The Howling

"Very Good"

The Howling Review


Werewolves are the least-regarded of all the classic monsters. While vampires have all the sex appeal and mummies have already had their blockbuster remake, werewolves have a tendency to seem low-rent and shaggy; basically like really angry dogs. 1981 changed all that with a brief two-film comeback for the hairy beasts: John Landis's An American Werewolf in London and Joe Dante's The Howling. Superior both in terms of its story and sense of humor, The Howling shares American Werewolf's post-modern cheekiness but knows when to rein it in and let the wolves howl.

Starting in a welter of televised static, the movie's setup is straight from a standard thriller: TV anchorwoman Karen White (Dee Wallace, one year before E.T.) is taking part in a police sting. She's been receiving letters from a man claiming to be the brutal serial killer currently terrorizing L.A., and as part of the sting, has agreed to meet him. After a cop mix-up and a horrific encounter between Karen and the killer in a peepshow booth, the killer is shot dead. Karen keeps having bad dreams, however, prompting her psychologist, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), to send her up the coast to convalesce at The Colony, a retreat where his teachings - vague mumbo-jumbo about harmonizing the relationship between one's animal and civilized selves and something called "The Gift" - are put into practice. Then she starts hearing all that howling in the woods around her cabin...

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the good doctor and his Colony are hiding something and that that something has to do with werewolves. This becomes even clearer when a couple of Karen's reporter friends back in L.A. start trying to put together the pieces around the demised serial killer (whose body later disappears from the morgue), which necessitates a visit to an occult bookshop which fortunately has silver bullets for sale. But the who and the why are not terribly important here, as the focus is mostly on the humor, much of it satirizing the California self-help craze of the 1970s, along with the special effects. The werewolf transformations are quite effective (they're done by Rob Bottin, who went on to do great work in The Thing and other horror classics), though obvious budgetary constraints often keep The Howling from delivering that many serious scares.

Helping the horror/humor marriage is director Joe Dante, whose later mini-classic Gremlins this movie most resembles, and co-scripter John Sayles, who knew how to knock out a good pulp story back before becoming America's most socially-conscious moviemaker (not that there's anything wrong with that). You could fashion a good drinking game out of catching all the sight gags, like a copy of Ginsberg's Howl left on a desk, a running joke involving smiley-face stickers, etc.

As befits a true B-grade horror flick, the leads are all pretty replaceable, with most of the golden moments left to the character actors, played by B-movie vets like Slim Pickens, John Carradine, and Dante regular Dick Miller (who gets a plum role as the owner of the occult bookshop: "Silver bullets or fire, that's the only way to get rid of the damn things. They're worse than cockroaches").

The MGM Special Edition DVD of The Howling presents a decent package. The picture transfer itself doesn't look that great, but that's more likely because the original was shot so cheaply. There's plenty of extras, like a lengthy selection of deleted scenes (all of which look to have been judiciously cut), outtakes, and commentary from Dante and several of the cast members.

Why is he howling? Because of the ugly mini-blinds.



The Howling

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th April 1981

Budget: $1000 thousand

Distributed by: MGM Home Entertainment

Production compaines: AVCO Embassy Pictures, International Film Investors, Wescom Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Daniel H. Blatt, , , Steven A. Lane

Starring: as Dr. George Waggner, as Chris, as R. William 'Bill' Neill, as Terry Fisher, as Fred Francis, as Erle Kenton, as Sam Newfield, Elisabeth Brooks as Marsha Quist, as Eddie Quist, Margie Impert as Donna, as Charlie Barton, as Jerry Warren, Jim McKrell as Lew Landers, as Shantz, as Bookstore Customer, Robert A. Burns as Porn Store Patron, as Gas Station Attendant, as Morgue Attendant, as Man in Phone Booth, Kenneth Tobey as Older Cop, as Walter Paisley - Bookstore Owner, Dee Wallace as Karen White

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.