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RELEASED: 1981, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 85 mins
DIRECTOR: Joe Dante
PRODUCERS: Jack Conrad & Michael Finnell
SCREENPLAY: John Sayles & Terence Winkless
Dee Wallace as Karen White
Christopher Stone as Bill Neill
Robert Picardo as Eddie Quist
Elisabeth Brooks as Marsha Quist
Belinda Balaski as Terri Fisher
Dennis Dugan as Chris Halloran
Patrick MacNee as Dr. Waggner
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Karen White is an investigative journalist and TV news reporter. Whilst being stalked by someone she believes is a serial killer who has been terrorising the community, Karen agrees to set herself up as bait so the police can catch the killer.
After following him into a sleazy porn parlour, Karen is forced by the killer, Eddie Quist, to watch a disturbing movie of sexual torture. After her screams draw the attention of the detectives who have been monitoring the situation, a scared and shocked Karen is taken home after a police marksman shoots Eddie.
Although Karen can remember entering the porn theatre, everything which happened afterwards is a blank in her mind, apart from vague flashbacks she experiences in dreams - yet, these flashbacks are too brief for her to hold onto. Traumatised, she begins to push her husband Bill away from her.
Karen is undergoing therapy with Dr. Waggner, who suggests that she and her husband Bill spend some time at his country retreat known as The Colony, in order to recuperate and relax.
Once at the The Colony, Kate and Bill encounter some of Dr. Waggner's other guest patients, who for the most part are decidedly odd.
Strange things then start to happen, and is the howling at night merely the sound of wild coyotes? Or, is it something else.....and, how come Eddie Quist is one of Dr. Waggner's guests at The Colony, along with Marsha, his vampish, sex-hungry sister?
Meanwhile, Karen's friend Terri Fisher senses something could be wrong after a strange telephone conversation the two women had. Terri engages the help of Chris Halloran, her boyfriend, and they both go on a quest to try and find out what is happening.
To begin with a quick, coincidental aside....I am typing this as a full moon is peeping through the tree branches....an owl is hooting in the distance, and right outside my living-room window, a fox yells a drawn-out, high-pitched baying sound to his or her mate.
The Howling is a film which I was convinced I'd seen before, but my recent viewing showed me I was obviously thinking of something else.
The proceedings get off to quite a good start, with the scene nicely set as Karen allows herself to be used as a police decoy in order to assist with the capture of serial killer Eddie Quist. The scenes set inside the porn parlour are well done and moderately disturbing, plus the aftermath as Karen and her husband try to settle back into normal life when the dust has settled, are put across convincingly.
Then, all is about to go haywire when Karen and Bill arrive at Dr. Waggner's therapeutical country retreat, The Colony. At first, The Colony seems like quite an unusual and interesting place, as there are some pretty strange characters present....but, it is at this point in the film where it all falls apart for me.
The acting by the whole cast is merely average....not all that good yet not too bad, but I found large swathes of the dialogue left a lot to be desired. It doesn't help when mediocre actors meet a less than mediocre screenplay, and I found the combination of the two in this instance yielded a distinctly lacklustre film from the conversational aspect.
Quite a few special effects are used and I don't doubt they were fairly good for 1981, but as far as filming techniques are concerned, The Howling in my opinion has to humble itself against An American Werewolf In London which was released the same year. Also, An American Werewolf In London is full of surprises, whereas The Howling is so desperately predictable from the point where Karen and Bill arrive at The Colony, that it turns out to be no more than just another run-of-the-mill werewolf film.
As the whole shebang wore on once the good bits were done and dusted, I found myself becoming increasingly bored with The Howling. I was able to anticipate every single thing which was about to happen, which of course mars the enjoyment factor of any film. Although this is a pretty short movie, I found that it really dragged, especially from just after the halfway point onwards. Everything was as expected, with little or no fear factor, no chills down the spine, no wondering if that really is the wind rattling against the window outside or something worse, no jumping out of my skin, no parts where I felt I had to look away from the screen for a moment....so, aside from the beginning, what for me was good about The Howling? Answer = nothing!
