The Howling is a werewolf movie with the hilarious premise of a self-help group for werewolves is ahead of its time, and a sly barb at the Hollywood lifestyle. That the joke is carefully revealed as the film unfolds, whilst telling a very good story, makes this a classic of the genre.
Starring Dee Wallace (ET) and Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager) this is an early film from brilliant director Joe Dante and it displays what an innovative and instinctive filmmaker he is.
Due to artistic, budgetary and practical reasons the full on werewolf transformation, that has made this movie so memorable, is saved until well over an hour into the film. Before then we are given deliberate delays and hints a plenty, all masterfully used by Dante to build up the suspense.
When the moment finally arrives, and Picardo’s Eddie transforms it is a remarkable achievement in effects and is suitably gruesome. Dante experimented with frame rates to achieve some of the effects, a mere 31 years before Peter Jackson made the topic vogue.
Dante came on board as director for The Howling after the original director left the project and one of the first things he did was suggest his fellow “Corman school” graduate John Sayles re-write the screenplay and one of his creations, the colony, became central to the whole film.
For those on the lookout for twists and turns, the truth behind the colony maybe easy to guess, nevertheless when the reveal comes it is still thrilling. The sense of unease building up to the revelation about the colonists is reminiscent of The Wicker Man and at points this film stylistically resembles Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This is no coincidence as Robert Burns, the production designer, worked on both films and helps to imbue The Howling design and set with a sense that some really bad shit is about to go down.
The Howling is scary and gripping because of Dante’s flair for choosing the right shot and his sparing use of effects, ensuring he wrings out every scare available for the budget he is working with. This film subverts the perceived concepts of werewolf lore and is a downbeat classic of the horror genre.