31 Nights of Halloween Horror: Part 8 in a 31 part series. Join me for 31 nights of horror reviews in the month of October. Every night we’ll take a look at a different horror film, some old and some new. Tonight we’re talking about:
Dir. Joe Dante
1981 – USA
The past seven nights all the movies I have discussed were movies I have never seen before. Tonight we are going to talk about a movie I have seen many times, and I hope you have too, Joe Dante’s The Howling. Cutting his teeth on editing trailers for Roger Corman films, Joe Dante first entered the horror field with 1978’s Piranha. A fantastic film in the wake of the Jaws & the ‘nature gone bad’ era and a film that will always be etched in my memory from seeing in the drive-in. A few years later he followed it up with probably what is still to this day, one of the best werewolf films ever made.
In pretending that you haven’t seen this film before, and I certainly hope you have, The Howling took the dreaded werewolf out of ancient times and dropped him right into modern society. Dee Wallace plays a newscaster who had been developing a story about a serial killer. When things comes to a head and she finally meets him face to face it turns out to be quite the traumatic experience with her barely escaping with her life. Her psychiatrist recommends she take a week or two off and relax at his retreat, ‘The Colony’, where she can focus and help overcome her experience and settle back into normal society. But out of the frying pan and into the fire, The Colony has secrets of its own and they turn out to be much more deadlier then she ever could have realized.
A few things set The Howling apart and above the rest of the werewolf fair out there. First up is director Joe Dante. He is a fan of the genre and it shows, he enjoys what he is doing and plants plenty of in jokes through out his movies. Amongst them in The Howling is cameos by both legends Roger Corman and Forrest J. Ackerman. The pacing and layout of the film really keeps you interested in a way that few people can accomplish. A very important second is the make-up. Originally super star Rick Baker was set to do the effects on The Howling but due to a prior obligation he was pulled away to do the effects on An American Werewolf in London and left the effects of The Howling in charge to his assistant the up and coming Rob Bottin. Now I am not going to deny An American Werewolf in London was a good movie and it had some great effects, a werewolf transformation in full light is impressive. But 34 years later with computer graphics flying out of people’s asses like Pegasus’ eating Skittles, I have yet to see a better werewolf transformation then in The Howling. You can keep your American Werewolf, to me The Howling is a far better film. And Universal’s 2010 reboot with Benicio Del Toro’s take on The Wolf Man with all it’s digital effects doesn’t hold a candle to what Rob Bottin accomplished with simple air tubes and bubbles when Robert Picardo’s Eddie Quist makes a full werewolf transformation in front of the camera. When I think of a man transforming into a wolf, The Howling is what I think of. Not some fucking badger looking creature running loose on the streets of London. With the exception of Ginger Snaps and the loosely categorized Dog Soldiers, there really hasn’t been a werewolf movie released that has been better then The Howling.
The Howling itself has had about eight sequels, all of them abysmal in relation to the original film. We are long over due for another good werewolf movie again. In the time of Hollywood remakes, why has The Howling been continuously over looked? Don’t get me wrong I am not a fan of remakes, but if someone wants to make an all new Howling movie and can some how come close to bringing similar werewolves to the screen I am all for it. I guess in the mean time we will have to continue watching the old Paul Naschy films where he performs his role of Waldemar Daninsky for a satisfying werewolf flick.
So this Halloween revisit a classic about a creature that has been around as long as the written word and probably longer. Keep the windows and doors locked, so when you hear the howls in the night do yourself a favor and watch The Howling. It has probably been too long since the last time you have seen it.