Collins’ Crypt: The WOLFCOP Movies Are Better Than You Might Assume

They could have been Funny or Die sketches. But they're real movies, and they're pretty good!

Outside of a few Twitter jabs, I try not to be too snobby about the likes of Sharknado and Birdemic; on one hand I do think they're bad for the horror genre and play a big part in why movies like Hereditary and Get Out get the "it's not really a horror movie" attitude, but on the other... who cares? At the end of the day, especially these particular days (let's say all of the days dating back to November of 2016) anything that gives us 90 minutes of joy and entertainment is fine by me, and should be commended, regardless of what kind of movie it is. Yes, as an avowed horror fan I hate that I have to find myself defending the genre so often because it produces so much shit compared to the others (what would be the Sharknado of westerns?), but it's not like we are denied several budding classics every year just because Syfy keeps crapping out D-grade schlock. We get just as many good movies as the other genres, possibly even more - it's just that there's more junk to wade through to find them.

It's because of that that I wish we saw more films like Wolfcop and its sequel, Another Wolfcop, which on the surface are just as ridiculous as anything from the Asylum, but the key difference is they are taken seriously by writer/director Lowell Dean and his crew. Both films display a real commitment to the bit, and despite the inane concept (a cop named Lou Garou - itself a clever little joke - becomes a werewolf and continues doing police work in werewolf form) Dean knows that it would get tiresome in five minutes if he wasn't putting in the effort to make a real movie out of it. It's not a ZAZ-style thing where they are hellbent on cramming every second of the film with jokes; on a narrative level it unfolds like any number of horror mysteries, and the actors aren't mugging for the camera or purposely acting bad - they're just as committed to the idea as if it was a standard werewolf movie. In fact the horror element is downplayed; plot-wise they're basically '80s action movies, complete with unlimited henchmen working for slimy villains - it's just that the hero is a werewolf and the villain is a shapeshifter (first film) or alien (sequel). It's no accident that the sequel apes Cobra's poster for its box art - like Stallone's schlock classic, there's appeal for both horror and action fans here. It's just the humor is more intentional.

One thing they do have in common with ZAZ-type films is an appreciation for all kinds of humor. There are dick and ball kind of jokes (including a shot of Wolfcop's dangling penis, having torn his pants apart in the transformation), there are absurd running gags (the voices on walkie talkies are just gibberish, yet perfectly understood by whoever is receiving them), and there's even a fair dose of deadpan, weirdo humor, like when best friend Willie (Jonathan Cherry) mutters "Hey Lou, it's your dad" when they drive past a half naked drunk on the ground (that Lou's dad is actually dead just adds to the wonderful randomness of the comment). Sure, the hit/miss ratio for the gags isn't as heavily weighted toward the former as you might hope, but it's close, and as long as you're generally on board with their off-kilter vibe, I can't imagine it'll be too long before you're laughing again if a gag or two doesn't work for you.

A big part of what makes the dud jokes easier to accept is that there are decent scripts to both films, and more attention to detail than they probably needed. For example, in the first film, where Lou goes up against shapeshifters, there's a scene where a character exits and then another enters a few moments later, and at the end of the film we learn it was the same guy before/after an offscreen shapeshifting moment. If you look carefully, you'll notice both of the actors have their top button undone on their shirt, a little clue to the fact that they're the same being. There's nothing really to be gained from even knowing it was the same guy, and you'd probably only pick up on it on a second viewing, but I love that they took the time to make that minor little costume adjustment to sell the idea for those who opted to pay attention to a movie that could just as easily have been one of the fake trailers in Grindhouse.

Another perk: the sequel is an improvement on the original, which you might think would be impossible given that the novelty would have obviously worn off. With Dean and the surviving cast returning (even Cherry, whose shapeshifter character died in the first but gets revived as the original, who was abducted by aliens and now returned), but all-new villains to deal with, there's a nice expansion of the mythology (including a female Lycan that serves as love interest) but not too much of the rehashing that plagues innumerable horror sequels (and comedy sequels, for that matter). Even when they do repeat themselves a bit, it's different enough not to mind; for example the first film has a lengthy sex scene between Wolfcop and a human woman, set to a Gowan song - in Another Wolfcop, Lou is in human form when he makes love (for four hours, we're told) to a were-woman, with a different (better!) Gowan song adding to the entertainment value.

