The Howling

Joe Dante's slyly subversive werewolf adventure comes to Blu-ray for the first time

Film Review by Jamie Dunn | 06 Oct 2017
Film title: The Howling
Director: Joe Dante
Starring: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Robert Picardo, Kevin McCarthy, Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Dick Miller
Release date: 9 Oct
Certificate: 15

For lycanthrope nuts, 1981 was a banner year. American Werewolf in London is the high water mark; a funny, sexy, scary comic-horror-tragedy about an easy-going American hiker who gets mauled on the Yorkshire Moors and turns into a monster. Wolfen, a stylish New York thriller with Albert Finney as a cop investigating a spate of brutal murders that don’t quite add up, is more po-faced but is not without its charms. Runt of 81's wolfpack is Joe Dante’s The Howling, although what it lacks in budget it more than makes up for in wit and gross-out werewolf transformations (courtesy of Rob Bottin, the FX genius with the gooiest effects around).

The film begins with an LA anchorwoman (Wallace) being used as bait by her TV channel to catch a serial killer, and the trauma of the experience sends her into a tailspin. The station’s resident pop-psychiatrist (Macnee) suggest she recuperates up the coast at his patient retreat called 'the colony', although this remote haven proves less than relaxing. First, its residents are a bizarre bunch, a collection of hippie burnouts, gun nuts, suicidal geezers and a nymphomaniac who has the hots for the anchorwoman’s vegan husband. Second, she can’t get a wink of sleep for the strange animal noises she hears in the night.

Dante and scriptwriter John Sayles (who also wrote Dante’s exploitation riot Piranha) are two of the wiliest filmmakers in the business, and pack The Howling with loopy gags and visual puns galore (at one point we see a rookie reporter swotting up on werewolf lore by reading Allen Ginsberg’s Howl). While it might seem obvious where the film is headed once we reach the colony, Dante has a wickedly subversive punchline up his sleeve suggesting that perhaps mankind had gone to the dogs long before werewolves were threatening to takeover.


Some interesting interviews, particularly a chat with editor Mark Goldblatt, but disappointingly there’s no input from Dante or Sayles.