Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is a 17-year-old high school student who lives with his father Harold (James Hampton) and is given a hard time by his peers for being distinctly average. A member of the school’s hopeless basketball team, Scott becomes alarmed when he notices changes in his temperament and his body. Discovering that he’s inherited the curse of the werewolf, like his father, Scott embraces his new identity when it brings fame and popularity with it.
I remember absolutely loving ‘Teen Wolf’ when I was a kid. The film was originally released in 1985 and it proved to be a moderate hit at the box office. At the time, Michael J. Fox was very much a star on the rise having transitioned from TV roles to the big screen. It was with some excitement that I watched the film again all these years on ahead of its new reissue on DVD and Blu-ray, and honestly it’s not quite the film I remember it to be. Essentially, ‘Teen Wolf’ is an allegory about going through puberty and trying to figure out where you fit in when you’re a teenager. It’s something every single person goes through and it varies as to how much of a hard time you endure during your teenage years.
For Scott, he’s desperate to impress popular girl Pamela (Lorie Griffin) who is dating one of the school’s jocks and couldn’t be less interested in him. While Scott is mooning over Pamela, he’s completely unaware that his friend Boof (Susan Ursitti) is crushing on him hard. Once he embraces his ability to transform into a werewolf, that changes everything with Pamela and the popular kids falling over themselves to be friends with him. Like any young person, Scott is totally oblivious to the fickle nature of the teenagers around him, and his cockiness starts to get the better of him.
Perhaps what surprised me the most on my rewatch of ‘Teen Wolf’, is just how little actually happens. The story is surprisingly simple and there’s no real attempt to understand why Scott and his father are inflicted with the curse. That plot development is simply stated as fact and the film focuses on the hijinks of Scott and his best friend Stiles (Jerry Levine), leaving everything pretty surface deep. If Scott’s not partying, he’s on the basketball court but there’s not really any big hurdle for him to overcome and the instant embracing of him as a werewolf, which is oddly not questioned by anyone, means the film lacks any real stakes.
Michael J. Fox gives a reliably good performance, and that’s really what saves the film. Fox has always been a magnetic movie star and in his early roles he delivers everything with charm and gusto. As Scott, he manages to make good use of his comedic timing and he really is the best thing about the film. Jerry Levine as Stiles is strong too, giving a wildly flamboyant performance that feels authentic to the tone of the film.
For this release there’s a comprehensive documentary included as an extra called ‘Never. Say. Die. The Story of Teen Wolf’, which features new interviews with some of the cast and crew and it takes a look at the making of the film and its legacy. The original theatrical trailer is also included on the release.
It’s incredible to think that ‘Teen Wolf’ provided the inspiration for the 2011 series of the same name (which actually bears very little resemblance to the source material). Even more incredible to think is that ‘Teen Wolf’ is often fondly remembered by people like me, in their 40s, as one of the great teen films of the 80s. My rewatch informed me that my memories were somewhat unreliable (although the high definition transfer definitely scrubs the film up nicely) and that sadly ‘Teen Wolf’ is a very average movie elevated only by the performances of Fox and Levine. Perhaps I should have left this one in my childhood?
Cast: Michael J. Fox, James Hampton, Jerry Levin, Susan Ursitti, Matt Adler, Lorie Griffin, Mark Arnold Director: Rod Daniel Writers: Joseph Loeb & Matthew Weisman Certificate: PG Duration: 92 mins Released by: Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises Release date: 4th September 2023 Buy ‘Teen Wolf’ now
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