BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE HOWLING (Scream!)

By • Jan 28th, 2014 •

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Certain monster movies come with certain rules, and as an audience we’re waiting for those rules to be followed. This can sometimes take us away from the experience as we keep looking for scenes that we know are coming – the first vampire bite, the first zombie rising from the grave, the first werewolf transformation. Thus we have THE HOWLING, a werewolf movie that knows very well that it’s a werewolf movie and also knows how to keep a werewolf-familiar audience entertained and, dare I say it, scared.

We follow Karen White (Dee Wallace), a popular news reporter, so popular in fact that she has a hardcore stalker named Eddie. The police plan to catch him by setting up a meeting between him and Karen, which works out, but it traumatizes Karen so much that she and her husband decide to go to a country resort so she can recover.

All the people at this resort are pretty strange, but one in particular, a woman dressed in black named Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), tries to seduce Karen’s husband. He refuses but Marsha has other ideas. And that’s all I dare say about it because this movie impressed me so much that I’d consider it a felony to reveal anything more.

The characters are really likable. Ms. Wallace gives a very organic performance, you can tell she truly believes what she’s seeing. Too many films like this have a portion of the film dedicated to convincing the characters that what’s happening is real, but here we have characters looking up old werewolf folktales before there’s any reason to believe that werewolves are actually responsible.

The best thing about this film is you can tell that it was created by fans. There are references everywhere, nothing that will distract those who don’t get it, but they will make horror buffs like me smile and like the film that much more. Once you realize that about half the characters are named after werewolf movie directors, you know that it’s being handled by true horror devotees. The special effects were wild, too. Early on the effects had me disappointed, like c’mon, is that the best you’ve got? But later the effects got so mind-blowing that even AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (released the same year) had some competition. For the budget they had, this is incredible work.

I checked out the making-of documentary after I was done, and I highly recommend it. It shows how they found their actors, created the special effects, which was a real treat, and there are some great behind-the-scenes stories that I won’t spoil here. The real point here is to check it out if you haven’t already. It’s well worth your time. Way better than the seven or eight sequels that came out of this and hey, why not kill two wolves with one stone with THE HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF. This time, we follow Karen’s brother who was conveniently never mentioned in the first one, where he meets Christopher Lee to fight some even lower budget werewolves! Yeah I guess I just watched this one out of love for the first, and praying that maybe it would hold just as strongly. I’ve watched enough horror sequels to know better but, still, at least we have Lee to elevate this silly flick.

But to get back on track, THE HOWLING is a classic, and I will always place it among the other celebrities of that genre, such as the 1941 THE WOLFMAN. THE HOWLING owes a lot to movies of it’s past, and proves that old monster cliches can still be tweaked enough to be faithful and different at the same time.

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