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My Mom's A Werewolf
(1989)

Director: Michael Fischa  
Cast:
Susan Blakely, John Saxon, Katrina Caspary


I enjoy a lot of things, and there is one particular thing that I enjoy that I strongly suspect that you enjoy as well. That particular thing is a good story. Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed a good story, not just with those found in motion pictures and television. Of course, my tastes when it comes to selecting and absorbing from the great variety of good stories available has evolved and changed many times over the years. When I was young, one kind of story that I enjoyed a lot were stories about various monsters. It wasn't that such stories gave me a delightful scare. They didn't, except for the time that I saw the zombie movie Dawn Of The Dead at a young age and getting extremely freaked out. My interest in stories about various monsters was because the basic ideas about these monsters, plus the various tales as to how they would act and terrorize mankind, simply fascinated me. Quite often I would try to picture such a monster in my neighborhood, but what I already knew about life and how things worked in real life soon got me realizing that I had nothing to fear from a potential monster threat. That's because I realized that these monsters could not possibly exist and do the things that they supposedly did. Take the Mummy, for example. Sure, it could supposedly resist gun shots and had a homicidal nature. But when I saw the Mummy in movies, I couldn't help that it was always walking around extremely slowly. Even an unathletic child like myself knew I could easily outrun it. I also noticed that being from the desert environment of Egypt, it was dried out; it annoyed me that nobody seemed to think of getting a lighter and setting the darn thing on fire, which would surely finish it off very quickly.

Then there was Dracula - or for that matter, any vampire in the classic sense. I think I said in a previous review that I have never believed that a vampire could resist a hard enough blow with the exception of a stake to the heart. I've always believed that a sawed-off shotgun blast to the face would take care of such a creature instantly. Then there are werewolves. Although I didn't really talk about my feelings about werewolves during the last movie I reviewed involving this creature (Dog Soldiers), it should probably come as no surprise that I have thought about if such creatures could ever exist ever since I was a child. Even as a child, many of the supposed facts about werewolves left me in disbelief and never thinking one could break into my bedroom one full moon night. How could someone grow so much hair in just a short moment? (For that matter, it was never explained where all the hair went to once the sun came up.) Then there was all the silliness about how to kill a werewolf. Who was the one among the many storytellers who came up with werewolf tales who decided that silver was not just the choice metal to kill a werewolf, but the only way? Why not gold? And there was the whole problem of trying to kill a werewolf with a silver bullet? What would happen if the silver bullet completely passed through the werewolf when it was shot? Would the werewolf survive such a wound, or die all the same? As you can see from these questions, I have never taken the stories of werewolves very seriously, even when I was an impressionable child.

Still, while the idea of werewolves has never scared or impressed me that much, I will admit that over the years I have seen stories about werewolves that have entertained me greatly. In the written media, I remember enjoying the Stephen King book Cycle Of The Werewolf - though I enjoyed the subsequent cinematic adaptation of it (Silver Bullet) a My Mom's A Werewolflot less. But there have been other cinematic treatments on werewolves that I have enjoyed, such as the Lon Chaney Jr. The Wolf Man, the soldiers vs. werewolves romp Dog Soldiers, and An American Werewolf In London. Though werewolves are far from my cinematic monster of choice, I am open to a new werewolf movie if there is an original spin to it. That's what got me interested in seeing the werewolf movie My Mom's A Werewolf, because of it's promised spin - a PG rated werewolf movie that also happened to be a comedy. I was really interested to see how they would treat a traditionally vicious monster for an audience that included teenagers as well as adults, which is what Teen Wolf did four years earlier. The "mom" mentioned in the title is a woman by the name of Leslie (Blakely, The Towering Inferno). Leslie has a teenage daughter by the name of Jennifer (Caspary, Mac And Me), and a husband named Howard (John Schuck, The Munsters Today). With Jennifer spending a lot of time with her horror movie buff friend Stacey, and Howard spending most of his time fulfilling the demands of his job, Leslie feels alone and neglected. One day, on an errand to get a collar for the family dog, Leslie walks into a pet store run by a fellow named Harry (John Saxon, Enter The Dragon), who is instantly attracted to her. Unknown to Leslie, Harry is a mysterious fellow who has strange features, ranging from glowing eyes to brute strength, though Leslie remains oblivious to these things. So it should come as no surprise that when Harry finds out he can put Leslie under a trance, he hypnotizes her the next time she comes into his store, and gives her a bite in the back room. Leslie returns home without any memory of what happened with Harry, but it soon becomes clear to her that something did happen - she start spouting fangs, suddenly craves meat when she was previously vegetarian, and has an even bigger sexual appetite than before. These are big enough problems, but bigger problem for Leslie is not only how to hide these transformations from her family, but what to do when Harry comes knocking at her door with the intention of making Leslie his werewolf bride.

