Posts Tagged ‘Werewolf’

The Howling (1981)

October 4, 2021

For as long as I can remember, I have had an affinity for wolves. I often considered myself a lone wolf growing up to convince myself that being alone and apart from other people was cool instead of the result of near-crippling anxiety. The wolf imagery did not come out of nowhere. My great aunt Tutu taught my mother to howl at the full moon at one point when the two of them grew close. In turn, my mother taught her three kids. Even though I was embarrassed (when I shouldn’t have been) I howled at the moon with my mother. I have never had affinity with the predator part of the wolf because I consider myself to be personally non-violent. However, like werewolves, I had a beast inside of me that clawed its way to the surface regularly and made a mess of things. For me, it was outbursts of rage and anger caused by my anxiety and depression.

I have been looking to watch this movie for a long time but I never could find it on a streaming service that I had. The movie is directed by Joe Dante, who proved himself to be a comedy horror legend with the Gremlins franchise. This movie is the second horror movie that he directed. The first was Piranha, one of the most famous Jaws rip-offs produced by the legendary Roger Corman. He directed my favorite part of The Twilight Zone movie, a twist on It’s a Good Life for a generation who grew up with television. Innerspace was an interesting science fiction comedy movie that actual spooked me a bit as a kid mostly because of Disney’s Body Wars ride. While I still have quite a few of his movies that I want to see, I know him by his great track record.

The first thing I noticed was the initial setting. This is set in Old New York City, before puritans came in and “cleaned it up”. We are in a dark urban setting, nowhere near the lighter tone in that same year’s American Werewolf in London. It is closer in tone to Wolfen which also came out in 1981. This is more of a supernatural crime drama than a paint by numbers horror movie. Part of what makes that clear are the special effects. All of the makeup effects are done by Rob Bottin who also worked on The Thing among others. The cinematography matches the dark undercurrent and the strange nature of the characters. As has become a refrain in my reviews of horror movies I like, the lighting is excellent and plays with shadow and light pleasantly. The special effects are absolutely well done and terrifying. They ride an edge where they could have been goofy but ended up frightening to me.

The movie has a stellar cast. Its star is Dee Wallace who appeared in such horror classics as The Hills Have Eyes, Cujo, Critters, and the Frighteners among others. She does a great job as a wide-eyed yet troubled news reporter who is trying to figure out a mystery. Christopher Stone plays her husband, a seemingly decent guy with a bit of an anger problem. Belinda Balaski and Dennis Dugan play two plucky investigators trying to help their reporter friend solve the mystery. Robert Picardo plays an absolutely creepy maniac and is so good at it. Elizabeth Brooks plays a wicked seductress who is often very fun to watch. There are great bit parts from Slim Pickens, John Carradine, and Dick Miller.

Overall, I really loved the movie. It felt very grounded and dark while still maintaining a good pace. The way they treated werewolf lore was different enough from other movies to make it very interesting. The acting was very well done and the story was engrossing. I would recommend this movie.

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