There were an awful lot of teen horror comedies (emphasis on “awful”) back in the 80’s. From I Was a Teenaged Zombie to My Best Friend is a Vampire to the Teen Wolf movies, it seems like every mythical movie monster was fair game for a teen spoof. In 1989, Crown International Pictures (the studio that brought you Hellcats!) followed suit with My Mom’s a Werewolf, a middling effort that follows the standard horror comedy template. (Actually, I suspect it also follows the basic B-movie template wherein the title was thought up long before they had a script.)
Not to be confused with Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, My Mom’s a Werewolf is a broad farce full of obvious jokes, cheap special effects, and lame, wooden acting. But it cruises along at a fast enough pace that you don’t really care. Plus, the movie has a handful of great, funny moments that stand out like undiscovered gems to devoted fans of obscure B-movies. And anyway, what do you really expect from a movie called My Mom’s a Werewolf?
The movie immediately gets on my good side when the song playing under the opening credits is an ultra-cool cover of Sam the Sham’s 1966 hit “Little Red Riding Hood” (which is both obviously spoofing the use of “People are Strange” from The Lost Boys and using a song very apropos to this movie). We find ourselves in the suburban home of Leslie Shaber (Susan Blakely, ten years after Airport ’79: The Concorde and looking better than ever), her husband Howard (John Schuck), and their daughter Jennifer (Katrina Caspary, apparently the original choice to play Kelly on Married… with Children).
Jennifer has a best friend Stacey, and the two apparently go to horror/sci-fi conventions together a lot. (Jennifer even refers to the latest such event as “The Horror & Science Fiction Convention”, as if there’s only one in the entire world.) Since every horror spoof necessitates the existence of a character who knows all the ins and outs of the genre, Stacey is a monster movie buff who reads all about vampires and werewolves in “Fang-o-rama Magazine”. As the pipsqueak sidekick, Stacey’s meant to be the Odious Comic Relief, but thankfully she doesn’t get enough screen time to truly become a pain in the ass.
At the convention, Jennifer gets her fortune read by a gypsy played by Ruth Buzzi. And I gotta say, Ruth Buzzi is totally wasted in this part. Not that I’m all that familiar with the actress, I just like saying “Ruth Buzzi”. The gypsy warns Jennifer that soon she’ll be “in conflict with two animals”, one of which is very close to her. And because I already forgot the title of this movie, I can’t imagine where this is going.
But between this scene and the title, you’d probably get the impression that the movie focuses mainly on Jennifer. In fact, almost all of the scenes feature her mom Leslie, a neglected housewife whose workaholic husband is barely around and never appreciates her (strictly vegetarian) cooking. One day after watching TV news reports of mysterious ferocious animal attacks in the city, Leslie goes out on an errand to get a flea collar for her dog.
She enters a pet store that turns out to be owned by a mysterious, seductive stranger (John Saxon of Enter the Dragon and Mitchell fame) by the name of Harry Thropen. Harry wears big sunglasses most of the time, primarily so that he occasionally lower them to a loud sting of music and reveal a set of fiery orange contact lenses. He quickly casts a spell over Leslie, causing her to babble and stumble and walk around in a daze. Once she gets the flea collar and hurries out of there, Harry takes a moment to devour a rat in a scene totally ripped off from the mini-series V.
Outside, Leslie is immediately the victim of a random purse snatching. In broad daylight, no less. Ever notice how these happen a lot more often in movies than in real life? And how the purse snatcher is almost always a Latino wearing a bandana and a leather jacket? Well, the plot purpose of the mugging soon becomes clear when Harry corners the purse snatcher on a deserted street. He shows off his orange eyes, reveals a pair of huge fangs, and growls like a wolf as he throws the hoodlum through the air, where the guy lands on a pickup truck full of eggs [!].
Harry catches up with Leslie at a restaurant, where he returns her purse and offers to buy her lunch. He takes off his sunglasses, but just when we think we’re about to hear that loud sting of music again, his eyes are now brown. He orders steak tartare (of course) for both of them, but Leslie says she’s a vegetarian. “A pity,” Harry says as he pulls out his own plastic utensils. He claims he never uses silverware because it “spoils the taste,” but I think the rest of us have a pretty good idea that there’s just something about Harry.
Unfortunately, their lunch is cut short when a waiter serves them a flaming dessert. Hilariously, Harry actually hisses [!] at the dessert and runs out, leaving Leslie holding the bill.