Before I sat down to watch My Mom's A Werewolf, I was prepared for what promised to be a very bad movie. It wasn't just from the goofy title, but also because the screenplay was written by Mark Pirro, an independent filmmaker who has written and directed microbudgeted movies like A Polish Vampire In Burbank and Curse Of The Queerwolf. He has his fans, but also seems to have as just as many - if not more - people who despise his movies. Though I'd only seen one of his other movies before this one (Deathrow Gameshow), it was so bad that I couldn't picture his other movies being any good. Well, My Mom's A Werewolf is a slight improvement, probably because he didn't direct it, but it's still an extremely lame viewing experience. Actually, not all of the blame for the movie's failure comes from Pirro's screenplay. A good amount of the blame comes from some absolutely atrocious acting from the cast. Top dishonors are easily awarded to Katrina Caspary playing the daughter of the title character. Not once in her performance does she seem to be taking things seriously. At times she seems to be treating this acting assignment as a joke, and other times seems to be thinking about something else as she begrudgingly spouts off her lines of dialogue with no effort to sound like a normal human being. Almost as bad as Caspary is Diana Barrows, who plays the horror movie buff friend. Her horror obsessed character actually is given several times in the screenplay the opportunity to generate amusement from her nerdy behavior and attitude, but Barrows takes every one of these opportunities and each time performs the material in a way that makes her annoying and hard to relate to on any level. It came as absolutely no surprise that my research on these two actresses uncovered that they each didn't have much of an acting career following this movie, and soon after left the business.

As for the adults in the cast, John Saxon comes off the best. Occasionally in his scenes he shows some genuine enthusiasm, and seems to really be enjoying himself at times despite the screenplay having him do things like lick other people's hands and suck toes. But despite this effort, his performance in the end is as unsatisfying as those from the other members of the cast. Saxon's mistake - as well as the mistake of just about everyone in the cast - is that for the most part he and the other actors make the fatal decision to act "funny". Maybe they were thinking that since this movie was more or less written to be a humorous look at werewolves, that they should act in a goofy manner. While there are some movies where acting funny is appropriate, My Mom's A Werewolf is not one of them. The movie is about ordinary people getting involved in an extraordinary situation. So there should be an undercurrent of normalcy running throughout. And when the normalcy clashes with the extraordinary, the reaction of the various characters to this collision could generate a lot of humor. But as it is, every character in the cast is far from normal. The characters are as broad and outrageous as the situation, so when the two clash, absolutely no sparks are generated. But there is a bigger problem with the actors acting "funny". Because they act "funny", they come across as stupid. Not amusingly moronic, as comedians like Abbot and Costello have done so successfully in the past, but stupid in a manner that in short order makes the audience hostile towards them. It is basically stupidity in a way that shows no side to them that has heart or sympathy. While watching these idiots on my television screen, I was quite frankly enraged. I wanted to throttle these characters while yelling at them, "Can't you understand what's happening to you people?!?" If these characters had been smart, seeing them struggle could have been very funny, because we would be saying, "I can see myself in those guys," and laugh seeing ourselves in front of us.

Actually, as I indicated earlier, there's a lot of blame to go around for the movie's failure from more than one source. A lot of the blame has to go to writer Pirro, as well as director Michael Fischa (who in the same year directed Crack House). Pirro can't seem to come up with a gag that might work when directed with capable hands, and Fischa takes these unfunny jokes and directs them with absolutely no comic energy. The movie is desperately unfunny, but the Pirro and Fischa collaboration doesn't just fail when it comes to comedy. There are a surprising number of scenes in the movie that feel unfinished, with characters meeting and trying to accomplish something, but the scenes peter out with no definite conclusion one way or another. Why Pirro didn't see these scenes were unfinished is a mystery, though in the end most of the blame has to fall on Fischa for not demanding a rewrite of these incomplete moments. He could also be blamed for allowing the actors to perform with the wrong tone as well. There are additional problems that might be blamed on Fischa, though it's hard to criticize him for these problems when one realizes the extremely tight budget (under a million dollars) he was working with. Much of the basic technical work (photography, lighting, etc.) is adequate, but when it comes to production values (set decoration, etc.), the movie is often lacking. The star feature of the movie - werewolf material - is very disappointing. The werewolf masks are stiff and unconvincing, and the movie cheats when it comes to transformations, either simply having the fully transformed werewolves appear without seeing their transformation, or the long obsolete technique of dissolving one shot to another. So not only is My Mom's A Werewolf an unfunny comic spin on a certain aspect of the horror genre that you don't usually associate with humor, it isn't even able to respect that horror genre aspect with its serious moments. Instead of watching the movie, simply read its title once more - from that you'll get the movie's complete creativity, comic or otherwise.

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See also: Big Man On Campus, Dog Soldiers, White Wolves

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