A graduate of Roger Corman's school of low-budget ingenuity, Joe Dante gained enough momentum with 1978's Piranha to rise to the challenge of The Howling, and he brought along Piranha screenwriter John Sayles to cowrite th... more »is instant werewolf classic. Makeup wizard Rob Bottin was recruited to create what was then the wildest onscreen transformation ever seen. With Gary Brandner's novel The Howling as a starting point, Sayles and Dante conceived a werewolf colony on the California coast, posing as a self-help haven led by a seemingly benevolent doctor (Patrick Macnee), and populated by a variety of "patients," from sexy, leather-clad sirens (among them Elisabeth Brooks) to an old coot (John Carradine) who's quite literally long in the tooth. When a TV reporter (Dee Wallace) arrives at the colony to recover from a recent trauma, the resident lycanthropes prepare for a howlin' good time. Dante handles it all with equal measures of humor, sex, gore, and horror, pulling out all the stops when the ravenous Eddie (Dante favorite Robert Picardo, later known as the Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager) transforms into a towering, bloodthirsty werewolf. (Bottin's mentor Rick Baker would soon raise the makeup ante with An American Werewolf in London.) As usual, in-jokes abound, from characters named after werewolf-movie directors, amusing cameos (Corman, Sayles, Forrest J. Ackerman), and hammy inserts of wolfish cartoons and Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." It's best appreciated now as a quintessential example of early-'80s horror, with low-budget limitations evident throughout, but The Howling remains a giddy genre milestone. --Jeff Shannon« less
Great plot line and special effects without all the CGI non-sense. A must see for horror fans!
Mike W. from SPRINGFIELD, MI Reviewed on 1/21/2009...
ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE THIS MOVIE. AWESOME. THIS MOVIE IS A HECK OF A GOOD MOVIE. ESPECIALLY THE SPECIAL EFFECTS AND THE TRANSFORMATION SEQUENCES. ABSOLUTELY AN A+++ IN MY BOOK. DON'T MISS IT.
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Classic werewolf movie now in an expanded DVD package!
Ryan Harvey | Los Angeles, CA USA | 07/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When "The Howling" appeared in theaters in 1981, it heralded a mini-revival of the werewolf movie that took advantage of advances in special effects; two films followed later that year: "Wolfen" and John Landis's beloved "An American Werewolf in London." Although "The Howling" doesn't quite match the artistry and continual popularity of Landis's film, it nonetheless has aged wonderfully and is still one of the most enjoyable horror films of its decade. It's scary without getting too gory for the average viewer, has superb special effects that don't overwhelm the story, features a fun cast of familiar faces, and has a quirky sense of humor and loads of movie in-jokes for horror movie fans.MGM first released "The Howling" in a no-frills DVD that let the movie down: no extras, a cheap and scratchy transfer, and a very dull mono soundtrack. Thankfully, they realized the popularity of the film and are now giving us a nice edition with revamped sound (5.1 Surround), a sharp picture, and a big bowl full o' extras.John Sayles's script (co-written with Terence H. Winkless) unapologetically drops the classic werewolf legend into the modern-day -- in this case, the world of television news and the fad of self-help psychology. News anchor Karen White (Dee Wallace-Stone), while on a special assignment to lure out a serial killer (Robert Picardo from "Star Trek: Voyager") in the city, is attacked by something bestial. On the advice of psychiatrist Dr. Waggner (Patrick Macnee), Karen and her husband (Christopher Stone) head to Waggner's clinical retreat in the woods. However, there's something very disturbing about the other patients in the colony, and those weird wolf howls at night won't stop...The werewolf transformations supervised by Rob Bottin still have an amazing effect on viewers. Using air bladders, make-up, rubber, and pneumatics, Bottin was able to create a real-time transformation of a human into a nine-foot two-legged wolf. We see limbs snap, snouts grow, claws sprout, the whole deal, and it's damned incredible. (Amazingly, only six months later Rick Baker would do this movie one better with the transformation in "An American Werewolf in London.")The cast goes a long way to making the film work away from the effects. Dee Wallace provides the serious angle to the film, and is convincingly fragile. The rest of the actors add a wonderful loose humor: Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Belinda Balaski, and director Joe Dante's favorite actor, Dick Miller. The beautiful Elisabeth Brooks steals every scene she's in as a femme fatale who burns with sensuality, mystery, and one weird leather fetishist outfit. Director Joe Dante, who would go on to direct such wacky films as "Gremlins" and "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," puts his nutty sense of humor all over the film and packs it with in-jokes. The names of many of the characters are directors of werewolf movies, werewolf films and cartoons pop up on the televisions, and "wolf" items are scattered all over the place (Wolf Chili, a book by Thomas Wolfe, a reference to Wolfman Jack, a copy of the book "Howl"...and so on).The extras, most of which are on the flip side of the disc, are excellent. There's a feature-length commentary by Joe Dante, Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone, and Robert Picardo. Dante has plenty to say and is a very lively commentator, and this is a generally enjoyable audio track. "Unleashing the Beast," a fifty-minute documentary (divided into separate parts, but you can play them all together) goes into great depth on the making of the film. It includes new interviews with Joe Dante, producer Mike Finnel, cinematographer John Hora, writer John Sayles, and actors Dee Wallace-Stone, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, and Belinda Balaski. Conspicuously missing is effects wizard Rob Bottin, but you can see him on "Making a Monster Movie," an eight-minute featurette that was made in 1981. It also contains vintage interviews with Joe Dante and Patrick Macnee. The extras also include two trailers, production photos, and deleted scenes and outtakes (some of which are very funny). But the really major extras for most people will be the new picture quality and the remixed 5.1 sound. If you're a purist, you can still listen to the original mono mix -- it's here too."The Howling" makes most early 80s horror films, with brute slashers cutting down dumb teenagers at summer camps and slumber parties, look pretty awful. This is fun, funny, scary, smart -- and the effects will still make your jaw drop or maybe your fangs grow."
