In the company of werewolves

Even a man who's pure at heart and says his prayers by night may not be familiar with some of the most interesting werewolf movies out there. If you've seen the classics, from "The Wolf Man" (1941) to the 1981 trio of "An American Werewolf in London," "Wolfen" and "The Howling," then you're ready to sink your teeth into these lesser-known gems. Call it claws-and-effect.

"The White Reindeer"/"Valkoinen Peura" (1952) - Not available on video, this hauntingly beautiful tale of a werewolflike creature in Finnish Lapland, where it was filmed, uniquely captures the agony of loss and the emptiness of vengeance. One of the best cinematic adaptations of folkloric shape-shifter myths, it captures the soul of how those legends originate.

"The Company of Wolves" (1984) - Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game," "Interview With the Vampire") combines three stories by feminist author Angela Carter within a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood," with wolves as symbols of a preadolescent girl's fears and desires. Stephen Rea, David Warner, Angela Lansbury and Terence Stamp star.

"Bad Moon" (1996) - Michael Pare, newly infected by a werewolf, goes to stay with sis Mariel Hemingway and her son. But who knows his secret? The family dog, Thor, a protective German shepherd that can smell something's not right. Eric Red's film explores the werewolf as animal.

"Ginger Snaps" (2000) - A Canadian film released in the United States a year later, it's a rare film featuring a female werewolf - in this case, a high schooler (Katharine Isabelle) accursed with the most horrific puberty metaphor since Stephen King's Carrie.

- Frank Lovece, Newsday