I do have the feeling that some minor parts of The Howling are possibly intended to be tinged with a vague sort of humour, but these little slivers didn't touch my funny bone at all. For most of my viewing time, my mind kept drifting onto An American Werewolf In London, making possibly unfair comparisons, preferring it and wishing I was watching it instead of The Howling. I appreciate that each film mood-wise is very different to the other, but there are similar aspects which in The Howling are little short of sub-standard in comparison.
The Howling was adapted from a novel, and I have no idea how closely it sticks to the original storyline, but whether it does or doesn't, I was left feeling unfulfilled, bored and firmly deciding that I never want to see it again.
I understand that there have been several sequels to The Howling over the years, none of which I have seen - nor do I intend to - and I just hope that at least one of them along the way has resulted in some kind of improvement. I can see within the first in the run of The Howling movies that there is capacity to expand and continue the storyline, but I just wonder if to do so has been worth it.
The Howling may appeal to people who have a morbid fascination with werewolves, but I feel that there are other, far better examples of this section of the horror genre which can be enjoyed.
.....20 minutes later....the fox is still baying and the full moon is still bright through the trees, having moved across the sky a little...but the owl appears to have shut up shop for the night.
At the time of writing, The Howling can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.22 to £20.73
Used: only one copy currently available @ £7.64
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
This is an early 80's movie, dipping into the Werewolves genre. It actually does quite a good job at being original and managing to stick to the werewolves guidelines and rules, but place them in the 1980's world.
This is a simple movie, with a good story, unfortunately made about 15 years to early. Instead of remaking classics that are fine, maybe they should remake this series.
Story (May contain spoilers)
Karen White is a reporter on the story of a serial killer, a strange killer who would only contact her. Karen for the police goes on a mission to track him down ending up in an adult store where he starts to attack her. Luckily the police find her in time to save her.
Karen has trouble handling the ordeal. Here memory faded, but flash backs happening affecting her normal life as a newscaster, her relationship, etc. she sees a psychiatrist whom recommends a retreat, to try and relax and come to terms with the ordeal.
While there she starts to learn about werewolves and starts to discover the serial killer was a werewolf from a pack that lives near her retreat and that they exist. She tries to deal with this, unfortunately not realising whom actually is involved and gets trapped.
Luckily help arrives, but is it in time, or will she be turned or killed?
The acting is typical early 80's horror. It is pretty convincing but none of the effects to back it up.
The special effects are those of the early 80's blood looking a tad too orange, none of the actual even really seen on the screen.
Overall it is an acceptable movie, but easily overshadowed by the special effects on similar storylines today. The movie series was clearly successful as there were 6 sequels, which I am now working on watching. The first movie certainly did not have a drastic effect on making me ever want to watch it again, or keep my attention fully on it
When you take into account my appreciation for every Joe Dante movie I've ever taken in, couple it with the fact that I absolutely love Horror movies, more specifically werewolf ones, you really have to wonder why it has taken me so long to get around to seeing Dante's second full-movie, 1981's The Howling. Indeed, it wasn't until Momentum Pictures released a fancy Special Edition Region 2 DVD in a flashy box that I finally purchased it and took it home for a watch.
Oddly enough, my introduction to The Howling didn't actually come from Joe Dante's movie, but instead some of the film's utterly contemptible sequels released in subsequent years. While I haven't seen all 6 sequels, I've seen enough to safely assure you that overall, The Howling really wasn't meant to be a franchise. New-Wave She-Wolves, Australian Were-Kangaroos, rehashes of the original with dogs instead of werewolves and Power Rangers-esque showdowns between Werewolves and Vampires all characterise the film's sequels, none of which are related to one-another, so my expectations going into the film were really in limbo. Sure a Joe Dante film about werewolves had huge potential to be a favourite of mine...but how good could it really be if The Howling 3:The Marsupials spawned from it?
