My Love of 80s Films: Teen Wolf

Cast: Michael J Fox, James Hampton, Susan Ursitti

Director: Rod Daniel

Synopsis: Scott Howard is an average high school student with a desire to be more popular. One day his whole life changes when he turns into a werewolf – a family secret his dad has been keeping from him.

I am a big fan of 80s films, including The Goonies, Back to the Future and The Princess Bride. Teen Wolf fits nicely into those 80s classics, even if some people might not call it a cult classic, due to its success at the box office. It made over $6 million in the US and over $33 million worldwide with only a $1 million budget. But its critics rating was lower than expected.

This may have been due to the somewhat recurring theme of that era – high school student wanting to stand out from the crowd and wanting to get the girl, while dealing with some coming-of-age issue. While it was (and still is, somewhat) a theme used a lot, I love the feel of 80s films similar to this.

The music, outfits and style of this time are something I have always enjoyed and allow for a particular fantastical escapism. On top of that there are some amazing actors from that period who were just starting out in their careers and had a lot to give (and perhaps prove).

I recently re-watched Teen Wolf, which is what prompted this article. This time round I noticed that there isn’t a lot of plot, but it’s still a great deal of fun. Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is desperate to be more than average. His best friend Boof (Susan Ursitti) constantly expresses her feelings for him, but he ignores her advances, frantically trying to get the ‘popular’ girl at school to like him. Despite these flaws you can’t help but be drawn to his character; Michael J. Fox pulls off a brilliantly likeable performance.

Something that I find a lot (and enjoy) in these sorts of 80s films is the acceptance of supernatural occurrences. When everyone at school finds out Scott is a werewolf it actually makes him popular. There is no question of how or why, it just is. The film isn’t about accepting someone who is different, it’s about the general high school highs and lows.

Although the film is a comedy it does mix other genres such as horror and romance, and I think it achieves this blend nicely. Re-watching it, I will admit it wasn’t as funny as the first time I saw it, but there are still some great comedic scenes, including one with Scott and his dad.

Perhaps my vested interest in this film is Michael J. Fox and the energy he brings - not many actors can play a high school student in their twenties and get away it! I think it’s one of Fox’s best performances and one he should get more recognition for. Taking this all into account, you can overlook the loose plot and comical werewolf makeup and accept this film for what it is – a fun 80s movie.

Written by Rebecca Perkin

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