BEST HORROR MOVIE
cloudlio | Sao Paulo - SP - Brazil | 10/05/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE HOWLING is a rare original cult-movie, far from the reluctant werewolf pattern. The idea of werewolves instead of a single one hadn't been well developed before, as some legend variations. It has the legendary transformation scene with Rob Bottin's effects, stronger with Pino Donaggio's score (with no CD releasing yet). Rick Baker (Bottin's brother) was consultant and created later the Oscar winner effects of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, other historical movie.Both movies are linked. Contemporaries, they represented a new era. There's no point discussing which one's the better. "AWIL" is more modern in a way, having non-sense humor, bloody scenes and unbelievable effects. THE HOWLING, earlier, has a classical movie profile, surprising plot and ending. Its characters were named after classical werewolf and horror movies directors, like George Waggner, Sam Newfield, R. William Neill, Erle Kenton, Lew Landers, Terry Fischer, Charlie Barton, Jerry Warren and Jack Molina. There are lots of ironies, like THE WOLF MAN quotations during the film and after credits, and the wolf cartoon in a tense scene. John Carradine, Roger Corman, John Sayles and Forrest J. Ackerman appear, giving additional charm. It's the first time more complex werewolves characters emerge, like Eddie (Robert Picardo, the scariest werewolf on movie history) and Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks, 1951-1997). Joe Dante made this classic with $1,6 million and used his own garage for the rated movies scene.Lots of ideas were borrowed later ("the gift" in WOLF). There were sequels non-related to the original, without the "THE" of the title. Most of them have nothing to do with each other. It's depressing to someone expecting a real sequel to watch HOWLING II.Comparing to THE HOWLING, Brandner's book is different in many aspects, but both are unique. If you liked one, try the other, but don't get anxious finding total equivalence, some points of one aren't in the other and vice-versa.Unfortunately, the movie had no lucky on TV. Its first release on VHS had a blueish image. Later, a brighter version came, yellowish, but allowing explicit sight of the effects and a better screen fitting. I can't tell which one has the original color or if none of them has. The MGM VHS release (August, 2000), after years of "out of print", is a very good presentation - no cuts, Hi-Fi Stereo. The only possible complaints are a few optical ghosts during the title presentation and a beautiful but not original cover. The light gets closer to the brighter version, with impressive color balancing. But I don't know if it's closer to the original.Lucky are those who watched it in the theater, with original color and no lateral reductions. We'll have to hope for a DVD version in a letterbox format, with tone color and light fidelity to the cinema's. A special edition, maybe director's, would be wonderful: interviews, soundtrack, theatrical trailler/teasers and more. Otherwise, loyal horror movies enthusiasts are not having what they deserve."
Wicked Cool Werewolf Movie!
Monty Moonlight | TX | 09/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Karen White (E.T.'s Dee Wallace-Stone) is a TV news reporter who's become the object of serial killer Eddie Quist's psychotic obsession. One night, in a daring attempt to catch the killer on live television, Karen comes face to face with the beast inside him. A rookie cop comes to the rescue, and fills Eddie with lead before Karen can be physically harmed, but she's already the victim of psychological damage. Even the famous Dr. Waggner (Patrick Macnee) can't help Karen remember the face she saw that night, which has been locked away deep in her subconscious. Finally, the concerned doctor suggests that Karen and her husband, Bill, spend some time at his "Colony," a retreat in the California woods for some of his patients who need to "unwind." When the two arrive there, however, they find the place is hardly a relaxing setting. Surrounded by strangers who just keep getting stranger, disturbing howls coming from the woods at night, and a sudden rash of animal mutilations, Karen is not having a restful stay. To make matters worse, the Colony's lovely resident nymphomaniac, Marsha, has designs on Karen's frustrated husband, Bill. Meanwhile, back in the city, Karen's friends and co-workers, Chris and Terry, are doing their best to discover the secrets of Eddie Quist, who they find has mysteriously disappeared from the city morgue. Their search leads them on a path of werewolves and the supernatural, and both will have to come to terms with what they believe if they are going to save their friend from the dangers that surround her before it is too late!
