Tuesday, October 11, 2005

31 Days of Des' Horror Favourites: #21 The Howling

Why I like it: I laboured over which werewolf movie to include in this list because I really don’t like a lot of them. The Howling or An American Werewolf in London? The Howling wins for sheer creepiness and the amount of scares.

Joe Dante directed this 1981 film that is rumoured to have been rushed into production to be released before American Werewolf. But I see no need; the stories are so different that they could have been released on the same day. Where American werewolf shocked audiences with their entirely visual transformation scene (a landmark of horror films no doubt) I think that The Howling wins by sticking to the classic “cut away for a reaction” shot.

The story? A TV reporter (played by Dee Wallace-Stone) survives an encounter with a psychopathic serial killer and is, naturally, emotionally scarred. She decides to take some time off and recover on vacation at a California “institute.” It’s not quite a mental hospital or a halfway house but there are some good scenes of psycho-babble. It misleads the audience away from the expectations of werewolf movies (fog, torches, pitchforks, tortured victim werewolves) by setting it in this modern world of psychology. The last popular werewolf film before this was 1957's I Was a Teenage Werewolf with a young Michael Landon. A long time.

Anyway, as you’d expect things go a little crazy at the institute and the reporter discovers she is in the middle of a pack of monsters! Not only that, but this was the first film to show werewolves who enjoyed their condition. I mean, why not? I probably would. Hell, I’m hairy enough to qualify as a lycanthrope now.

Back to the movie: the sheer number of werewolves in this film (who look terrifying and awesome by the way) give zombie movie-type scares to the audience. Usually you are afraid of one monster and relieved by its destruction only to discover that there’s another one at the last minute. Here, there are so damn many you don’t even have a chance to figure out what’s going on before all hell breaks loose.

The reporter’s transformation in this movie is wayyy better than any other I’ve seen. Not due to the scariness of her werewolf (because it’s actually kind of cute) but by how it’s done. I won’t tell you as it will ruin the surprise.

The Howling spawned a litter of good sequels creating a world where werewolves are hedonists killing and having sex with each other in films more and more demented as they come out. Was it number 4 with the midget clown? That was freaky. Some of it comes across as art-house. I remember being really young and watching one of these sequels with my parents (who always supported my love of genre films) with two werewolves having sex. I hilariously pointed out that they were “making puppies.” I was probably seven or eight years old.

Check these out:
-An American Werewolf in London-It’s worth the watch. Funny and has a wicked transformation scene.
-The rest of the Howling series-because I said so. Except number three. Don't ask...okay, it is in Australia and has marsupial werewolves. You happy?
-Dog Soldiers-Another movie with a pack of werewolves.
-Wolf-Jack Nicholson peeing on someon'e shoes is worth the viewing alone.

6 Bitching, Moaning and Praise

Blogger David Lee said...

Ginger Snaps?

My favorite werewolf series.

4:33 pm  
Blogger Justin Cognito said...

Don't watch The Howling: New Moon Rising either, okay? Back during the period of my youth when I was interested in lycanthropy, I asked my mom to rent the original Howling, and she brought back this coprolith which was 10% plot, 20% exposition, 30% jokes about farts and small penises, and 40% country line dancing. You heard me; country line dancing. Sweet Jesu.

5:21 pm  
Blogger Des said...

David-you're making a living catching me out on things I should be mentioning. Yeah...I forgot Ginger Snaps. I've only seen the first one but the prequel with what's-his-name from the Headstones/Hard Core Logo looks pretty cool.

Justin-Line-dancing werewolves? I'm almost tempted to just for absurdity's sake.

6:28 pm  
Blogger David Lee said...

I'm not picking on you. Really! If I wasn't enjoying your blog I wouldn't be commenting.

Wolf is one of my wife's favorite movies. I'm not sure what that says.

7:29 pm  
Blogger Des said...

Nah, I'm kidding David. I appreciate the readership. Wolf is pretty fun but a "favourite movie"? Hmm...my wife's favourite is Moulin Rouge. What does that say?

10:20 pm  
Blogger Justin Cognito said...

Des: No, the werewolves don't line dance, just Midwesterners in cowboy duds. Though the movie would have been much improved by lycanthropes doing the can-can.

12:48 pm  

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