Spooktober 22, Day 4: The Howling

Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.

The Howling is known as one of the definitive werewolf films, and for good reason. Joe Dante’s film starring Dee Wallace as Karen White the newscaster who is thrust into a secretive world of Lycans is a mysterious ode to this fantastical subgenre. Is it my favorite? Maybe not, but that’s a tough point to pin.

After it is suggested that she retreat to a rural area for some R&R after a close encounter with a serial killer, things aren’t as rosy as one might hope. She and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) go to this secluded seemingly serene locale, but soon discover there are insidious intentions, including some late-night howlings that don’t seem natural.

source: Embassy Pictures

The Howling is fun yes, but not without its err. This quickly moving 91-minute picture is ample in its wolf-like terror. There’s very little respite in its dive into a lycanthropic group with a cult-like feel.

What stands out for me is the effects of 1981, further beyond some of its future counterparts. Some of the transformations and kill sequences are impressive for their time, and bloody gruesome. For then, the special effects are especially striking. Dee Wallace is also a queen for a reason, even though she’s not in every scene, she’s always on your mind, our North Star.

source: Embassy Pictures

What also distinguishes The Howling is the media element. Not only does Karen become embroiled but her coworkers Terry Fisher (Belinda Balaski) and Bill Neill (Christopher Stone), investigate and come to her aid. Tonally, the movie jumps around a bit, making it an uneven identity but still a culturally imperative experience.

The Howling is a worthy, must-see addition to the werewolf mythology. This is a subgenre that still remains a lesser-known one, especially in comparison to let’s say, vampires. Mostly it’s because if you’re to stand out, you need something diverse and memorable. The time, the mood, and the narrative are key. Does this do it? Perhaps at times. In the pantheon of werewolf films, this may not be the best, but it’s one that shouldn’t be missed. Also, it’s got a terrific final shot that personally wins me over.

Well performed, with convincing effects for its time, The Howling isn’t the best werewolf feature, but it’s required viewing for any fan.

The Howling is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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