Only a few months before the legendary "An American Werewolf In London" was released, Joe Dante gave us the OTHER best werewolf film ever made, the original "The Howling." Rather than the lone, cursed wolf-man figure, The Howling gives us a very different take on the genre, portraying werewolves as pack creatures much like the real-life animals they take their names from. Everything from alpha leaders, to challengers, to mating, hunting, and socializing is shown from the werewolf's point of view, giving us a much more realistically-based depiction. These tall and very impressive looking werewolves are also able to shape-shift whenever they choose, day or not, making them quite the formidable adversaries. But "The Howling" doesn't disregard the traditional Hollywood legends completely. It still takes silver bullets or fire to kill these werewolves, and their condition is still spread as easily as a single bite. The Howling's effects are fantastic, only outshined by "An American Werewolf In London," released that same year, and just as in that film, the material is handled with great love and respect. It's loaded with humor and cute and funny references to wolf and werewolf pop culture, from cartoons and illustrations, to a can of Wolf brand chili. There's no shortage of gore and horror either though, with some genuine scares for any lone, nighttime viewers. The cast is excellent, studded with camp and horror favorites like Dick Miller, Patrick Macnee, Dee Wallace-Stone, John Carradine, Kevin McCarthy, Christopher Stone, Slim Pickens, Dennis Dugan, and Roger Corman, among others. Elisabeth Brooks is breathtaking as the frighteningly seductive temptress, Marsha. Now, for many, the final scene (or rather, the next to final scene) in which we see a VERY different type of werewolf, tends to "ruin" the scary and impressive style of the rest of the film. Don't let this ruin it for you! According to Dee Wallace in a recent interview at thewerewolfcafe.com, this different look of the final werewolf was done to depict the character in question's unwillingness to submit to the evil transformation. Knowing that makes the whole thing much more acceptable (thanks, Dee)! Overall, "The Howling" adds up to one frighteningly good time that I highly recommend!
6 sequels followed "The Howling," ALL of which have an awful reputation. I recommend checking them out and judging for yourself. They're all very different, and a couple might be rather enjoyable to you, but avoid the no-budget part 7 (New Moon Rising) at all costs."
You'll have a Howling good time!
Matthew C. Lupoli | North Haven, CT United States | 08/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"PLOT: The film opens in California. A recent occurrence of grisly murders has gotten the attention of the police. Famed newscaster Karen White (Dee Wallace Stone) has agreed to assist the police in a sting operation in order to find the killer. The biggest lead they have come up with is a mysterious man named Eddie (Robert Picardo). Following a phone call, Karen agrees to meet Eddie in a film booth at a porno shop. Karen goes (followed by the police.) Karen meets Eddie in the booth and suddenly a scream is heard which sends the police racing into the shop and firing at the booth. Eddie is killed from the bullet wounds instantly. Karen is left in such traumatic shock that she can't remember what she saw. She starts having strange nightmares and is forced to take a break from her anchor job. Karen's reporter friends, Terry Fisher and Chris (Belinda Balaski and Dennis Dugan) find the apartment of Eddie. It is filled with strange objects and realistic but strange drawings of people covered in hair. "The kid had talent," remarks Chris. By looking at the signature on the drawings, they discover that Eddie's last name was Quist. Karen later visits the psychiatrist Dr. George Waggner (Patrick MacNee). He is affiliated with Karen's news station and recommends that Karen go to his clinic in upstate California called "The Colony", in order to relieve some stress. Karen is accompanied by her husband R. William (Bill) Neill (real-life husband Christopher Stone). The other people at the colony are really weird, especially the eccentric yet sexy nymphomaniac Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks). At night, Karen awakes in her cabin to hear strange howling sounds from outside in the wilderness. By the time Bill wakes up, the sound has stopped. Terry and Chris later go to the county morgue to see Eddie's body, in an attempt to get some information for an upcoming TV special they are working on. When the morgue attendant (screen-writer John Sayles) opens the compartment door, he sees that the body is gone. There are also claw marks on the inside of the door. "You don't suppose someone could have stolen him, do you?," asks Chris. The attendant replies, "Well he didn't get up and walk out on his own." Karen is still having her nightmares and she still can't remember what happened in the porno shop. She has trouble fitting in with the people at the colony, but Bill starts to fit in right away and he constantly finds himself drawn towards Marsha. One night, on the way back to the cabin, Bill is suddenly attacked and bitten by some sort of wild animal. Before he can see what it is, it's gone. He is immediately treated by Dr. Waggner for rabies. Not too long after this, Karen realizes that she is in a place where no one is who they seem to be.
