It all began in a community college course circa 1993 when Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf met my contrarian attitude toward required reading.
I ached through a few chapters of the slender novel, which proved to be a valentine of sorts to its author’s shrink, Carl Jung (whom we can thank for archetypal psychology and a surname that will never cease being mispronounced).
The novel was ostensibly about a man having an existential crisis on the eve of his 50th birthday. (So, I guess, every man?) As it happens, I’m turning 50 this July, so naturally, Steppenwolf came to mind.
Steppenwolf 2: The Unwanted Sequel
Out of morbid curiosity, I acquired a new edition of the book, mostly to confirm that I still hated it, and was happy to discover that…I do. Enough, in fact, I instantly wanted to lampoon it as a film and started screenwriting a modern parody: Steppenwolf 2.
I mentioned this to my wife and film producer, Kary, who offhandedly quipped, “You mean, like Teenwolf 2.”
Before I could answer, the worlds of B-grade horror comedy and literary middle-aged angst collided in my mind with such impact that a black hole temporarily formed in my brain, drawing every Gen X crisis and passing thought about werewolves I’d ever pondered into its intoxicating gravity.
There it was all along—the perfect cinematic expression of our inevitable transformation into middle age. The clues were obvious in retrospect—the hair I recently discovered growing out of my ears, the slight recession of the gum line around my canine teeth, the thunderous apnea-induced growls that yanked me from sleep and into the nightmare of my own consciousness and the crushing weight of my artistic ambitions. Not to mention my cyclothymic personality, enslaved, it seems, by the waxing and waning of the moon and its tidal influence on the oceans of wine I’ll find myself bobbing upon like a cork. I had to ask myself… Am I a werewolf?
Maybe metaphorically like Hesse, but really, I’m just getting older. Werewolfism is, however, a useful lens through which to examine issues of physical transformation (or body horror, depending) and the change that comes with age.
In the ’50s, movies like I Was a Teenage Werewolf used the subgenre as a puberty metaphor (ditto Teenwolf in the ’80s and yet again in the past decade), so why not use it on the other side of the age spectrum? And that, friends, is why I’m—having a midlife crisis? No—making a werewolf movie.
Change is good. But film is forever.
A version of this was originally published in the Bohemian.