I confess that I have a tendency to view movies that I loved in my childhood with perhaps not as critical an eye as I should as an adult. That whole “rose-colored glasses” thing, the powerful effects of nostalgia. Still, WOLFEN, released in 1981 and based on novelist Whitney Strieber’s debut work, holds up quite well after thirty-plus years. If you’ve never seen it, I give it an enthusiastic recommendation. In addition to being just a scary, solid thriller, it is of interest as a werewolf film due to the fact that it eschews the traditional man-into-wolf transformations in favor of a spiritual metamorphosis. The titular beasts are spirit wolves, ghost wolves, if you will, the souls of Native American shapeshifters separated from their bodies while the Indians sit in a trance. Maybe. The connection is implied but is never stated conclusively.
The Wolfen can appear and disappear at will; that much is certain. And while they used real wolves in the making of the film, it is explained by one of the Indian characters that they are NOT true wolves. (The disappearing-at-will trope probably would’ve tipped the viewer off to that, anyway.) They are larger, more fearsome, and possessed of an infernal intelligence. Plus, y’know, they’re ghosts. Anyway, it’s a good flick. With Hollywood gone remake crazy these days, I sure wouldn’t mind seeing WOLFEN get a 21st Century update. Or better yet, how about a sequel to the original? Show us what the Wolfen have been up to in the past three decades. Best of both worlds!