Speaking of Gowan (aka Lawrence Gowan, who had a solo career in Canada before taking over lead vocals for Styx in 1999), he pops up in the sequel as Organo, the organist for the climactic hockey game (these films embrace their Canadian-ness, another perk as they're not trying to hide it like most movies that are just faking US locations in the Great White North), serving as this franchise's idea of a cameo. These are not big budget films, and Wolfcop (and his transformations) are practical in nature, and it's to the producers' credit that they don't waste their money securing cameos from horror convention all-stars that would ultimately add little value to the film, anyway. Nothing against those guys, but the concept is the star here, and you're either gonna see a movie called Wolfcop or you aren't, regardless if Sid Haig shows up for one scene. It's much better to throw in a more fitting cameo with Gowan and let Willie call him a "strange animal" for the nine people in the audience who will get the joke. And if you don't... well:

The behind the scenes extras on the blu-rays for both films confirmed my suspicions for why the films work better than I expected - the people making them aren't treating it as a joke, and they genuinely love what they're doing. Again, these movies don't have eight-digit budgets, so no one's doing it for the paycheck; everyone actually wants to be there and gives it their all. While the Sharknado films and their ilk are more concerned with how many random reality stars they can cram into a single segment than making the sharks ever look good, these folks are committed and not smirking their way through their performances, which of course makes them funnier (it's why Tommy Lee Jones is so much funnier than Will Smith in Men in Black). I was actually kind of bummed that the second one didn't have a commentary like the first one did, because I find tracks for movies like this are the most valuable for budding filmmakers - they are proud of their film, while still being honest and candid about some of the things that didn't turn out as well (but not defensive and whiny; I've heard examples of that, and it was just as torturous as it was watching the bad movie they were now talking over). And there's enough info about how they pulled certain things off without it becoming dry and overly technical, so it's a good track to listen to not only for some suggestions on how you might be able to make your own low budget film, but also the right attitude to have about it when it's completed.

Over the years I've seen other films in the same vein; ones that might not end up in my top ten lists or anything but balanced out the needs of making a watchable and engaging film while not taking it so seriously that you start wondering if the filmmakers might be insane, and have enough charm and gusto from the filmmakers to make up for their occasional lapses. Astron-6's stuff comes to mind (easy to think of them; a few of them pop up as random criminals in Another Wolfcop), as do the Thankskilling films (more the original than the bloated and perhaps a bit TOO insane sequel). There are also a few zombie movies that I found refreshingly fun in the overcrowded late '00s/early '10s; one was called A Cadaver Christmas, and another one titled Aah! Zombies! which had the fun idea to split the POV between humans and zombies (who saw the humans as super speedy pests with chipmunk voices). In all cases, they put every dime they had onscreen, cashing in favors to get some production value instead of crapping out another found footage movie like so many of their peers because it'd be easier to do, or only offering enough action to fill a trailer and boring us the rest of the time with talky scenes that could be done cheaper than anything exciting. Swinging for the fences is always better than bunting, and for what it's worth I was watching movies every single day for six years - if those stuck out, there must be a good reason for it.

But again, I know they won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially folks who just can't seem to enjoy smiling at their "horror" movies. They might be on board with Shaun of the Dead or something because it pays so much reverence to the films they love (another thing I like about the Wolfcops - they aren't reference-fests, saving the bulk of that sort of thing for the marketing), but otherwise - as I've learned from the past when I wrote about things like Slither - this sort of movie is kryptonite to some hardcore horror fans, and that's their right/loss. Maybe it's because I'm hard to scare anyway, I find these sort of things very much in my wheelhouse - I love horror but it's easier to make me laugh, apparently, so tossing monsters and aliens in a movie where I'm not SUPPOSED to get scared by them is kind of perfect for my sensibilities. And if you hate on them or anything like them, that's fine - but don't begrudge those who can accept them for what they are and have a good time. Any enjoyment one can find these days is something to be celebrated, not scorned. 

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