Wolf Guy (1975)

Akira Inugami solves crimes for a living despite a strong dislike for people, but his latest case strikes close to home when he witnesses a bizarre attack by an invisible assailant. His investigation leads to a young woman, a small army of enemies, and a reminder that he’s the last of his kind… and his kind is lycanthropes.

Inugami is a rarity when it comes to werewolves in that he doesn’t actually transform. I’m not sure if it was a narrative choice or a budgetary one, but rather than grows hairs in unexpected places he simply grows ornery and athletic. He brutalizes multiple opponents, does backflips, and in the most cliched werewolf trope of all he uses his own willpower to suck his exposed intestines back into his gut after they come loose during a fight. Okay, that’s actually a new one when it comes to werewolves, but it’s no less impressive for its uniqueness. One of the bad guys tries to steal his lupine essence and finds a slightly more traditional transformation, but for the most part the wolf-like elements come through in pure attitude. And martial arts.

The great Sonny Chiba takes the lead here, and he makes for one hell of an anti-hero as he fights for what’s right even as he shows his disdain for humanity on a regular basis. The action is down and dirty at times, but as the film moves from revenge tale to one involving ninjas, the Japanese CIA, and assassinations it becomes something of a James Bond riff too as Chiba beds his share of doomed women here. The action is frequent and exciting, the craziness of it all is on full display, and the score feels at times like a jazzy reimagining of a Goblin composition from some forgotten Dario Argento film. It’s a magical piece of genre cinema that in a better world would have earned a sequel or two.

Wolf Guy is available to buy on Blu-ray or rent/buy on streaming services.

The Relic (1997)

An anthropologist visiting South America ships back an ancient relic to Chicago’s Natural History Museum, but it’s not all that arrives. As the museum prepares for a big gala a creature birthed in the crate begins munching down on people left and right.

I had to be reminded that this counts as a human hybrid flick as I completely forgot that the creature is a mutated and evolved anthropologist. We don’t see the transformation, and while it’s a genetic thing it’s one accomplished by members of a local tribe in the deep, dark heart of the jungle. The mash-up of “science” both old and new pairs well with the idea of man blending with other elements of nature to become something new.

Tom Sizemore plays hero here and delights in a rare “normal” guy role, but the film’s real star is the creature and its gory handiwork. The film happily embraces its R-rating with plenty of gory demises, and as the beast’s preferred method of murder is decapitation the film is awash in detached heads. The monster itself is brought to life with both practical effects and CG, and both are pretty fantastic. The former is the strongest, but both hold up two decades later making this a fun creature feature with a highly memorable monster design. Close-ups impress, but a wide shot showing the beast take hold of a man, pull him spread eagle, and then rip his head from his neck is obviously a delight.

The Relic is available to buy on DVD or rent/buy on streaming services.

Black Sheep (2006)

Genetic engineering goes shockingly awry in New Zealand when a farmer dabbling in DNA succeeds in turning docile sheep into carnivorous beasts. As bad as that is, the problem grows worse when it’s discovered that people who are bit but not eaten turn into weresheep. Yeah, you read that right.

Most of the action here involves bloodthirsty sheep munching down on unsuspecting people like they were blades of grass, but the hybrid action comes into play later as people become infected and transform into baaaaad-ass monsters. (I was obligated to do that.) The makeup effects for the weresheep are wonderfully brutish, and while the pairing of human and sheep is more visual than mental — there’s actually a scene involving a weresheep whose rage is kept in check by his limited animal intelligence — a thrilling intensity sits above it all making for a gruesomely entertaining ride through the country.

I was going to avoid films featuring hybrids falling under the “were” or vampiric labels, but the goal of this column is to direct readers towards good to great movies they may have missed, and on that front this horror/comedy deserves more eyeballs. It’s a wonderfully gory romp, and while it’s never scary it delivers plenty of fun and more than a few laughs alongside its copious amount of spurting blood, detached limbs, and open wounds. The sheep effects are equally as stellar with most of it involving killer puppet work making it a fun double feature with the even more under-appreciated Zombeavers which also features puppets and human/beaver hybrids.

Black Sheep is available to rent/buy on streaming services.

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