31 Days of Halloween 7 – The Howling is social commentary too

howl1The Howling (1981) by Joe Dante has some biting social commentary, pun intended.  This is a werewolf movie and has elements of a thriller, a mystery, and a horror movie.  Someone told me that The Howling is supposed to be a horror comedy or a comedy horror movie or something, but I didn’t get it.  This movie is not funny.  Some of the characters are played over-the-top and some of the situations are out there, but I didn’t find them funny, as in Chevy Chase fall down funny.  This is a horror movie, where people get shot, ambushed, and chased by wolves.

howl2This movie stars scream queen Dee Wallace as Karen.  This was her fourth movie.  Most of her resume includes horror films, including the original The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Cujo (1983) and Critters (1986).  Her most famous role is in E.T., which she got because of her performance here in the The Howling.  She does a good job.  She is a little stiff and wooden, but she’s a midwest, old-school actress.  The script doesn’t expect anything more from her and she delivers her usual performance, nothing more, nothing less.

Dee Wallace’s husband in real life plays her husband on-screen.  Christopher Stone is a very recognizable actor and was on television for many years.  He worked with his wife on many projects, including The Howling.  He is a sympathetic character in the movie and does a good job as everybody’s all-american husband, Bill.  He wears his moustache proudly.

howl3This movie follows the general premise of the book, but some of the plot has changed.  Karen is a television news host who goes through a traumatic experience tailing a serial killer named “Eddie” and decides to take a break from her job.  Her doctor sets her up at The Colony for some rest and relaxation, but all the people at the Colony are werewolves.  They manipulate and attack Bill, turning him into a werewolf, then do the same to Karen. 

The fiction of werewolves is an extremely dense subject.  For movies, there are tons.  Universal’s entries starred Lon Chaney Jr, and are some of the most famous, but Hammer and many other studios have made successful werewolf films.  Probably my favorite is An American Werewolf in London (1981), which used some of the same effects as The Howling.  The effects in The Howling were done by Rick Baker until he left to make An American Werewolf in London (1981).  The similarities are noticeable.

howl4The Howling spawned five sequels, the last being a direct-to-video schlock-fest.  The Howling II is only notable because it stars Christopher Lee, but even that one isn’t a very good film.  The Howling itself is a fine movie, but nothing spectacular.  I’d say watch An American Werewolf in London for your horror and catch Jack Nicholson in Wolf (1999) just for the hell of it.  

The Howling stands apart because of its social commentary.  The movie critiques self-help groups and their participants.  The Colony has workshops, but it also has werewolves who stalk you at night.  They have group barbeques and eat meat to gross out the vegetarians.  I’m not sure what’s to relaxing and restful about the Colony, but it’s pretty much a death-trap.  

howl5All in all, The Howling is one of the best werewolf movies around.  It has a following and a loyal fanbase.  It is a slow-burn movie, but the effects are top-notch and the acting is pretty decent.  Overall, I would say you could do much worse in the werewolf genre.  The only thing missing in this movie is some blood-spatter and serious scares, though the dread and the tone try to make up for it.

Stay tuned for my Friday the 13th spectacular.

31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon

1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)