COMMENTS: Joe Dante's The Howling is a delightful film and easily one of the Top 5 best werewolf films of all time. It is based on Gary Brandner's1977 novel of the same name. It is not a faithful adaptation however. Dante and the other filmmakers wanted to make an homage for other werewolf films and they used Brandner's novel as the base. Many people have claimed that this is one of the few times when the movie is better than the book. The filmmakers decided to base the werewolves on original legends: they would look like large wolves standing on two legs, they can only be killed by silver or fire, if they aren't killed properly then they will regenerate, and they can change at will and don't have to wait for the full moon. Many of the character names have been changed to the names of directors of werewolf films. Many other references are made, such as Terry and Chris watching the Wolf Man on TV, Bill's reference to radio DJ Wolfman Jack, a photo of a young Lon Chaney Jr. in Dr. Waggner's office, Chris is seen watching a cartoon with the big bad wolf while he has a copy of the book "Howl" on his desk, and the sheriff of the colony is seen eating a can of wolf chili. Rob Bottin's special effects for the transformation scenes are absolutely amazing and he was only 21 at the time. I think it looks better than some of the CGI crap that filmmakers use today. No more cheap lap dissolve tricks from films like "The Wolf Man." Rick Baker served as the special effects consultant on this film and afterwards he did the special effects on "An American Werewolf in London", which won him the very first Oscar for special makeup effects. The Howling franchise introduced us to sexy female werewolves and Elisabeth Brooks as Marsha was a fine example. This movie was also the first to show a "werewolf sex scene". Since this movie was such a big hit, Joe Dante later went on to direct movies such as "Gremlins", "Innerspace", "The `Burbs", and "The Explorers." Dee Wallace Stone went on to play the mother in "E.T." The Howling started a franchise and was followed by 6 inferior sequels: Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf, Howling III: The Marsupials, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, Howling V: The Rebirth, Howling VI: The Freaks, and Howling VII: New Moon Rising. Some were o.k. (Howling III), some were so bad that they were hysterical (Howling II) and one was so bad that it wasn't even funny (Howling VII). The original Howling is a timeless horror classic. I would recommend this film to anyone. The new special edition DVD is awesome. The picture and sound have been completely remastered and it can be viewed in full screen or the original widescreen theatrical ratio. It also features deleted scenes, outtakes, photo gallery, original theatrical trailers, commentary w/ Joe Dante, Dee Wallace Stone, Christopher Stone, and Robert Picardo, a 1981 documentary entitled "Making A Monster Movie: Inside the Howling", and a brand new documentary entitled "Unleashing the Beast: Making the Howling." Check out my reviews for the Howling II and Howling III DVDs as well. "
Fun and Entertaining Werewolf Movie
Kasey Driscoll | 05/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love Horror films. When talking about the many sub-genres involved and the low percentage of quality horror films, some films stand out as merely "important" rather than achieve a level of greatness (Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th). The Howling is such a film.
When looking at the great werewolf films out there and considering the times they were released, the original Wolfman stands next to An American Werewolf in London as perhaps the greatest Werewolf films of there respective times. The Howling may very well be a challenge to the latter of these two films as the best of it's time. Both were released in 1981, but the Howling was developed before the Landis project. It doesn't really matter, as I do believe An American Werewolf in London to be better film but the Howling is an important film along with being entertaining. Neil Jordon's In the Company of Wolves came out a few years later and is my personal favorite of any in this sub-genre but all that aside, The Howling is a true horror classic and a werewolf movie fan's treasure. It is a must have of hardcore horror fans because it contains and helped identify the many traits we've seen before and after it.
The Howling starts off in a similar vein to that of the original Dawn of the Dead, putting the idea of a werewolf into the mainstream media (disguised as a serial killer) and it ends on a similar note. This allows us to sort of picture this mythical creature on scale with today's society, or at least that of 1981. It's dated and it's thrown right on TV so we can all feel connected. The film is handled as a kind of film noir at first and slowly brings itself from that and into the werewolf sub-genre in fairly atypical fashion. The acting is really only good by it's main protagonist, whose name escapes me. It also has it's share of character actors who we've enjoyed in these kinds of films before. The Howling isn't afraid to laugh at itself either, which I think is almost a must in horror films...it interesting how almost all other notable werewolf movies (i.e. Dog Soldiers, An American Werewolf in London) also make us laugh. This helped me in some respect to look past a lot of the dated special effects and to laugh at them. The film gets more microcosmic later on and sets itself up for some good scares and some eerie and outstanding howls in the night. Unfortunately, the film ends a bit too quickly, but the Howling remains almost as important as An American Werewolf in London for bringing this great myth back to the forefront of horror films again."