The Howling (1981)
Director: Joe Dante
Starring: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone
A newscaster is sent in an amnesiac state after a traumatic encounter with a serial killer. She is sent with her husband to live in a healing community called the colony it hides a more sinister secret.
Ever since I saw a poster for The Howling I wanted to see it I love werewolves as a monster and I hade high hopes for this movie. It sadly did not live up to my expectations. The Howling was realized in the same year as another iconic werewolf flick An American Werewolf In London, both films featured the excellent makeup and effects work of Rick Baker but in the battle of werewolves, American Werewolf leaves The Howling shredded on the ground for me.
Now the movie certainly had talent behind it. I love Joe Dante, and Rick Baker is one of my favorite special effects artists just behind Jack Pierce. And the effects, as you might expect, are great they are not just a copy and paste version of his werewolf from American Werewolf. This shows a much more horrific, oozy and gory transformation into the lycanthropic monster means it is much more visceral. And while the mechanics behind the transformation scene in American Werewolf make it one of my favorite scenes I think I prefer the much more horror movie like transformations of The Howling. The horror is also great I have always found it hard to be scared by werewolves as a monster but this movie combined atmosphere and the predatory camera angles to make the characters feel truly helpless. These are all great things about the movie and I would watch it again just for those but with the good comes the bad.
The characters in this movie are very plain not very deep and not very complex we get introduced to them for what feels like a few seconds and their roles within the movie are not clearly defined. It was unclear to me what role Dr. Waggner (Patrick Macnee) had until Karen (Dee Wallace) was in his therapy room but he had been in the movie for a while. There was some slight character background between the main couple of the story who’s unfulfilled sexual desires play in the plot. The heroes of the movie suddenly come to the front after being background characters who’s names we don’t even know until halfway through the movie.
Another issue I had, and to be fair this may be a problem with the Blu-Ray
edition that I bought, was that I could not hear most of the background actors. They may have explained who Dr. Waggner was but if they were I couldn’t hear it. They seemed to mumble their way through the movie. I talked to a friend and he said he had noticed the same problem on other Blu Rays so it is most likely just a problem with the Blu Ray and not the fault of the movie. For the record I baought the Collector’s Edition Blu Ray.
Another point of interest for the movie, and this feels neither good nor bad, is the intense sexuality of the movie there is a palpable sexual undertone throughout. I think on the one hand that is great as it creates a feeling of the animal magnetism of the werewolves and the audience themselves can almost feel it, But on the other hand the scene at the beginning at the Adult store were Karen is forced to watch a porno of a woman being raped will be a little strong for some audiences tastes.
So as I said this movie did not live up to my expectations but that does not mean it was terrible or even bad I had really high hopes for this film so if they are not met it can still be an okay movie. What it does right it does really well but with no investment in these flat characters, I was left not really being able to connect or care for them.
So The Howling, worth a viewing for sure but I wouldn’t feel a rush to add it to your collection. Do you disagree? What is your favorite werewolf flick? let me know in the comments or on twitter @MCMoovies and I will see you next time.