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.
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?