The Howling began life as a cheap novel by a chap named Gary Brandner, the rights of which were picked up by AVCO, who originally brought in Terence H. Winkless to produce a screenplay based closely on the novel, for use by an un-named director, who shortly thereafter left the project. Not too long afterwards, a young director named Joe Dante, who cut his teeth with B-Movie Overlord Roger Corman, making his directorial debut for old Rog' with 1978's Piranha, was approached with regards to taking over as director. Dante was, at the time attached to the proposed second Jaws sequel, a spoof titled Jaws 3 People 0, but given that it seemed to be going nowhere, be quickly jumped ship to take over the reins on The Howling. One of his first actions was to do away with Winkless script and bring in his Piranha partner-in-crime John Sayles to script the movie, essentially ignoring the novel that the movie was supposedly 'based' upon, much to Brander's displeasure.
The movie recieved a spanner in the works early doors, and a spanner that would come back in boomerang fashion upon release to haunt Dante and co. in the form of original special effects man Rick Baker leaving the project. He had long had plans with John Landis to make a werewolf picture, plans that appeared to be going nowhere, so he agreed to work on Dante's movie, the lure of the werewolf drawing him in. However, when Landis caught wind of this, within a very short space of time his werewolf picture was ready for production, and Baker jumped ship to work upon it, suggesting that Dante hire Rob Bottin, another chap he had already worked with on Piranha, to fill the effects man's shoes. Dante obliged that, and Bottin's transformation scene is now one of the most famous in cinema history. However, Landis movie would come to bite The Howling on the ass again, released shortly afterwards, the big budget An American Werewolf in London trounced the lower-budgeted Dante movie at the box-office and saw to it that The Howling was relegated to footnote status with regards to how mainstream cinema dictates horror-movie history to have played out.
The movie follows a TV newscaster named Karen White(Dee Wallace - Critters) who has agreed to meet a vicious serial killer stalking the streets of LA as a means to helping the police catch him. She meets 'Eddie the Mangler'(Robert Picardo - 976-EVIL) in a grimy porn-shop, where police on her tail gun him down as he attacks her. Visibly shaken by these events, the psychiatrist who works at her TV station, Dr. Waggner(Patrick Macnee - Waxwork), suggest that she and her husband Bill(Christopher Stone - Warhead) go spend a few weeks at his secluded retreat, known as The Colony, which is essentially a health-spa with help-groups which Waggner feels will help Karen come to terms with her problems and bring an end to the nightmares she has been having since the night she met Eddie.
When they reach the colony, things seem a little weird. While some of the people are friendly, certain elements of the populace worry Karen. An old man who seems suicidal and the Quist family, consisting of feral-boy TC(Don Mcleod - Hook) and the nymphomaniac with eyes for Bill, Marsha(Elisabeth Brooks - Deep Space) both seem to have something against her, and despite everyone else's outwardly welcoming appearance, Karen sense something is wrong.
Kept awake by howling in the night, and noticing Bill, a former vegetarian, has developed a taste for meat, Karen phones her friends Terry(Belinda Balaski - Piranha) and Chris(Dennis Dugan - Happy Gilmore) and asks if they will come up to keep her company. Chris can't make it right away, but Terry appears shortly thereafter. Terry soon senses something is afoot in The Colony, especially when she notices that a certain view is identical to a landscape drawing found in the apartment of Eddie The Mangler, whose corpse subsequently went mysteriously missing after being brought to the morgue. However, mid-phone-call to Chris she is interrupted and killed by a werewolf, leaving Karen on her own in The Colony as Bill is seduced by Marsha. It soon becomes clear to Karen that Eddie, despite taking a bullet in the head, is very much alive, and like the rest of the Colony, he is more than human. As her situation becomes more desperate, withe the beasts deliberating if they should eat her or convert her, only Chris, with the aid of some silver bullets he bought from an occult bookstore, can save her, but even then it's a race against time.
The first thing that strikes a repeat-Dante viewer about The Howling is that in comparison to his other movies, it's far more straight-played, and what comedy there is takes a more subtle approach. In fact, many of the movie's comedy elements aren't even designed to make the viewer laugh, just plain smile, more homages than jokes. Dante clearly knows his horror movies, which he references not only with his wonderful cast, but also the naming of many of his characters after Werewolf movie directors are a fun little touch to the film, as is the footage from The Wolf Man. Possibly the biggest laugh will be had by those who've seen Gremlins, and were observant enough to clock the name of the news reporter at the end of the movie, a character who originated here.
