The Company of Wolves

Wicked Wednesday: The Company of Wolves (1984)

For years Angela Carter’s work has tempted me. Her mixture of feminist themes and fairytales seem so appealing… and yet, I haven’t gotten around to a single story yet.

But after watching The Company of Wolves, I feel even more intrigued by her work.

This movie could only exist in the dreamy corners of 1980s Britain. It’s bleak, for one, with nearly all the colours being drained from the screen. The one colour that stands out? Red. Red lips and a red cloak.

Rosaleen is a stroppy child. When her parents return home from a trip, she refuses to leave her room to see them or her sister. Her mother puts it down to being “that age”.

That night Rosaleen begins to dream, and we enter a fairytale world filled with wolves. In her dream, her sister Alice is killed off by a wolf. Thankfully, a wolf that is, has Granny puts it, “hairy on the outside” not the inside.

In some ways, The Company of Wolves plays out like an anthology movie. Only here the framing story dominates and the short stories in between are fleeting. Following Alice’s funeral, Granny warns Rosaleen about men whose eyebrows meeting the middle (also known as a unibrow, Gran). She then tells her grandaughter a story about a woman, her two husbands and a werewolf.

As Rosaleen’s village is terrorised by wolves and werewolves, the fairytales march in and out of her dream – sometimes unannounced. As she draws closer to a sexual awakening (of sorts – actress Sarah Patterson was only a very young teenager here), hands and heads begin to fly.

It’s quite clear that The Company of Wolves was made on a budget. But I think that only adds to the fairytale ambience. It feels like we’re looking into an imaginary world, one that exists in dreams and is most definitely not real.

The special effects also impressed me. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing its werewolf transformations. For the most part, they look excellent (though fairly dated).

Now, I’m not saying this movie should be remade, but I could see A24 doing incredible things with the framework. I think a modern take could be more daring with both messaging and imagery. The film seems to be holding back at times. I think that’s due to a few things: 1) the age of the main actress and 2) censorship in British cinema at this time. Without either of those restrictions, I think this film could have really flown.

But Angela Lansbury would have to reprise her role as Granny, obviously.

The Company of Wolves is definitely the type of film you revisit. It’s filled with enough imagery and symbolism that you could take something away from it each viewing. It’s beautiful and soft yet dangerous and pretty disturbing at times.

Everything said – this movie was partially produced by Cannon, which both pleases and amuses me to no end. We love you, Cannon.