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The Howling (1981)

DVD Cover (Scream Factory)
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The Howling
> The Howling (1981)
> Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf (1985)
Genres:
Horror, Werewolf Film
Director:
Joe Dante Joe Dante
Starring:
Dee Wallace Dee Wallace
Patrick Macnee Patrick Macnee
Dennis Dugan Dennis Dugan
Christopher Stone Christopher Stone
Belinda Balaski Belinda Balaski

6.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: July 19, 2007
The werewolf genre was at the height of its popularity in 1981. I recently posted a review for a film entitled "Wolfen", which was political and a non-traditional werewolf movie. Released in the same year, it took a back seat, both commercially and critically, to another werewolf film that came out slightly before it did. That film was, of course, Joe Dante's brilliant "The Howling". This film came on the heels of John Landis' "An American Werewolf In London", and blends the same kinds of elements together, though Dante focuses more on the horror aspects than he does on the comedy. "The Howling" is also a horror film that continues to stand the tests of time. It packs a unique punch, even today.

After a near fatal encounter with a serial killer, reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) is in need of some serious rest and relaxation. Seeking refuge from the media and the trauma of the event, they travel to The Colony, a small and isolated community on the coast where the residents seem more than a little peculiar. Once there, they start to hear strange noises in the night, and experience things that make the hairs on the back of their necks stand at attention. As they uncover more dirt, they realize that the serial killer actually came from The Colony and that they have immersed themselves into a world filled with mystery, malice -- and a couple hundred werewolves.

This is a horror film that takes time to build this overwhelming sense of dread. It plays on the audience's fears and it also knows that an audience needs to become invested in the storyline before the horror is really going to work. So, the first 2/3 of the film is just that -- set-up and execution. We don't see much of what the menace really is and we really aren't altogether sure what it is -- we just know it's out there. About 2/3 through the film, we are given one of the greatest horror sequences ever, when Karen's friend is at The Colony, in the doctor's office, sifting through some papers. She is standing in front of the filing cabinet when all of a sudden we notice that on top of the filing cabinet is a pair of feet. They've been there all along. As she looks up, the camera pans with her to find -- well -- if you haven't see the film, this sequence is worth the rental or purchase price alone.

When people ask me my favorite werewolf film, "The Howling" typically comes to mind. Sometimes "Dog Soldiers", but some times "The Howling". It's a film about atmosphere and mood, a film about effects and scares. Director Joe Dante was at the top of his game in the 1980's and this picture is proof positive. He has a way of making his films seem larger than life, even when they're rather traditional. "The Howling" is also yet another opportunity to indulge in the horror legacies of Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone, who riddled the horror genre with more films in the 1980's that virtually any other actor and actress. "The Howling" has not dated itself and continues to be just as scary today as it was in 1981. 10/10.
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Chad #1: Chad - added 07/19/2007, 10:21 PM
Definitely a good one, but I'm going to have to go with an 8/10. I understand the need for the setup you mentioned, but in my humble opinion, some of it just didn't work. Again, this is a minor gripe, but it was enough to kill a perfect score from yours truly.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 07/19/2007, 10:36 PM
I had actually read the novel and it's sequel about 5 or 6 years before I ever saw this film. So I immediately had a biased towards it. But I felt that it was done very well, and they did a terrific job with the effects. Also, that score is just so haunting. I mean the soundtrack of course. 9/10
Chad #3: Chad - added 07/19/2007, 10:53 PM
Either of you seen the sequels, and if so, are any of them worth checking out? This is one of the few series that I never sat through, so I might have to change that.
Edd #4: Edd - added 07/20/2007, 11:50 AM
I know that after about 3, it gets just downright offensively bad. But you're a pretty big fan of B-movies, so who knows?
Tristan #5: Tristan - added 10/26/2009, 04:47 PM
You know, after watching it again, it really isn't as good as I remember. It strays from the source material quite a bit, and a lot of the scenes feel out of place. I don't know if it was the editing or what, but scenes were tossed in where they really didn't fit. After repeated viewing, I think this one drops down to about a 6/10 from myself.
Crispy #6: Crispy - added 02/02/2015, 09:59 PM
Always found this an average movie at best, but it's got one of the best transformation scenes in werewolf cinema.
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