Howling, The (1981)

“You can’t tame what’s meant to be wild, doc. It just ain’t natural.”


After being attacked by a brutal, mysterious killer, anchorwoman Karen White (Dee Wallace) attends a retreat called “The Colony”, which she soon discovers is a haven for werewolves.


Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, the first half of Joe Dante’s “horror film/horror parody” about a therapeutic retreat for werewolves is “hip-funny, well acted, stylish, and scary”. Dee Wallace is a compelling protagonist, and we wish her well as she seeks some much-needed respite. But, as Peary laments, the second half of the film devolves into a chaotic mess of killings, as characters improbably stand around waiting while the werewolf transformations take place (most likely to show off the impressive special effects), and nearly everyone we like in the film meets a gruesome end. Ultimately, this movie is for werewolf-flick fans only.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dee Wallace, who’s always a pleasure to watch
    Dee Wallace
  • Impressive special effects
    Special Effects

Must See?
No. This film is most likely included in Peary’s book because of his fascination with werewolves, but is no longer must-see viewing.


2 Responses to “Howling, The (1981)”

  1. A must.

    Part of must-see criteria, I think, is a film’s ability to remind you of the power it held when you first saw it or holds years after the last time you saw it. I saw ‘The Howling’ upon release – much of it was genuinely frightening and all of it was (and is) laced with refreshing wink-wink humor. (The trail of smiley faces is such a nice touch.)

    It’s a bang-for-the-buck flick; much careful thought went into how to get the most out of film/editing/details (re: the last, there’s great use of thematic cartoon and film clips; there’s also a running, self-referential game to keep you additionally occupied: one character appropriately reading ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’ by Thomas Wolfe, a copy of Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ positioned in plain sight, etc.).

    There’s debate about which is the better werewolf movie of the same period, this or Landis’ ‘An American Werewolf in London’. I prefer ‘The Howling’ since Joe Dante proves the better director. (Both guys contributed to ‘The Twilight Zone: The Movie’; Dante ran off with that one, too.) Dante did not end up having the career I imagined he would and a number of his films did not fit him well. But some (this, ‘Piranha’, ‘Gremlins’ and its underrated sequel) reveal a gift for blending genuine wit with genuine terror. (Years earlier, James Whale accomplished something of the same with ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘Frankenstein’; years later, Wes Craven managed it with ‘Scream’).

    I esp. like how game the entire cast is here, particularly some of the supporting players (esp. good ol’ Slim Pickens, and Dick Miller – hilarious as the bookstore guy).

    Fave bit: at a beach party, a rather yummy Christopher Stone happens upon the clearly evil and clearly licentious Elisabeth Brooks, feels a bit uneasy and says he’s looking for his wife. She pauses…pauses…pauses before responding with “Why?” (Oh, and what happens between them later…yowza!)

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    this isa ctually a 1980 film (see the copyright) but was released early in 1981.

    I agree with Dave; great film. Works a s a great, scary horror film for the general public and it has thed underlying wit for the fans and horror aficionados.

    Although I love An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Howling just clips it.

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