Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wolf Like Me



by Steven Boone

Hippy dippy Woodstock director Michael Wadleigh made only one narrative feature film, the majestically weird horror fable Wolfen. Having not seen it since Late Late Show screenings in the 1980's, I remembered Wolfen, faintly, as that other, lesser, wolf flick of 1981.

Not until screening it recently with a horror afficionado pal did I come to understand it as a reeling peyote vision of New York City's Third World future, the one I'm staggering through presently. Damn. This video is my parting shot as I prepare to join a sad, strange exodus from the city that used to feel like home.

Wolf City High and Low from Steven Boone on Vimeo.

9 comments:

odienator said...

When you think about it, all three 1981 werewolf movies were about the urban situation. My favorite of the three, The Howling, is a slow-moving meditation on the myth that the 'burbs are safer than the City. This is even more evident in the book than the movie, but both indicate that, at least in the City, the danger is more evident. The suburbs always have something to hide--as well as a false perception of safety--and it's always worse than anything an urban environment can throw.

An American Werewolf in London is doubly about xenophobia: The (Middle) American fear of traveling outside of their "hometown" to a foreign locale, and the fear of an urban environment being put in danger by immigrants (in this case, a man-eating foreigner running rampant in London). Landis takes his fascination with urban culture to a rather extreme end.

Wolfen is the most centrally focused on urban decay and the fear of the Other. I don't know whether Whitley Streiber's source material is presented in this fashion, but Wadleigh makes this less a horror film about werewolves than he makes it about the underprivileged coming back for what it feels it is owed. They capitalize on notion they are being underestimated by the privileged. I was always fascinated by that line about the creatures only taking the good parts of their victims, and the scenes shot in what used to be the South Bronx.

Your video essay made me want to go back to all three and write a piece about what they have in common besides people selling "wolf tickets" instead of woof tickets.

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Steven Boone said...

Mighty sharp there, Odie. You're dead right: Whatever their individual fixations (The Howling's way-inside horror in-jokes; American Werewolf's metaphors for awkward adolescence), the common denominator of the three flicks is that rural/urban schism.

The South Bronx scenes are such a trip. Not that it's paradise up there now, but it definitely ain't so post-apocalyptic anymore.

30 DayFeatureFilmChallenge, I would be excited about joining your event, if you weren't a damn spam robot. :(

commoncents said...

Excellent - Excellent Post!

I really like your blog!!

Common Cents
http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

ps. Link Exchange??

Steven Boone said...

commoncents, I appreciate the compliment and don't mind linking to your site, as it would be cool to draw a more diverse selection of readers here, but first let me be clear: I am a hippie through and through. I believe the state does owe trillions in reparations to those it has exploited/terrorized across the centuries. I just know that the payout is impossible, given the course that has been set for this country for the last 60 years (militarism, destructive, wasteful industries, religious fanatacism/superstition/anti-intellectualism).

I think that the conservative folks highlighted and linked at your blog share a profound misunderstanding of 1. the proper function of government and 2. the history of "our" government (skewed to the notion that it enfeebles those it means to empower).

Whether your blog is intended as satire of conservative pretzel logic (Conservative Black Woman, for example, conflates corporate power with the Welfare State while pointing to a Frederick Douglass quote (hahaha) as backup for her Bootstrap ideals) or as a straightforward platform for your ideas, I don't mind linking to it.

I like the idea of your readers coming in here and scratching their heads.

odienator said...

The first time I watched your video, I watched it differently than I did after the above comment was posted. I put myself in a conservative mindset and realized your film could play as an indictment of the victims rather than the system. That made it even more ominous than it originally was.

While that makes me admire your talent even more than I usually do, I wondered if this were the only post the blogger above had seen on Big Media Vandalism. I'm glad you clarified your position as the proprietor of BMV so that people know what they're getting into when they come here.

Steven Boone said...

Odie, that's the cool thing about Wolfen: You can read it both ways. The blacks, hispanics and Native Americans in this movie are a creepy, troublesome lot. And Wadleigh makes a great study of Albert Finney's regally aging white face in various states of panic, remorse and loathing.

Yeah, in the video I try to do what Wadleigh does, stepping into the shoes of those who want my broke ass out of New York. But there are brief instances of protest scattered throughout (i.e. the clucthing corpse and Gregory Hines's ass).

"No matter how much we try to imprint our own ideological stamp on our creations, there's always another editor, the viewer."--Frederick Douglass*



*Nah, Frederick Douglass did not say this. He died before the advent of cinema. Heee.

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watch movies said...

Wolf Like Me is a good horror flick.There are some scenes in the movie which really scare you as I was scared when I watching the movie.Don't watch this movie alone as its very tough.