The story begins with plucky news reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) going undercover for a story. There is a rapist/murderer on the loose in her city, and Karen has managed to contact someone alleging to be the killer. In coordination with the police, Karen agrees to meet up with the killer. Naturally, when she comes face-to-face with him, he tries to rape and murder the plucky right out of her; while I certainly don't condone rape or murder, that reaction probably shouldn't have surprised Karen. But it did. The police managed to kill the killrapist, AKA Eddie The Mangler (Robert Picardo, back when he had hair), but Karen was horribly traumatized, recalling nothing of her time with Eddie, except the horror. She tries to go back to work, but falls victim to frequent flashbacks to her brush with death.
On the advice of her therapist, Dr. Waggner (Patrick Macnee), Karen and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone), join the doctor at The Colony, his secluded countryside resort. Here, they meet an odd assortment of folks, including a boisterous sheriff (Slim Pickens), a suicidal old man speaking jibberish (John Carradine), and a blunt nymphomaniac named Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), among others.
|There's a bone-related nympho-Flinstones joke here, but I can't work it out. Any ideas?|
In a movie like this, the premise is always going to be the star over the acting. To be fair, this is a pretty cool premise; where most werewolf movies focus on one character becoming a werewolf, The Howling decides to crank it up to eleven and have a large group of werewolves causing havoc. It's like Aliens a decade early.
Like I said, though, this film was never going to be about the actors. It is about the werewolves, which makes it odd that we don't see any werewolves until the 42-minute mark. After that, there are wolves a-plenty, but I was surprised at how slowly The Howling began. The werewolves look pretty good, too, when they are fully wolfed-out.
|This is her "O" face|
Thankfully, director Joe Dante doesn't take this movie too seriously. It doesn't have the comedy chops of An American Werewolf in Paris, but it lightens the mood with some decent quips and many clever in-jokes. For instance, any time a television or nook is shown on-screen, it is referencing a movie or book (respectively) about werewolves. There are a few cameos in the movie, too; I caught Roger Corman on my own, but I've heard that writer/director John Sayles has a bit role, too. The cast members are also named after famous directors of classic horror flicks, which is a treat for genre fans; I will admit that I only caught the reference to The Wolf Man (1941) director, George Waggner, when I saw the character's name spelled on IMDb. Dante was able to make great use of the special effects (even if I don't care for wolf bubbles) and he crafted an atypical werewolf movie with a pretty cool ending.
|That ending doesn't prevent Dugan from directing seven Adam Sandler movies, sadly|
Even though I liked the direction, the special effects, and the premise, I didn't like The Howling all that much. It is certainly a better-than-average horror movie, but the first half just felt glacially slow to me. When you combine that with weird werewolf sex (which was very obviously partially animated), wolf bubbles, and a script that I found clever, but not funny, you get a slight disappointment. Granted, I may have had too high of expectations for this film, and I will definitely give it another shot later, but I'm going to say that this one is only okay.