Monday, May 2, 2011

My Mom's a Werewolf (Michael Fischa, 1989)

Looking over the cinematic landscape of the late 1980s, the producers of My Mom's a Werewolf couldn't help but notice that the nation's movie theatres, drive-ins, and mom and pop video stores were being inundated with lighthearted fare about teenage werewolves (Teen Wolf Too) and teenage vampires (Once Bitten). Why, they probably asked themselves, hasn't anyone made a movie about a suburban mom who becomes a werewolf? After all, studies have shown that there's nothing teens love more than watching fortysomething women frantically attempt to stave off lycanthropy by shaving their legs with a pair of hair clippers. While I found their (Crown International Pictures) effort to fill the empty void that was the MILF-werewolf genre at the time to be somewhat admirable, I just wish they had given the project to a director with some passing knowledge on how to make a film with a modest amount of competency. This blundering approach was endearing in Death Spa, a movie whose ungainly temperament was actually an asset, not a hindrance. Besides, how hard is it to mess up an aerobics-based horror movie? Just follow these four simple steps: 1) Leotards 2) Blood. 3) Shower scene 4) More leotards, and you should be good to go (oh, and don't forget to thank your mom when you except your Leo Award, a trophy that recognizes outstanding achievement in the realm of the leotarded arts). However, Michael Fischa is way over his head this time around. Barely a movie at times, it just sits there like an unproductive blob of shapeless energy, sapping the strength of anyone unlucky enough to be looking in its general direction.

Born with the innate ability to enjoy just about anything that's placed in front of me, My Mom's a Werewolf, I must say, was a real challenge, as it's nearly impossible to extract anything positive from something this openly egregious. Actually, the only reason I decided to type any words whatsoever about this flick/fiasco was because of the amount of denim worn during the film's opening scene. As the denim pranced before me, I thought to myself, well, firstly: "Holy shit, that's a lot of denim." But then I thought: "I wonder if can write five paragraphs pertaining to just the denim alone. I mean, I think the girls who wouldn't touch my genitals in high school would really be impressed by that." Unfortunately, things proceeded to go downhill pretty quickly after the dungaree portion of the film had concluded, and any thoughts of composing a tedious tribute to the mother-daughter denim fashion show that is the opening of this movie were slowly evaporating under the sheer weight of the film's mind-numbing awfulness.

Let me clarify by saying that both Susan Blakely and Tina Caspary weren't just wearing acid wash jean jackets, they're entire bodies were literally ensconced in denim.

Sadly, after some banal mother-daughter dialogue is exchanged, the two denim advocates take their respective denim looks and go their separate denim ways. Tired of being neglected by her husband (he prefers football to vaginal intercourse), Leslie Shaber (Susan Blakely) storms out of their modestly furnished house and decides to vent her frustration by heading down to the local pet store to buy a flea collar for their dog. The suave owner of Casa de Pets, Harry Thropen (John Saxon), leers seductively at Mrs. Shaber as she browses the store's expansive collar section. Well, you know where this is going: Harry, after some mild wooing, ends up biting Leslie on the toe, which causes her to wake up the next morning with a pair of fangs.

Hey look! It's Kimmy Robertson!

Meanwhile, Leslie's daughter, Jennifer Shaber (Tina Caspary), is hanging out with her best friend, Stacey Pubah (the enchanting Diana Barrows), at a horror convention. A horror movie fan who is obsessed with monsters–and the movie Galaxina (which she has apparently seen over 360 times)–Stacey, dressed as a vampire, drags a wary-looking Jennifer to see a fortune teller (Ruth Buzzi, Skatetown, U.S.A.). Sporting two crystal balls (she sometimes likes to get a second opinion), the Roma stereotype tells Jennifer that she will have "a conflict with an animal," and to going easy on the denim. While the thing about denim was something I totally made up, the first fortune actually comes true, as Jennifer soon discovers that her mom is a werewolf (at the least title doesn't lie).

As Jennifer was getting her fortune told, my eyes spotted this amazing white scrunchie that was binding together a large chunk of hair near the top of her head. Employed in a manner that created the illusion that her hair was more robust than it actually was, the scrunchie, much like the denim in the previous scene, dominates the film's visual spectrum for the next couple of scenes. In a startling turn of events, the scrunchie and denim roles are reversed in the one that the follows the horror convention, as it's Stacey time to be the one to wear a lot of denim and sport a scrunchie that was affixed in a manner that was similar to Jennifer's scrunchie. I don't know if you know this, but the act of placing a scrunchie on the top of the head, instead of on the back or the side, was the most popular chemical-free solutions for creating the big hair look on a budget back in 1989.

Kasso killer! Long live the volumizing scrunchie!

The harmony that exists between scrunchies and denim throughout My Mom's a Werewolf is a testament to hard work of costume designer Kelly O'Gurian (check out her stunning scrunchie work in Brian Yuzna's excellent Society). With the exception of the opening scene, where, as you probably know by now, two characters are seen wearing all denim simultaneously (a major faux pas in the world of movie costuming), the outfits worn by all the characters, particularly Jennifer and Stacey, were whimsical without being obnoxious, yet tacky with a subtle hint of desperation.

