Joe Dante (director)
09 October 2017 (released)
07 October 2017
Joe Dante's 1981 werewolf pic is a bit of a treat for any old horror buff out there! It is one helluva hoot or should I say howl from start to finish - screenwriter John Sayles knows his onions… or would pumpkins be more appropriate. The amount of 'in-jokes' here (there is even a copy of Ginsberg's 'Howl' on a desk) are something else and those in the know will of course get most of them. For example, Patrick Macnee plays Doctor George Waggner, and he was the man who directed the 1941 Lon Chaney classic The Wolfman!
TV news anchor Karen White (Dee Wallace) has been assigned a rather dangerous case to say the least: she is bait to trap a serial killer known by the name Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo) - now this should have been a relatively simple 'cut' (no pun intended) and dried case. However due to a little technical cock-up Karen finds herself at the mercy of the depraved 'beast' (you've already guessed it in more ways than one). This in a tiny little room in a porn shop where he forces her to watch a snuff movie before… er… The police eventually arrive led by Kenneth Tobey (the 1950's Sci-fi icon-surely a bit too old to be a cop but who cares) to save the traumatized Karen from a fate possibly worse than death. However, Karen has been so badly affected by this experience that she can no longer do her job and screws up badly on TV. So much so that her boss Fred Francis (Kevin 'Invasion of Body Snatchers' McCarthy) suggests she goes on leave. Karen visits psychotherapist Dr. Waggner who suggests that she and her understanding husband Bill Neill (the late Christopher Stone – Dee Wallace’s real-life hubby) visit his ‘Colony’ - an experimental living community. Upon arrival it is pretty obvious that the people here are a bit of a weird bunch to begin with... Within no time Karen's understanding husband is propositioned by the communities’ resident nymphomaniac Marsha Quist (Elisabeth Brooks) and with the family name Quist attached yes, there IS a relation to her two brothers Eddie and T.C. (Don McLeod). Initially Bill refuses the charms of Marsha (who does not like taking ‘no’ for an answer) while at another corner of the camp gnarled old Erle Kenton (the legendary John Carradine sharing the same name as the 40’s top Universal horror director) tries to hurl himself onto a fire. Later on Marsha succeeds in seducing (and transforming) Bill while a concerned Karen calls best friend Terri (Belinda Balaski) for help, who in turn is forced to call boyfriend Chris Halloran (Dennis Dugan) for help… Will the seemingly kind Dr. Waggner be able to keep everything under control? What do you think…
The fact that even the minimalist of horror movie buffs will easily see what's coming round the corner will in no way distract from your pleasure, au contraire it may even enhance it. It goes without saying that the transformation scenes created by Rob Bottin are something to behold. You may also enjoy spotting some walk-on appearances by actors forever synonymous with a favorite genre of the elite (a personal opinion). The performances here are not really important, no one was going to get an Oscar-nomination or expected one.
We have a plethora of bonus material on both the restored DVD/Blu-ray editions that will give the uninitiated a deeper understanding of director Dante's highly entertaining tribute to the cinema of lycanthropy. The Howling is based on Gary Brandner's novel and Brandner features in an audio commentary in one of the Extras.