The Howling

By loki
Monday, 10 September 2007
 Director: Joe DanteRunning Time: 91 minutesCast: Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone, Patrick Macnee, Belinda Balaksi, Dennis Dugan, Patrick MacNee


Over the past year I have revisited several movies and books I remember liking in my more tender years. While the overwhelming majority of these still manage to hold their own every once in a while a movie comes along liking which I can only attribute to an infantile error in judgement. Joe Dante’s 1981 creature feature the Howling is such a film.



The film starts with ace reporter Karen White (played by Dee Wallace) on a sting operation in the shady part of town to nab a serial killer. They meet up in the movie rooms of a porno-mart, he puts on some mood music, breaks out the bubbly and then makes his moves as some bdsm rape movie plays out in the background. Enter rookie cop, cue shot to the head, exit serial killer leaving behind one traumatised reporter with a case of temporary memory loss.


On the advice of the TV station psychologist our ace reporter is sent off to a place called The Colony. This is followed by a completely unexpected twist where The Colony turns out to be overflowing with our lupine brethren. Shenanigans ensue.


The Howling garnered attention for its landmark werewolf transformation sequences. My guess is that much akin to a dog taking a leak on your leg these transformations managed to capture all of everyone’s (including director – Joe Dante’s) attention long enough to render them oblivious to everything else in the film. And while you can see how The Howling could have been a potentially interesting film Dante seems to have spent half his time trying to work in bad gags and the other half fucking everything else up. The jokes themselves tend to fall flat most of the times and pack the same amount of annoyance as stepping in a pile of phantom poo.


The werewolf transformation sequences need a special mention here. While some effects would actually pass muster even today, the director’s ineptness manages to negate them quite effectively. The dead serial killer turns up in The Colony sounding like Marlon Brando with a severely deformed skull and reveals his werewolfiness in a segment which lasts all of 5 mintues. Which could be fine. Except, in the same room you have a chick struck dumb by this amazing metamorphosis who forgets all about escaping (either through the window or the open door). I realise most horror movies require a somewhat stupid kind of person as creature fodder but do they really need to raid the deaf and dumb ward of a retard asylum for these roles?


Possibly the biggest cock up was the background score, specifically during the transformation sequence. While afore mentioned werewolf is transformationally occupied the music shifts to something which would’ve been more appropriate in Star Wars as they wheel out the latest Death Star. A slow build up sequence as each new deadly feature is revealed and a crash as it finally falls into place. Repeated for each ear (which look like they were taken off a donkey), the snout, claws and other assorted other body parts. Then there’s music during the werewolf love scene where a woman conveniently described as a nymphomaniac is seducing our protagonist’s husband (who probably took this as an opportunity to live up to his 70s porn moustache). They start off human to soft porn music which changes to something halfway between porno and Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as the hirsute semi-human fanged creatures writhe in the throes of passion. I can just about imagine the amount of confusion this must have caused in teenagers as the naked object of their erections suddenly sprouted massive amounts of hair and turned a mouldy looking greenish hue. To top this all off Dante’s werewolves sound like a bunch of alley cats yowling in the dark.


Towards the end it is revealed that everyone and his uncle at the colony is actually a werewolf. The best bit is that these are not your ordinary run of the mill werewolves. No, these are actually a part of a grand plan by the TV psychologist (in a startling turn he is revealed to be a werewolf too) to get everyone in The Colony to control their feral natures and live in peace and harmony with us humans. Needless to say they veto this stupid plan and decide to bump off reporter chick by sticking her in a car and setting it on fire. This final sequence, as the werewolves contemplate the method of her demise before she is conveniently rescued by a colleague yielded the most amusement, both in terms of dialogue and visuals. Some outtakes follow.


- “Humans are our cattle. We should feed on them. Jus’ like we always done. Screw all this “Channel your energies” crap.” – by senile old man who turns out to be an artful old werewolf (sans most of his teeth)

- “I have silver bullets in here!!!”

“Silver bullets MY ASS” (the voice deepening as the teeth come out)



- All the werewolves are trapped in a combustible looking wood barn and the rescuer runs all the way around to sprinkle petrol on the only brick wall in the whole structure.

- A bunch of werewolves surround a car which refuses to start on the first try. Instead of smashing their way in, they all spend an inordinate amount of time ineffectually rubbing the windows like one of those playboy carwash pictorials gone very very wrong.


While they make their escape a werewolf manages to get a very lame looking bite in on reporter lady. Since she’s fucked anyway she decides to show the world the truth during her triumphant return to network television. She goes on live television, babbles on about some “hidden society among us” and then being one of the good guys transforms into the cutest werewolf ever. She starts off looking like a were-lahsa apso before changing into a mogwai (which Dante recycled for Gremlins). I was actually quite curious about where they were going with this but her rescuer stepped in and blew her head off before we could see what the end result was.


The movie ends at a bar with nymphowolf being asked how she would like her burger and she chosing “Rare”. In a move obviously designed to fit more shitty music in, the credits roll to a shot of meat on the hotplate as James Bond music plays in the background before a Harmonica cuts in for a complete wtf moment.
The last word – The Howling is quite ineffectual as a horror movie and for the most part boring enough to not have much camp value. The sequels (which included Howling III: The Marsupials) must have been tremendously bad to make me think this was actually a decent movie. Unless you’re really big on werewolf movies – avoid.