The Howling

DECEMBER 31, 2007


How’s this for disappointment? I sit down to watch The Howling for the first time since I was 6, expecting that, like Gremlins (another Dante film that I just re-watched for the first time since hitting puberty), I will enjoy it on a different, and higher, level. But not only do I discover that whatever I watched as a kid WASN’T The Howling, but I also didn’t really much enjoy the actual Howling. So now a childhood memory is tarnished, and there’s a rare good werewolf movie out there whose name is unknown to me.

Part of the problem with the film is that it’s needlessly slow. It’s almost a good hour before we get any werewolf action. That would be OK if we liked the characters and situations that led up to it, but that is not the case here, since our characters are mostly hippies and jerks, hanging out doing hippie and jerk things. Who wants to watch that? GET TO THE WEREWOLF! Once they do, the film picks up, but it still pales in comparison to the superior American Werewolf in London, which came out the same year.

Of course, it’s not without merit. The Rob Bottin effects are just as good as Rick Baker’s for London, and the little in-jokes are quite amusing. Best was Roger Corman, in what I am almost positive was a nod to William Castle’s appearance in Rosemary’s Baby (both are seen as a red herring outside of a phone booth, and both are notorious low budget horror filmmakers). Had I not finally watched Rosemary a few weeks ago, this reference would be lost on me. And Dick Miller, a Dante staple, is a hoot in his small role as a book store owner who yells at Forry Ackerman. More stuff like this, and more werewolves, and this movie would be aces. But no, we spend most of the time watching hippies sit around campfires and Dee Wallace argue with her husband about their lacking sex life.

The DVD features a lot of extras, which I haven’t gone through yet but if you’re a fan you should be pleased (2 documentaries, a commentary, deleted scenes...). One I DID watch was an Easter Egg; an all too brief interview with Dick Miller reminiscing about his early days of acting, which to me was a real treat (he reveals, among other things, that he played both a cowboy and an Indian in the same movie). Love that guy.

I also like that a smiley face sticker foreshadows evil.

In the pantheon of werewolf movies, it’s not unwatchable, or even bad. I’d say it falls right smack in the middle of the pack (pun sort of intended, and at any rate at least acknowledged). It’s just unfortunate that the things I DO like about it, for the most part, have nothing at all to do with the damn story.

Plus, now I gotta figure out what the hell the movie I watched as a kid is.

What say you?


  1. I also found this underwhelming on re-watch. Also, while I like the Howling all right, it IS responsible for starting a trend in werewolf movies that I think almost killed the whole subgenre, which is changing the focus from a lone, cursed, good person (see my earlier expostulations on the AWIL post) to a "pack" of generally evil people who just love getting furry and dining on human cattle. While the idea has legs (after all, wolves DO hunt in packs), basically all this did was to make the werewolves into hairy vampires and saddle them with all the cliches and unengagability thereof. Boo, I say.

    But Dick Miller is a God of Cinema. That much is clear.

    BTW, what were some specifics of the WW movie you remember? I have a feeling it was Howling 3: The Marsupials... ;)

  2. I know it had some sort of TV station (or at least some place with a lot of electronic equipment) because I remember a scene with the werewolf bursting through a wall and knocking things of that nature over to get to a girl. But it couldnt be 3 or even Howling II i don't think, because this would be in the summer or even spring of 1986 and there's no way Howling II was already on basic cable by then.

  3. The Company of Wolves, perhaps? Even if not, that's a unique werewolf genre entry that's well worth your time.

  4. Hey, at least it was better than Wolfen (which also came out that same year), so you could have had it worse here.

  5. The Howling was a huge disappointment to me also. blech.
    I've been waiting a long time for something to scare me and nothing has. Well, the nurses on Silent Hill did shake me up a little.
    Not much has been scary lately.

  6. I too have always thought The Howling was a case of much ado about nothing. Perhaps the movie of your childhood was Wolfen (1981), starring Albert Finney and based on the Whitley Strieber novel of the same name...Can't promise you'll like this one any better, but it's worth a shot if you haven't seen it yet.

  7. How the hell didn't you like The Howling, bright boy?

  8. hi bc, i really enjoy your site and since i love horror movies myself, i kick myself for not having thought of watching hmad! so i'm going to watch the same films you have and read the reviews after and see if we agree or not. i started with this one first. i haven't seen this film in maybe 20 years, but i agree with your review! best line in the howling is said by fred " how knows, maybe she's pregnant?" LOL

  9. I wonder if it is "Project: Metalbeast"? It takes place in a research facility, and the final showdown takes place in a cryogenics holding area. I do not remember if it is a female or not during the finale... but there is at least one female victim for sure.


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