“The Howling” (1981) – If you haven’t guessed, “The Howling” is a werewolf movie, but 45 minutes into Joe Dante’s (“Piranha” (1978), “Gremlins” (1984)) 91-minute picture, you wouldn’t know it.
He spends nearly half of his film’s runtime establishing his leads, supporting characters, and the setting, but it’s all worth the wait.
Early in the movie’s first act, L.A. television reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) plays the bait and helps police catch her own stalker, but the harrowing experience left her with a brief case of amnesia. A TV doctor, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), suggests that she catch some R&R at his mountainous retreat, The Colony.
The “Good” Doctor introduces Karen and her husband (Christopher Stone) to the fellow guests, as the pair are The Colony’s newest additions. Some of the folks seem like long-time friends, but others act as frenemies and bicker like cats and dogs. Remember the latter.
Well, forget rest and relation, The Colony is infested with werewolves, and the movie’s makeup, special effects, and visual effects teams offer wild and gruesome transformations between humans and beasts that are equally as impressive as its rival film, George Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London” (1981).
Unlike Landis’ picture, you won’t find any humor in “The Howling” though. It’s all growling, slashing, snapping, clawing, and biting business, and the most surprising scene – when Karen’s coworker Terri (Belinda Balaski) searches through a filing cabinet – doesn’t have a transformation at all.
John Carradine, Slim Pickens, and Robert Picardo (The Doctor from “Star Trek: Voyager”) co-star, and Elisabeth Brooks works a backwoods Princess Ardala vibe (Buck Rogers fans will know what I mean here.)
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless
Starring: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Stone, Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Robert Picardo, and Elisabeth Brooks
Runtime: 91 minutes
Image credits: Embassy Pictures