The Company Of Wolves 1984

Angela Carter wrote the screen­play in collab­or­a­tion with director, Neil Jordan, for a film losely based on her novel. Though it has some of the trap­pings of a gothic horror film, it sets out to be some­thing closer to a psycho­drama, with a spawling and epis­odic narrative struc­ture. Its greatest impact prob­ably comes from the visceral imagery which is part of some very strong and effective moments.

Shot almost entirely on a sound­stage, the world of this film is like peering into a vivarium; teeming with a sort of live­li­ness that is persuasive, if never entirely convin­cing in its arti­fi­ci­ality. A little more blood and mud in the mix might have made it more than a slightly more intel­lec­tual version of the teenage fantasies we now know so well from Twilight, Harry Potter et al, but it was innov­ative in its day and may even, at some level, have broken the ground for these more commer­cial offerings.

David Clough © 2012


“The Company of Wolves (1984) — a first foray into horror by future Inter­view with a Vampire director Neil Jordan — doesn’t play like an ordinary were­wolf film because it isn’t one. Based some­what loosely on the distinctive work of British author Angela Carter, in partic­ular her collec­tion of overtly feminist and sexual rework­ings of fairy tales titled The Bloody Chamber; The Company of Wolves is a series of surrealist vign­ettes presented as the fright­ening dreams of a pubes­cent girl named Rosaleen (played with maturity and wry humor by young Sarah Patterson).

In the film, the poten­tially threat­ening, even pred­atory, nature of male sexu­ality quickly becomes a subtext so clear that it really isn’t so very sub at all. In her dreams, Rosaleen is warned by her grand­mother (a weird and wonderful Angela Lans­bury) about girls who “stray from the path” and wolves that look like men but are “hairy on the inside.”

An early vign­ette finds Jordan regular Stephen Rea playing a jilted husband who peels away his own skin in a rage (and a tour-de-force of cool and extremely grue­some makeup effects) to reveal the wolf beneath.

But The Company of Wolves is far from a one-note film, and its them­atic concerns are more complex than just high­lighting the more anim­al­istic qual­ities of men. Rosaleen’s mother reminds her that, “If there’s a beast in men, it meets its match in women too,” and the symbolism woven throughout suggests that while adult­hood (and adult sexu­ality) can be threat­ening, it can also be a desir­able, and in fact neces­sary, transition”.

Victoria Large, Bright Lights Film Journal 2006

The scene

The Company of Wolves: second extract

This tale forms another discrete episode in the story about a wronged maiden seeking redress – the stuff of many folk songs.

The wolves here are less sexual than social/political alleg­ories, symbols of greed and priv­ilege; and there is a glee in their down­fall that feels very “Irish” with its vision of aris­to­crats brought low by a peasant girl.

David Clough ©2012

Little Red Riding Hood Retold

Here are three very different versions of this classic fairy-tale, demon­strating its poten­tial for imagin­itive reinterpretation.

Little Red Riding Hood 1997

Christina Ricci lends a touch of Holly­wood glamour to this, the seem­ingly most conven­tional of these three versions, with a commentary by Quentin Crisp.

Notice however the dialogue about going outside to defecate which has been restored from the original folk­tale – you won’t find that in any Holly­wood adaptation.

Freeway 1996

This pulp version has Reese With­er­spoon as a trailer-park trash Lil Red whose junky mother is arrested by the cops. Setting out to hitch to her grandma, she is picked up by serial-killer ‘Bob Wolf’ (Kiefer Suth­er­land).

Little Red Hoodie

This strange, dead-pan, Scot­tish version features a preco­cious tweeny Little Red, and presum­ably intends to comment on the sexual subtext of the story from a modern perspective (there are refer­ences to video nasties).

  All film clips can be expanded by clicking the x symbol in the bottom right corner 

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