While this may disappoint some viewers, personally I enjoy the film as a straight-up-horror, and feel it's probably one of the best werewolf movies we've been treated to full stop. While it is incredibly guilty of dragging on in the middle, I do feel that the picture really does have enough going for it at the start and the end, and even the non-exciting middle portion is interesting enough to maintain the viewer's attention, for me to warrant saying it's a very good movie. I love the start of the film, showing the grimy and seedy underbelly of the city, and the end, as the supposedly picturesque and peaceful Colony is revealed to be a facade which ends in a hail of silver-bullets and flames.
One of the film's biggest pros is the interesting stance it takes upon werewolves. Up until this point, the creatures had always been portrayed in an Incredible Hulk style character, where the human side is a cursed and regrettful, not to mention unwilling and tortured soul who wants nothing to do with their killer side. In The Howling, the werewolves love their 'gift', most notably Eddie, and they love their ability to transform into lethal killing machines.
It also brings us to another interesting point, in that the film toys around with familair werewolf lore. Full Moons are now rendered "Hollywood bullshit", with the creatures being able to transform any time, at will. While silver-bullets are still a consistant manner of disposing of the beasts(which leads to one amusing scene as a cocky Eddie hands Chris his gun back, unaware that it's loaded with silver bullets), The Howling could also be seen as creating a new type of werewolf in terms of physical appearace. Universal and Hammer's werewolves had been very humanoid, just sporting a lot of hair and sharp teeth and claws, a few other films had seen their protagonists actually transform into wolves. The Howling however, sees it's beasts take a unique form...that of a tall and slender bipedal wolf. Personally this has always been my favourite werewolf 'look', as it presents the best step between man and beast, as both other options make it too close to one or the other.
I'm also a fan of the fact that the movie doesn't rely on too many cheap, 'jump' scares, and instead relies on building up a creepy atmosphere for the viewer to get sucked into, as we know there is something afoot at The Colony, but it's never clear to us up until the end, when it's revealed to Karen, the severity of the situation, which really helps with the tension. The beginning, with it's seedy look at the city, 'complimented' by the fake rape movie shown in the porno theatre where Eddie attacks Karen, is frightening for obvious reasons, yet The Colony, in it's secluded nature, provides an entirely different kind of menace.
What further augments The Howling above it's B-Movie status is the calbire of acting it boasts. Dee Wallace was always a good Scream Queen, mainly because she actually seemed to totally immerse herself in her role, no matter how bad a horror movie it was the role was in. Here she puts forth a solid and thouroughly well-played performance as Karen, who seems to go from one horror to another. While Christopher Stone, who later married her, turning her into Dee Wallace-Stone, isn't the most inspiring actor, neither is the other 'leading man' in Dugan, but the rest of the cast all range from good up to brilliant. Macnee, Balaski and Brooks all capture their roles perfectly, yet it's really the cameos who steal the show, with B-Movie legends Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine and Dick Miller all chalking up wonderful and quirky little performances, most notably Miller, who, as in almost all of Dante's movies, is the show stealer with his brilliant portrayal of the owner of the Occult bookstore.
While the loss of Rick Baker was definitely a setback to the production of the movie, personally I feel that Rob Bottin more than fills his shoes. While An American Werewolf in London is famous for it's special effects...personally I feel that The Howling blows it completely out of the water in this respect. While Landis' movie has also boasts a wonderful transformation scene, the actual werewolf is almost laughable, The Howling has lithe and snarling monsters that Bottin can be incredibly proud of, especially given that he had a fraction of the budget Baker did. Sure the one scene of the stop-motion wolves, thrown in quite gratuitously towards the end of the movie, looks a bit cheap, the general appearances of the monsters, as well as the mind-blowing transformation scene, in which condoms were placed under a layer of latex over Robert Picardo's skin and inflated, amongst other techniques. While, as Dante himself admits, the scene drags on a little long, its the movie's 'money shot', and for a low budget picture, to have such effects will still look great today is a testament to Bottin's talents.
