The Howling (1981) 4/5 (1)


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Rating: The Good – 76.4
Genre: Horror
Duration: 91 mins
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan

After a reporter is attacked by a savage and deeply disturbing serial killer she agrees to spend some time at an isolated retreat known as “The Colony” to help her cope with the psychological trauma. However, as the night-time noises from the forest grow ever stranger, she soon suspects this closed community is not all that it seems. Joe Dante’s fresh take on the werewolf genre is to this day still one of its most atmospheric and interesting. Its now renowned special effects were for the time jaw-dropping and the best of them have barely dated a day. Of course, the most impressive feature of The Howling is the way in which the tension is handled throughout. Dante was always a master at setting up his stories and in this early effort, his combination of patience and then split-second timing when it comes to delivering the shocks ensures that the numerous thrills and scares work a treat and are remembered long after the movie ends. However, The Howling owes its success to more than just great direction and special effects. John Sayles’ screenplay is a pure delight replete with well drawn out characters and a subtle but persistent sense fun as it plays with the conventions of the genre. The latter is very much in keeping with Dante and Sayles’ previous collaboration, Piranha, but the former is a step up on that movie as is the quality of the actors playing those characters (Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, and the great Kevin McCarthy all feature to great effect and all would go on to become Dante regulars). The Howling represents a successful blending of hardcore horror and cheeky wit which is no easy feat, for in most horror movies, dialing up the comedy is done at the expense of the fear factor. However, Dante’s success comes in the playful and subtle nature of that comedy and in the fact that his nods and winks to the audience tie in perfectly with the story and never once feel like a hiatus from it.

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One thought on “The Howling (1981)”

  1. My favorite Werewolf film! Nice review. I really loved Dante’s and Bottin’s work here and that Pinaggio score was killer! Good post, D!

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