I’ve never met a hippie that I’ve liked. I don’t like their positions on several issues, most notably social welfare reform and washing. Dirty hippies! I always thought that my dislike of the hippie movement was ideological, that there was such a gulf between our respective philosophies that could never be crossed, what with me and my love of capitalism and them and their love of beads and flairs, that we could never reach common ground on anything. Last nights film hasn’t really improved matters between me and the hippies as I now realise that our differences are more primal – hippies live in communes and so do werewolves, and I really distrust werewolves!
Set in LA, The Howling (1981) tells of Karen White (Dee Wallace) a TV news reporter who is working a story about a serial killer who’s been plying his trade in the area. One night, for the sake of a good story, she agrees to meet him and he lures her to an adult book and video store where he plans to reveal himself to her. Just as she’s about to get an eyeful, some cops who have been out looking for Karen burst in and shoot the bad man before she got to see anything. Or so she thinks as immediately after the incident Karen develops a dose of amnesia and can’t remember what she saw when she turned around.
Karen doesn’t handle the stress of the incident very well and she’s unable to work. The TV station she works for also has a therapist on the payroll and he suggests that Karen and her husband pay a visit to a sort of health spa commune that he runs as a sideline out in the country. Karen and her hubbie Bill take the good doctor up on his offer and head on out to the place, called The Colony.
When they get there, they discover that the place is full of crackpots and weirdo’s, and that Karen’s little amnesia problem is downright minor compared to some of the wackiness the other visitors suffer from. Bill finds himself attracted to one of the other guests, a fairly decent looking nympho called Marsha, and one night he runs into her and she makes him an offer. However, Bill’s an alright bloke behind it all and he tells her to shove it as he’s married and decides to go home to his missus. Along the way he is attacked and bitten by a wolf-like creature. After the attack, Bill is unable to stay home and instead he goes back out, runs into Marsha again, and takes her up on her previous offer.
As they are making the beast with two backs down by the campfire, their passions overtake them and they transform into werewolves. Turns out the place is full of the dirty creatures and that Bill and Karen ending up there might actually be part of a bigger plan.
The Howling is as cursed as the lycanthropes who feature in the film, cursed with poor acting, odd casting choices, a woeful script, shockingly bad production values, and a bizarre lack of werewolves for far too long considering it’s a werewolf movie. All in all, it’s shite.
To start, the majority of the performances are brutal. Dee Wallace as Karen seems not to know what she’s supposed to be doing at any given moment and there are times when she’s face to face with a scary monster but she’s completely unfazed, then there are other times where she’s spazing out for no good reason. This is a severe case of poor direction meeting a bad performance head on, but it must have been contagious, spreading to the other members of the cast as well. Patrick Macnee is just weird as the doctor, and Christopher Stone as Bill the husband is plain brutal. The outstanding (bad) performance of the lot though has to be Robert Picardo as the serial killer Eddie. Yes, Robert Picardo, the same Robert Picardo who played the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. How the hell he was cast as the serial killer of all roles is a mystery but just another strange choice in a litany of strange choices that make up The Howling.
The script of The Howling is utter scutter, with the characters forcing out stilted lines that make little sense, and not reacting to the situations they’re facing in the way you’d expect. The story is just as poor as the script: there’s very very little action with the wolves not showing up until quite late in the film so for nearly an hour sod all happens.
The special effects in The Howling are crap. The first time you see a werewolf transformation it’s animated, and by that I mean it’s an actual cartoon that’s been imposed over the live action footage, even for a film from the early 80’s that’s unforgivable.It only gets worse, with poor costumes for the close-ups of the wolves – one of the female werewolves is so bad she ends up looking more like a wookie than a wolf.
However, the main failing of The Howling, as strange as it may seem, is the music.The music that is used in the film would be more appropriate for a vampire movie, with lots of heavy organ and sinister overtones that are totally inappropriate for a werewolf flick, where something more tribal or feral would have suited better.
There was one thing I really liked and that was how The Howling stuck to the traditional method of dispatching a werewolf – silver bullets – but alas that little touch wasn’t anywhere near enough to redeem this poor effort.
Two Thumbs Down for The Howling.
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