If there is one aspect of the movie that is incredibly inconsistant, it's Pino Donaggio's organ based score. While in places it is brilliantly creepy, in others it sounds a tad out of place. I'd say the good moments outnumber the bad, but not really by all that much.
While it may be a B-Movie, at times a nasty, sleazy one, I still can't help but feel that The Howling is a very good picture, and quite easily the best 'modern' telling of the werewolf legend available on celluloid. Landis' movie is not the classic many make it out to be, and personally I regard this film quite a bit higher than I do it. It's scarier, and features a lot of nice little touches that horror movie afficondos will pick up and appreciate, as well as featuring some of the best werewolves the screen has ever witnessed, thanks to some of the best effects ever accomplished on a fairly low budget. While it's advisable that you stay away from the sequels, Dante's original is a movie that doesn't deserve to have it's name sullied by being placed in the same series as those films, and it doesn't even sit next to the sequels I own on my DVD shelf.
The aforementioned fancy DVD release is a joy for fans of the film, featuring interviews with Dante and other members of the cast in a nice and informative documentary, as well as the expected deleted scenes and outtakes, trailers and so on. The type of solid and interesting bonus content we wish all our films came with.
Review also posted on Epinions.com
When investigative journalist Karen White starts to receive strange phone calls from a man known only as Eddie, she quickly deduces that the voice on the other end of the phone may possibly be that of a notorious serial killer who is terrorising local women. To try and lure the killer out into the open, she agrees to go undercover, continuing to take Eddie's calls and eventually agreeing to meet him. Although wearing a police wire, Eddie lures her to a local sex club where the police signal is broken and Karen is left on her own. In the darkness of the peepshow booth, she is frozen with fear when she finally comes face to face with the killer, and it is only thanks to the quick thinking of two police officers that she escapes the man's clutches. With Eddie dead from a gunshot wound to the head, everyone believes that the dark episode is finally over.
But Karen is unable to recover quite so quickly. Haunted by dark visions of the incident and suffering from a partial amnesia, she is referred to a doctor/psychologist, De George Waggner. Dr Waggner believes that she needs a break from the city and refers her to a small settlement in the woods, known as The Colony. Here, he recommends that she will be able to rest and recuperate, safe in the small, intimate community of like-minded, traumatised individuals. With nothing to lose, she and her husband Bill set off for a break and initially she is happy with what she finds.
But The Colony yields dark secrets. As Karen and her husband drift further apart, a beautiful local woman named Marsha leads the man into temptation. At night, a strange howling in the woods often wakes Karen and she feels as though she is being watched. Back in the city, two of her journalist peers continue to investigate the serial killer case and three days' after the deranged killer was shot dead, his body disappears from the mortuary. As they research the case further, all the clues indicate that they may be dealing with a werewolf - but is it too late to save Karen from the clutches of the lupine fiend?
Gary Brandner's werewolf novel The Howling was the first horror novel that I can recall reading. As a fairly young teenager, the graphic violence and explicit sexual content seemed devilishly enticing, but these things aside, I always thought that the story was excellent too. Genuinely suspenseful, dark and mysterious, it remains one of my favourite novels in the genre. In 1981, three years after his dabble in the water with the Jaws rip-off Piranha, Joe Dante directed the film version of the book, which has since gone on to be an acclaimed episode in werewolf movie history. Indeed, in the following ten years, the film spawned no fewer than five further sequels.
Watching the film now, it is still easy to see why the film was such a hit. Twenty-four years after the film was first released, it remains sharp, atmospheric and enticing. Sure, the special effects would certainly no longer be hailed as groundbreaking, but the film needs to be taken in context. The transition from novel to film is patchy, but The Howling remains an entertaining slice of monster-horror mayhem. Even the movie poster (the cover of the DVD too) is iconic.
