Teen Wolf [retro review]

“Never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body.”

The Scoop: 1985 PG, directed by Rod Daniel and starring Jerry Levine, Michael J. Fox and Susan Ursitti.

Tagline: He always wanted to be special… but he never expected this!

Summary Capsule: Teen gets hairier than normal. And, strangely enough, gets more popular for it.

Justin’s Rating: A slightly damp furball spat upon the carpet in front of your feet

Justin’s Review: No one is under any illusions why Teen Wolf, a highly average horror-lite/comedy, made a noticeable impact when it landed in movie theaters. It wasn’t necessarily the blending of the werewolf lobby with the high school loser association, nor was it the incredible (for the times) use of $200 million worth of computer animation to have Mr. Wolf dodge silver bullets in slow-motion. The story of Teen Wolf’s success was simply the following:

A small film called Back to the Future came out in 1985. It got a few people to see it.

The star of Back to the Future was one Michael J. Fox.

MGM and United Artists went, “Hey, we just happened to have another movie with Fox sitting around, unreleased, here in 1985! I wonder, ever so slightly, what would happen if we released it following this surge of BTTF popularity? At the very least, it would be a grand experiment!”

So, yeah, Teen Wolf is riding Back to the Future’s coattails all the way to the bank. It’s not a scary, nor an original, nor a very funny movie, but simply being released with Michael J. Fox’s name at the right time tricked thousands into seeing it. I shouldn’t say “tricked”, maybe “slightly bamboozled”, since Teen Wolf is not nearly as horrible as the rushed-to-production sequel Teen Wolf, Too. But considering that the main draw of this film is a teenager that just happens to enter an extreme puberty metaphor and turn into an athletic (and popular) werewolf, there’s no comparing hairiness to nuclear-powered time travel.

Fox plays Scott Howard, a wimpy teen on a wimpier high school basketball team, whose coach isn’t bothered the least by horrible failure. He’s given just the barest whisper of a backstory (he’s got a wild best friend with tacky shirts, he’s in love with a popular girl who is dating a jerk, and he has a girl-space-friend who’s in love with him but he doesn’t notice… yeah, where’d they get THAT playbook?) before he starts sprouting hair and learning that his whole family is werewolf stock.

That the entire family is comprised of werewolves is the only unique element of werewolf lore (not a lot of biting, silver bullets or full moons to fuss about here). Everything else is a very standard high school teen flick, with the very standard 80’s teen issues (popularity, sports, dating). You may pick out some cute elements from the film like lint off trousers — such as Scott van-surfing, or… gee, that’s about it — but other than its fortuitous release date, Teen Wolf had nothing much going for it. Growl.

Exhibit A: hairy dweeb.

Intermission

  • Michael J. Fox, the shortest basketball player ever!
  • Fat people in movies are always eating. That’s why they’re fat.
  • Filmed in the same school and town as A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Ah, the “cute friend who has a crush on you even though you’re oblivious” theme.
  • Teen Wolf suffered in 2011 from the nostalgia-driven remake epidemic, which also struck Fame, Footloose, Tron and Nightmare. The new Teen Wolf was a television horror-drama made by MTV.
  • Fox hitting the kid on the back of his head… priceless
  • There are no normal theater teachers in movie high schools
  • Stiles has great sunglasses
  • What are friends for? To make you rob liquor stores, that’s what!
  • Car surfing
  • The character Stiles wears a number of colorful shirts in this movie. They appear in the following order: 1) Yellow shirt that says “Life sucks then you die”, 2) Blue “Obnoxious: the movie”, 3) Black “What are you looking at D**knose”, 4) Gray “Drunken State Florida”, 5) Pink – no text, 6) Gray – unreadable, 7) Black – unreadable, 8) Hawaiian shirt, 9) White – “Wolf Buddy” and finally a white Teen Wolf shirt. Of the nine shirts he wears, only one appears to have no text on it.
  • The end credits are shown as the crowd cheers and celebrates in slow motion. When the credits start to roll and after Scott’s dad and Boof make their way to the court, look in the background to the left. There is a women with her pants unzipped and underwear exposed. She realizes this and quickly zips up her pants.
  • The Michael J. Fox’s character’s name was changed from Scott to Marty for the Italian release to recall the success of Back to the Future.
  • Scott Howard’s house was located on the same block as 1955 George McFly’s and 1955 Lorraine Baines’s houses from Back to the Future.

Groovy Quotes

Coach Finstock: There are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese.

Coach Finstock: Look Scotty, I know what you’re going through. Couple years back, a kid came to me much the same way you’re coming to me now, saying the same thing that you’re saying. He wanted to drop off the team. His mother was a widow, all crippled up. She was scrubbing floors. She had this pin in her hip. So he wanted to drop basketball and get a job. Now these were poor people with real problems. Understand what I’m saying?
Scott Howard: What happened to the kid?
Coach Finstock: I don’t know. He quit. He was a third stringer, I didn’t need him.

Coach Finstock: It doesn’t matter how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose. And even that doesn’t make all that much difference.

Coach Finstock: I just thought if we quit now, you could beat the 5 o’clock traffic.
Dragons Basketball Coach: There’s a lot to learn from losing.
Coach Finstock: Hey, we’ll play, if it’s that big a deal to you.

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3 Comments

  1. While it’s probably been said in many places before, Teen Wolf was well ahead of Spiderman with the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing. Also, best use of werewolf: finding your pot with his nose…don’t think Spidey can do that!

  2. Pingback: Monster mashup: Teen Wolf vs. The Lost Boys | As You Were

  3. Pingback: Eunice does Teen Witch | Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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