Howling, The (1981)

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.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Dick Miller Films
  • Horror
  • Joe Dante Films
  • John Carradine Films
  • Journalists
  • 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 she seeks some much-needed respite after suffering “trauma from her experience” meeting “a brutal killer in a booth in a sex shop”.

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 “something bad happens to every character we like”. Ultimately, this movie is for werewolf-flick fans only. Watch for Dick Miller in a small bit as a bookstore owner.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dee Wallace as Karen White
  • Atmospheric cinematography
  • Impressive special effects

Must See?
No. This film is most likely included in Peary’s book because of its historical relevance, but is no longer must-see viewing.


2 thoughts on “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 is actually 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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