One of the things that work particularly well about The Howling is that the events revolve around a genuinely interesting story. The plot flows well, gradually cranking up the tension as more and more clues about what is going on are revealed to cast and audience and as characters start to reveal their true colours. The action in The Colony is offset by the journalistic investigations in the city, but you know it is only a matter of time before the two separate situations collide. Every attempt is made to be eerie too, with Dante using the misty woodland setting to particularly good effect. Notably making an attempt not to be constrained by convention, however, Dante dispenses with some of the lycanthropic limitations of full moons. In The Howling, the shape shifter walks at a time when it suits him, whether it be daylight or not ..
And what of the werewolf? Transforming the man into the monster was always likely to be a technically difficult task to accomplish, but Dante never really shies away from the task. Indeed, he fairly lingers on the transformation. Skin bubbles and bursts, bones break and reform, eyes ooze and mutate and fur and claws seem to sprout from just about every orifice. It's a gruesome, unpleasant and fairly astounding scene, given especially that the film is well over 20 years old. The rest of the film is not overly gory, the director preferring instead to focus on the suspense and drama rather than going for an out and out gore-fest. It's a well-placed decision -The Howling is far more effective as a thriller than a full-on horror film. Dante's love of the genre is evident throughout and if you look closely there are clues everywhere. In the doctor's office, for example, a picture of Lon Chaney adorns the wall, famous for his role as the wolfman in the early days of filmmaking. In Karen's bedroom, a picture of a wolf amidst a flock of sheep sits above the headboard and the novel of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" sits next to a telephone. These are great touches, setting a feeling of (dark) humour and affection amidst an otherwise bleak tale.
Criticisms? The Howling certainly isn't perfect. Much of the darkness in the novel is lost in the transformation to film, due in part to the director cramming so much into what is a fairly short running time. The characters of The Colony are never fully developed and the mystery definitely unravels far more quickly than it does in the book. I rather felt that the sexuality of the story was slightly lost in the movie, too. Marsha's dark, deep sensuality portraying her as more of a psychopathic nympho than a sexual enigma. Karen White, played by Dee Wallace, is a disappointing heroine too, seeming intent to become nothing more than a scream queen. Patrnick Macnee's (The Avengers) portrayal of Dr Waggner is affectionate but generally out of place and the supporting cast of strangers and weirdos could have been exploited far more. The animation employed to portray Marsha and Karen's husband first "climax" results in a very poorly comprised moonlit silhouette that would have been far better omitted than exposing the film's technical limitations.
Nonetheless, The Howling is a competent horror "creature feature", perfectly suited to a dark night huddled up on the sofa. It's exciting, scary, atmospheric and subtly humorous too - a perfect, no-brain movie combination. Set your stopwatch running until the Hollywood remake machine churns out a new version of the movie
Joe Dante’s werewolf movie The Howling has all the right elements to be a classic of the horror genre. Unfortunately it came out around the same time as An American Werewolf In London and was somewhat eclipsed by the popularity of that movie and then was completely crushed by a series of really terrible sequels. Its shame because The Howling is actually a rather good movie, packed with in jokes and some intelligent handling of the subject matter, and is still worth a look some 20 years after its release. News reporter Karen White(Dee Wallace Stone) is given the opportunity to meet a serial killer(Robert Picardo) who has been plaguing the city. It would be an enormous boost for her station’s rating so ever hungry for a scoop she agrees. Wearing a police wire etc. for precautions she meets him in a sleazy peep show booth where something incredibly traumatic happens which she can not remember, but the result is that the killer is shot and killed by the police. weeks after the event she is still plagued by nightmares and her doctor(Patrick Macnee) advises her to go to a secluded retreat - known aptly as “The Retreat” where she can clear her head and come back afresh. She does, moving along with her husband(Dennis Dagan) to the secluded island...will is an event which will change her life. Her buddies at the new station carry on investigations into the killer, uncovering the bizarre fact that he was a werewolf, and worse still that werewolves are like cockroaches, where one is, they’ll be a whole lot more...and that whole lot more happens to be on found on The Retreat! They stock up on weaponry and all hell breaks loose... Dee Wallace Stone has carried a movie before when she played the single adult character seen for mst of the movie in the Stephen King adaptation Cujo. There she proved herself to be a more than capable actress and here she carries on proving the quality she has in such roles. Her performance as Karen whi