She angrily returns to his pet store demanding he pay up, but another look into Harry’s freaky orange eyes and she’s totally under his power. He pours her a martini and puts a live goldfish [??] in the glass. Leslie tosses the goldfish against a wall and downs the martini in about two seconds flat, and I gotta say, I wish I had a mom like that.
Harry wastes no time taking her to the back of his store, where he quite conveniently has a bed all set up. He takes off his shirt, revealing loads of body hair, which unfortunately for John Saxon is no special effect. Harry starts sucking Leslie’s toe, but before things go too far, he bites down and growls and eventually draws blood. This snaps Leslie out of her spell and she immediately goes limping home.
But it seems a change has already started to set in. Instead of the boring, uneventful love life she had before, Leslie is now voracious and lustful and sauntering around her bedroom in lingerie. (And for a moment I wondered if this movie was really called My Mom’s a MILF.) And that night after an (implied) lovemaking session full of howling, Leslie has a plainly American Werewolf in London-inspired dream sequence where she runs through fog in slow motion while stock footage of wolves chase her.
The next day, it turns out Leslie has grown some fangs of her own. She discovers this when she brushes her teeth and amusingly finds the brush totally shredded to pieces afterwards. So what’s a suburban housewife to do when she grows fangs? Why, she immediately runs to see a dentist to have them filed down, of course. But instead, the dentist is stunned to find that file itself ends up worn down to almost nothing.
Leslie stumbles out of the dentist’s office, and is soon driving home, now listening to hair metal and devouring handfuls of raw meat. She also has dark rings around her eyes and wolf-shaped ears, and tufts of white hair have sprouted on her arms.
She freaks out when she finally notices the changes, and wonders how she’ll explain it to her daughter. Luckily for her, however, it’s Halloween, and Jennifer’s having a costume party. What are the odds, huh? Naturally, Leslie just passes off the transformation as part of her costume.
She runs to the bathroom and starts cutting off the fur with scissors and clippers, but all of it instantly grows back in time-lapse footage. And just when Jennifer peeks through the keyhole (in a bathroom door?) and finally sees her mother’s new appearance, Harry shows up.
He finally reveals his true intentions to make Leslie his “were-wife” and have “were-children” with her. In a prime example of this movie’s cornball (but still kind of funny) humor, Leslie replies, “I suppose we’re gonna live in a were-house!”
But thanks to Jennifer’s sidekick Stacey, Jennifer is now equipped with a crucifix and holy water and ready to fight werewolves. Unfortunately, but quite hysterically, Harry splashes the holy water on his face like aftershave, and uses the crucifix to play fetch with the dog.
But it’s a full moon, naturally, which means that both Leslie and Harry soon transform into their fully lupine states. Harry goes to claim Leslie as his were-wife, but apparently she’s not going quietly. This sets up a pretty cool werewolf battle in the master bedroom as Jennifer runs to the rescue.
I won’t spoil the ending, except to say it actually features an appearance by former Fifth Dimension singer and Solid Gold host Marilyn McCoo [!] in what her DVD bio brags is her “feature film debut”. Also appearing for no apparent reason is Kimmy Robertson, best known as the annoying receptionist Lucy from Twin Peaks, who shows up to deliver exactly one line. I have no idea if this was meant to be a cameo by a big name, or if the actress was in an especially bad career slump that week.
Overall, the best word to describe this movie is “harmless”. It’s not quite awful enough to inspire hatred, and not quite good enough to really warrant a recommendation. I found it particularly odd that this movie tries to present itself as a teen horror comedy, while almost the entire running time is devoted to its two middle-aged leads. Jennifer does have an impact on the plot late in the film, but her presence feels mostly tacked on to justify the movie’s title and appeal to the large teen moviegoing audience of the time.
Personally, however, I had no problem with the focus being on the older actors. Susan Blakely carries the movie admirably, and while she doesn’t give a classic comedic performance by any stretch of the imagination, you really have to give her credit for throwing herself so completely into the character. As the DVD points out, this was her first comedic role, and it’s fair to say that after watching her in The Towering Inferno and Airport ’79, I would have never thought her capable of being quite as goofy and loose-limbed as she is here.
And John Saxon may not have much to work with here, but it’s always fun to see him. And really, how many times are you ever going to see the guy sport fangs, growl like a wolf, and toss guys through the air?
Those looking for big laughs or real scares will undoubtedly be bored, but there are far worse ways to spend an afternoon. I suspect Blakely and Saxon did this movie more to have a good time than anything else, and if films were solely judged by the amount of fun its cast had while filming it, then this one is a definite success.