Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Howling

It seems that 1981 was the year of the werewolf in cinema. I already talked about An American Werewolf In London and mentioned that in the same year both Wolfen and The Howling were released. These later two films were based on novels written by Whitley Striber and Gary Brandner respectively and of the two, I have only seen The Howling but have read neither novel. Even though The Howling has about a dozen sequels and even a reboot the original is the only film I own and I consider it a stand alone film and treat the sequels as if they do not even exist. The film plot and the plot of Brandner's novel differ greatly so I will only be talking about the film plot so...

What Is The Plot?
Los Angeles newswoman Karen White is being stalked by a serial killer named Eddie Quist. She works with the police to end his murder spree by meeting Eddie at a porno theater face to face. While there, Karen sees something so horrifying that once it is all done, Eddie is dead and Karen can not remember anything. Subconscious memories of that night begin to haunt Karen's dreams and make her freeze on air when she tries to recount the story. Therapist Dr. George Waggner suggests that Karen and her husband Bill Neill journey down the coast to his retreat called The Colony to help Karen relax and try to regain her memories.

The countryside doesn't really help Karen feel any better even though most of the people are very nice because her nightmares are keeping her and Bill from becoming intimate. The couple grows distant and soon the cattle surrounding the retreat are being killed and frantic howls are filling the air as the local sex addict Marsha begins throwing her advances on Bill. When her husband is soon attacked and bitten by what appears to be a wolf, Karen calls her friends Terri and Chris to come down to The Colony. Only Terri goes but on their own, she and Chris discover frightening secrets about the people surrounding Karen and when Eddie Quist's body disappears from the morgue, Chris fears the worst.

Will Chris be able to get to The Colony and help Karen and Terri in time? Can Karen truly remember what happened with Eddie that fateful night and can she and Bill be a loving couple once again? A howling in the air is growing louder and it is bringing a terrible creature even worse than Karen could ever imagine...

Of course you know that The Howling involves werewolves and you also know if you have read my past blog postings that I never tell too much of the plot for those of you who have never seen the films I discuss. As always I think you should view the movie for yourself to see for yourself just how good the movie is and The Howling is no exception.

What Can I Tell You?
The Howling is a clever straight forward approach to the werewolf horror genre with subtle in jokes to wolves and horror films of yesterday, has a great cast and the effects by Rob Bottin regarding transformation scenes is amazing for the early 1980's! Dee Wallace Stone steals the movie as main character Karen White because she is relate-able and down to earth in dealing with the stress. She is still regarded as a horror scream queen thanks to also appearing in Cujo but she doesn't rely on skimpy clothing and breast baring to get the job done and is as classy as Janet Leigh in Psycho and even to Jamie Lee Curtis in her early horror film roles. Her husband Christopher Stone plays Bill in the film and even though they were not married here they have great chemistry even when the relationship between their characters starts to come apart.

Dennis Dugan who plays Karen's friend Chris Halloran may have a small but important role here but he has gone on to be a director with many films and television shows under his belt including tons of Adam Sandler comedies. Elisabeth Brooks plays the insatiable Marsha and is beautiful and stunning in her evil way and Patrick Macnee is a sophisticated Dr. Waggner with charm reminiscent of John Steed from The Avengers which Macnee played back in the 1960s. John Carradine, famous character actor and father of the great deceased David Carradine, also appears as one of the Colony's eccentric residents in a stand out performance.

In regards to horror, The Howling depends on only a little gore to bring the horror across because the story's atmosphere and score provide the real horror thanks to good old-fashioned suspense and effects that involve none of today's overused CGI. The acting is done wonderfully and the end may have provided sequel fodder but is easy to keep The Howling as a film of its own merit and not the beginning of unneeded B-movie fodder. If you want a good werewolf film where simplicity is key, The Howling is one film you must see.

The Howling 1981 Trailer (SPOILERS!)

Next Blog: An almost forgotten classic 80s slasher - The Burning

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