If only the film had focused more on their odd friendship and even odder fashion choices, as opposed to the whole werewolf plot, where jokes about toilet seats (get this, men like to leave the seat up), doughnut-eating policemen, references to "PMS" (a staple of misogyny-based entertainment), and werewolf puns (the expression "werewife" is employed at one point) are plentiful, you might have had something. But instead, we're stuck with a film whose funniest line is uttered by Marica Wallace of all people; after giving Mrs. Shaber a makeover at her salon (We Be Hair), she declares the result, "Wolverine chic!" (I'm a sucker for phrases that pair naff lingo with the word chic). Anyway, whenever the camera is on Tina Caspary (Teen Witch) and Diana Barrows (She's Out of Control), the film briefly reminds you of how truly awesome it must have been to be a teenage girl during the 1980s.

Speaking of teenage girls (by the way, I'm one of the few people who can start a sentence off like that and not come off sounding like a creep), make sure to keep an eye out for Tina Caspary in the latter half of the film, you'll be shocked, amazed and somewhat bewildered by what you see. Okay, I know what you're thinking: "Why should I keep an eye out for that? I mean, other than the scrunchies and the denim, this movie sounds like a giant piece of crap." Sure, it's true, the film is woefully lacking in just about every department that doesn't involve scrunchies and denim (the third act werewolf makeup is laughably bad, scratch that, it's horrifically bad, and soundtrack is full of uninspired tripe). But you gotta see Tina in her aviatrix uniform. And before you ask, no, she is not a pilot, nor does she work in the lucrative field of erotic skywriting. What can I say? That's just what teenage girls did in the late 80s, they dressed up like old timey airwoman. Of course, there will be those who'll say the reason she was dressed like a World War I fighter pilot was because it was Halloween. But why would you say something like that? Why can't you just let me carry on believing that Tina Caspary's character likes to pretend she's Manfred von Richthofen on weekends? I don't ask for much.

While I like the whole idea of a werewolf who is a leggy mature blonde on the prowl, the leg shaving scene was a real letdown in terms of producing the right amount of venereal swelling. Seriously, she looked like she was shearing an albino woolly mammoth. In other words, not sexy at all (nothing kills an erection faster than a fist full of white matted hair). An out of place John Saxon (Black Christmas) doesn't help matters, as his totally stiff performance as the world's lamest werewolf undermines the movie at every turn. Other than lowering his cheap sunglasses every now and then to reveal a menacing set of bloodshot eyes, Mr. Saxon's werewolf pet store owner with a foot fetish is a complete and utter bore.

Getting back to leggy mature blondes, I thought Susan Blakely's many valiant attempts to inject the lifeless proceedings with some vivacity to be commendable. Her gusto when it came time to get her fangs filed at the dentist, for example, was exceptional (the lovely Lucy Lee Flippin plays a dental hygienist), as was her black negligee work; it was some of the best negligee work I've seen outside one of those tasteless lingerie shows heterosexual men seem to flock to (they don't seem to care about the clothes at all). Fans of late '80s denim trends and unorthodox scrunchie deployment might want to give this film a look-see, but everyone else should steer clear of this, for lack of a better term, cinematic abomination.

video uploaded by 80scomedytrailers1


  1. Happy Election Day!

    I've recently become obsessed with CBC's radio app for the iPad. Do you know what that means? I've been listening to broadcasts from Inuvik, Goose Bay, Grand Falls. My husband thinks I'm weird. Oh well.

    By the way, if I'm ever on Jeopardy!, I pray that there is no Bible category.

    Great reviews, as usual. :)

  2. Happy Election Day!

    What about Tuktoyaktuk? :D

    It's no weirder than watching a bunch of grown men chase around a ball.

    No math category for me (I'd smote the shit out of the Bible category).

    Thanks. :)

  3. Dude, I got the Monday's Canada FJ wrong, the PEI one! And then I got the poetry one wrong tonight. Take away my honorary Canadian citizenship and my English teacher license!

    So, I heard that Andrew Cash is now an MP. The heck?

    Your review makes me want to go dust off my scrunchies.

  4. Yeah, but most people, even Canadians, tend to forget that Newfoundland and Labrador are one in the same (I'm assuming you answered Nfld.), so don't be so hard on yourself.

    I ran screaming from the room when I saw that the category was going to be poetry-related. ;)

    The heck, indeed. Two members of the Toronto punk band L'Étranger are now Members of Parliament. Weird, wild stuff.'Étranger_(band)

    The Dusty Scrunchies could have been the name of my Nurse With Wound tribute band, but it isn't.

    Oh, and speaking of dusting off retro fashions, did you hear? Doc Martens are trendy again. Yay!

  5. I didn't realize that Doc Martens were ever untrendy!

    Can you believe that Icehouse was in a Jeopardy clue? Very odd. I have to say that I'm liking the Teacher Tournament. (Maybe because I am one?)

  6. From about 2000 'til sometime earlier this year, Doc Martens were nowhere to be found within the Queen West trendisphere. Their return was confirmed to me last Tuesday when I saw a woman wearing a pair of cherry docs (which matched perfectly with her jacket) in a subway station (I'd have to go as far back as 1990 to recall the last time I saw someone wearing docs that were cherry coloured) and then spotted another woman sporting a black pair on a streetcar moments later.

    Again, it must have occurred during the early part of the show, 'cause I totally missed the Icehouse clue.

    So, are you excited about Thor and Something Borrowed? ;)