstream subject widely explored upon in the West because of its sheer popularity. After The Werewolf paved the way, many filmmakers were keep to tap on this genre. Two decades later, in 1935, Werewolf of London was made by Stuart Walker that proved to be a trendsetter too. It starred Henry Hull as the titular werewolf and followed the stereotypical plot where the protagonist is bitten by a werewolf, hence, turning into one himself.

However, in 1941, George Waggner's The Wolf Man overshadowed Werewolf of London's popularity! The film had a great deal of influence on Hollywood's depictions of the werewolves. Lead actor Lon Chaney Jr's performance was so convincing (and spooky) that he later reprised his role as The Wolf Man in four sequels, beginning with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943.

THE INFLUX OF THIS GENRE IN THE 40's, 50's and 60's

The years leading up to the 1980's saw innumerable werewolves films. Most of them were rip-offs, but still gained attention. The ones in the 1940's included Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man 1, House of Dracula, The Return of the Vampire, The Undying Monster, Cry of the Werewolf, She-Wolf of London, Idle Roomers, The Mad Monster, The Wolf of the Malveneurs, and The Return of the Vampire.

In 1950's the blood-sucking themes were included in films like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, The Werewolf, Ismail Yassin Meets Frankenstein, The Daughter of Dr Jekyll, Blood of Dracula, etc. Inspired by this, How To Make A Monster was also released in 1958 which is technically not a werewolf film but a psychological crime horror.

In the 1960s as well, there was an explosion of werewolf films in that decade.

THE WEREWOLF CLASS OF 1981

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Something strange happened in 1981. Four filmmakers released four different werewolf films in that same year. These were John Landis' An American Werewolf in London, Joe Dante's The Howling, Michael Wadleigh's Wolfen and Larry Cohen's Full Moon High. All these four films were different in their approach and their storyline were contrasting too. Hence, even today, they remain a classic!

The 80s audiences were particularly amazed by the human-to-werewolf transition effects. It would be safe to say that 1981 was one of the most fruitful years for werewolf features. So, how did that happen?

Meagan Navarro, head critic and chief content creator at horror site Bloody Disgusting, told SYFY WIRE earlier, "The short answer is technology and talent as the more overt reasoning behind the boom. John Landis wanted to make An American Werewolf in London for years; it was something he talked about with special makeup effects artist Rick Baker when they worked on Schlock together, around 1973. But Landis always envisioned a spectacular transformation scene, and special makeup effects technology wasn't up to par to make that happen just yet."

THE 2000s MIXED WEREWOLVES WITH VAMPIRES!

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In the 2000s, vampires had an interesting face-off with werewolves that heightened the audience's interest. This was particularly started by Underworld series in 2003 that followed characters caught up in a war between vampires and werewolves. The first film, Underworld introduced Selene as an elite vampire-warrior and Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a human who gets caught up in the war. Subsequently, the vampire versus werewolves continued in the prequels Underworld: Evolution (2006), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), and Underworld: Awakening (2012). The final film, titled Underworld: Blood Wars, was released internationally on November 24, 2016.

The Twilight - When we first think about werewolves and vampires, Twilight series is the first name that comes to our minds. With a touch of teen romance and the big war between vampires and werewolves, it is remembered even today. Twilight (2008) is the first film in The Twilight Saga film series. The original introduced us to teenager Bella (Kristen Stewart) and her attraction to Edward (Robert Pattinson), a vampire. With New Moon in 2009, there was a triangle with the arrival of Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a rival werewolf pack. The real battle began in Eclipse (2010). Then came Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011), Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012).

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Other films in the 2000s based on werewolves and vampires were Van Helsing, Night Watch, Day Watch, The Wolfman, Blade, Blade 2, Blade Trinity, I Am Legend, Jeepers Creepers, Let the Right One In, Thirst, 30 Day of Night, Shadow of the Vampire, Ginger Snaps, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, Dog Soldiers, Oueen of the Damned, and From Dusk Till Dawn.

So, are you howling at the moon yet?