The Howling Reviews
After reporter Karen White has a near-death experience with a serial killer during a botched police operation, she is left with emotional trauma where she can't sleep, can't perform her job duties, and is always having emotional breakdowns.
At the behest of her therapist, she and her husband travel to the therapist's recovery retreat known as "The Colony," while her co-workers investigate who the serial killer named Eddie was.
Things seem to go okay for the couple at first, although they other members of the retreat can be rather strange, until her husband is attacked by a mysterious creature in the wilderness. Though, he lives, he begins to act strangely after the attack which worries Karen.
Meanwhile, during their time at the retreat, Karen's co-workers are also having a series of strange events happening around them as they investigate Eddie, like how his body has suddenly disappeared from the morgue, or all the strange drawings in his apartment, and several other things.
As Karen and her co-workers investigate, they unravel a deeper, more complex mystery not only surrounding Eddie, but also the members of "The Colony," in ways that could threaten their very lives.
The Howling is a very atmospheric and creepy horror film that takes its time to unfold, which is crucial because of the core mystery. While its reveal is nothing new, it is nonetheless very effective and menacing. The creepy and menacing nature of the film is also bolstered by the fantastic effects (At least for the time, depending on how much you like putting on the rose-colored lenses) . While the effects aren't as polished as say, An American Werewolf In London, they are still very good and werewolves are truly scary creatures.
The acting is also pretty good, though it does have its cheesy moments. Still, considering this is not only a monster flick, but also a monster flick from the 80's, the acting is far better than what it should be. The actors certainly made their mysterious characters fascinating to follow, especially as their mysterious sides were revealed.
With a scary atmosphere, terrific storytelling, good acting, funny dark humor, gore, terrific special effects, and more, The Howling is an excellent cult classic horror film that still holds up really well, even without the rose-colored lenses that a lot of these types of films require to view them in this day and age. If you want a werewolf flick with some real bite, this is a very good one.
[originally posted 19Jul2001]
Joe Dante has done some amazing work in his time. He's also done some godawful things for which he should be ashamed. The Howling falls dead in the center of those two. It's creepy, atmospheric, and effective, due in no small part to the incredible talent assembled behind the scenes (John Sayles adapted Gary Brandner's novel; Bottin produced; Dante directed). Unfortunately, it also shows exactly why Dee Wallace never made it past B movies, with the arguable exception of E.T., and disease-of-the-week TV flicks. I mean, she's just bad. The rest of the cast makes it work, though, including "holographic doctor" Robert Picardo in his big-screen debut as the serial killer obsessed with Dee. His line "I'm going to give you a piece of my mind," and the action that follows it, are some of the finest moments in horror film.
As a sidelight, this was also the only major film in which the late Elisabeth Brooks appeared (as Marsha, the seductress who goes after Dee Wallace's husband). Brooks is worth seeking out in just about anything, but this is the only flick you're likely to find on rental-house shelves. (She actually made four; the other three were all late-eighties products that have unfortunately faded into obscurity.)
If you didn't see this when it came out, you'll probably find it somewhat on the cheesy side. Well, okay, it is, but remember that in 1980 this was groundbreaking stuff by anyone's standards. For those of us who did catch this one back in the day, it makes for a great nostalgia trip. Makes a great double bill with its contemporary Wolfen (1981). ***