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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Teen Wolf  (1985)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2 Stars
(Release Date: August 8, 2017) – "Teen Wolf" is a silly, disposable artifact of the 1980s, a sleeper hit in theaters and a cable mainstay thereafter. Capitalizing on Michael J. Fox's rising star and the smash success he enjoyed a month earlier with Robert Zemeckis' "Back to the Future," this cheesy teen comedy of body hair and basketball hit at just the right time in August 1985. Audiences went to see it, but could it ever be confused for a great movie? Has it improved after three decades of hindsight? The answer to both questions is an adamant "no." There isn't an original bone in its body, each scene a retread of moldy plot conventions and each character a strict archetype with next to no depth. In the final screenplay by Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman, subplots are brought up and hastily forgotten about as the only thing seemingly on its mind is the outcome of a climactic big game.

Interspersed between plentiful music montages and an inadvertently hilarious "Thriller"-esque choreographed dance routine is the shaggy-dog story of Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox), an average high-schooler who suddenly finds popularity and athletic skills when he discovers—and subsequently reveals to his classmates—he is half-man/half-wolf. In an instant, he excels on his basketball team and becomes the subject of lust for his vapid, previously unobtainable crush, Pamela (Lorie Griffin), much to the chagrin of the good-hearted female friend, Boof (Susan Ursitti), who is actually his perfect match. In trying to live up to the expectations of his fawning peers, Scott begins to lose sight of the person he truly is on the inside.

With a plot roughly as shallow as a small, day-old rain puddle, "Teen Wolf" energetically moves from scene to scene without much care in exploring its protagonist or his peculiar lycanthropic tendencies. A full moon has nothing to do with Scott's ability to change back and forth on a whim, the result of a familial lineage that most definitely did not skip a generation (caring dad Harold, played by James Hampton, has the same condition). Hopes to learn anything else about its origins or lore are left unfulfilled, as is any payoff whatsoever to a side story in which Scott's good friend Lewis (Matt Adler) pulls away from him once he comes out as a wolf. In a film that plays every moment broadly, there is also an overweight character named Chubby (Mark Holton) who is never seen without food in his hand and an uncomfortable scene of old-fashioned, down-home homophobic slurs ready-made for the mid-'80s. Perhaps it sounds like "Teen Wolf" is a bad movie through and through. It isn't. Director Rod Daniel understands exactly what kind of picture he is making, and the results, while messy from a writing standpoint, prove well-paced and diverting. It's the kind of goofy, inconsequential lark audiences can enjoy while turning their brains off, and the kind of nostalgia trip longtime fans will be able to appreciate more than those walking into it for the first time in the twenty-first century.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

The new 2K scan provided for this Collector's Edition Blu-ray of "Teen Wolf" is strong enough to make any wolfy cinephile want to howl at the moon. There is noticeable telecine wobble in the opening production logo, and from there it is immediately uphill in a big way. This 1080p transfer is outstanding, appearing as if it could have been filmed last year; if it's not a brand-new master, it must have been taken from a print in impeccable shape. Colors are radiant and lifelike, black levels are deep and without crush, and details are plentiful and carry with them ample depth (take a look, for example, at the early close-up of Michael J. Fox as beads of sweat run down his face and drip from his chin). There is a beautifully even, finely resolved grain structure, with only one shot looking softer and noisier than the rest (a long shot of Fox coming out the front door of his house)—and even this could be inherent to source. In addition, the image throughout is in top-notch shape, free of age-related dirt, debris and damage. One would be hard-pressed to find any other criticisms with this terrific high-definition treatment, a major step up from the previous barebones, MGM-released Blu-ray released in 2011. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio isn't flashy, but for a low-budget comedy from 1985 it sounds as good as one could realistically expect. This is a super-fine mix; music cues are full, never having a boxy, tinny quality that often befalls some movies from this era, while dialogue is wholly intelligible and well-served.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Never. Say. Die. The Story of Teen Wolf" Documentary (2:23:10, HD) - a ten-part, feature-length documentary (nearly a full hour longer than the film itself) featuring interviews with writers Jeph Loeb III and Matthew Weisman; actors Susan Ursitti-Sheinberg, Jerry Levine, Matt Adler and James MacKrell; producers Mark Levinson and Scott Rosenfelt; production designer Chester Kaczenski; casting director Paul Ventura; editor Lois Freeman-Fox; wolf make-up artist Jeff Dawn; and basketball double Jeff Glosser
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:52, HD)
  • Still Gallery (6:14, HD)
Bottom Line
Better known as the other Michael J. Fox film from summer 1985 not called "Back to the Future," "Teen Wolf" is a paper-thin but lively enough teen comedy that should work best for those who were around and remember seeing it in the '80s. For fans, Scream Factory's Collector's Edition Blu-ray will be an instant must-buy, arriving with a superior high-def transfer and an exhaustive new two-and-a-half-hour documentary that goes above and beyond all expectations. A well-done release all around!

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© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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