te is impecable but for once she is not alone because all performances here are solid, not something you will hear anyone say too often about a horror movie. Dagan is a little on the dull side, but not awful, Macnee good as the doctor but the casting of Picardo is inspired as he gives an enormously creepy, sleazy performance. Its refreshing to not sit here slagging off a director’s choice of actors for a horror movie, it seems that Dante actually put some thought into this and actually went about giving some life and character to his players as well. As a result you actually do care about what happens to them which means that when the fur starts to fly in the final half hour its all the more thrilling because of it. Fans of the genre will appreciate the dark humour which The Howling has, even going so far as to include such in-jokes as naming all the characters after directors of werewolf movies. Where else can you see two werewolves making whoopie by a campfire either, or hear lines like “I just wanted to give you a piece of my mind” before the speaker dislodges a bullet from his head and plops it into his next victim’s hand. Perhaps the main talking point to this movie though is the transformation scenes which are quite awsome and will lave you longing for the days when a true special effects maestro could work wonders with latex and gelatine rather than movie makers opting for the easy way out in CGI animation claptrap..watch An American Werewolf In Paris and then compare it with its predecessor from 20 years ago and then tell me which is better. The Howling has the same make up artist who won an Oscar for his work on the aforementioned movie in the 80s, although it is fair to say that he workied on mistakes here to perfect his technique in that movie. Nevertheless, its still awesome and very gruesome stuff with the gore level being pitched just about right - its not pretty viewing, there is a disembowelment, a severed hand, acid
thrown in someone’s face, but there’s far worse out there. Dante, has produced a werewolf movie to be proud of if you ask me. The dark, brooding locations and low lighting simply add to the great atmosphere which this movie builds, before all hell breaks loose in the woods towards the end - again, a perfect location for the horrors about to ensue. Its an intelligent horror flick, with characters who are more than just wolf food, and special effects to die for and is definitely one I would recommend to anyone any genre fan who has let it somehow slip by them...or to anyone else who fancies a bit of a scare anytime in the near future.
Joe Dante went on to bigger and better things after The Howling with films such as Gremlins and even Small Soldiers. The Howling is an obvious homage to previous werewolf efforts but feels like a 1970's TV movie with added werewolf effects. A news reporter travels to a local community and finds them besieged by a werewolf with an infectious bite! The effects themselves are very, very dated and reveal how small the budget must have been. Just when the effects look interesting the camera cuts away to worried faces instead, which is not what you want in a werewolf movie. All of the outside locations are obviously sets and the colours in the cinematography are dated and dull. A wasted opportunity, but it's still nice to see a werewolf movie for a change. Not as good as An American Werewolf In London, which was followed a year later.
This movie was followed by a number of sequels, but as is often the case, this first one is by far the best. It was directed by Joe Dante, who would later go on to make GREMLINS, and although Dante has great skill at combining horror with comedy, in this film, the slant is more on the horror side of things. The actors carry the movie very well, particularly Dee Wallace, and it is amusing to see Robert Picardo (later The Doctor in STAR TREK VOYAGER) as a killer at the beginning of the movie.
This Joe Dante (Piranha, Gremlins) directed movie has a reputation as a great spoof. But frankly, most of the jokes need you to have a PHd in pre 1960 werewolf movies for you to get. What remains is an effective but flawed werewolf movie which started some of the trends of 80s horror cinema. The basic story is that a reporter is attacked by a serial killer, (played by Start Trek Voyager's Robert Picado!) who also happens to be a werewolf. She survives, but decides to track down a colony where she thinks he was hiding out She then takes an hour to work out that everyone in the colony is also a werewolf. While tongue in cheek at times, the humour is overpowered by the horror. Rob Bottin (The Thing) makes some incredible transformation scenes, a forerunner of the following year' An American Werewolf In London, and nearly as effective. But the film is fairly slow, uneven in tone and with an ending which is either cleverly ironic or completley annoying, depending on your point of view. Overall, a nicely made film which is a notch above most of its imitators (and its 6 unrelated sequels), but ultimately unsatisfyingly uneven.