Sunday, 4 July 2010

No.41 : The Howling

Back in the 80s I used to have a copy of ‘The Howling’ that was mysteriously worn out around the 48 minute mark. I can’t remember having ever watched the film the whole way through but certain scenes seemed to resonate more with my teenage mind than others.

Having now seen the film in its entirety that certain scene remains the highlight but the whole thing is certainly worth a look. In a cluttered and clichéd genre it’s good to see a werewolf film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to play fast and loose with the ‘rules’.

Our heroine is Dee Wallace a sexy news anchor with big hair. As the film opens we find her out on an investigative report where she aims to rip the lid off some sleazy antics. She is to make contact with her source, Eddie, who quickly leads her to a porno theatre. As the 25c action hots up in the booth Eddie starts to change before he is shot up by a trigger happy cop.

Dee is traumatised by the event, as are we, having spent nearly 30 minutes without a hint of a wolf mask. Dee takes the advice of John Steed and take a convalescence break at his community upstate - HUGE mistake. Dee takes her husband who looks like a walking tribute to ‘Back to the Future’ with his body warmer and tight jeans.

They soon hears some howling in the night and the hubby gets a bite from a stuffed bear like creature. Meanwhile back in the city Dee’s team are following up leads and discover that Eddie’s body has gone awol. After a quick stop at Dick Miller’s book shop of the occult they start to figure out what is happening. Back at the ranch the bitten vegetarian hubby is getting a taste for meat and for the sexy weird chick who lives in a shack.

It soon becomes clear that Dee has found herself in a colony of werewolves and as the intrepid nerd news hound rushes to the rescue we have to wonder who’s wolfie and who just forgot to shave that day.

After a slow start I found this film really enjoyable despite it’s cruddy acting and ropey effects. It’s directed by Joe Dante who did ‘Gremlins’ and the Spider-Man films and his tongue in cheek style is evident throughout. The august cast that includes John Steed and John Carradine in his second definite article in a row ham it up something awful but it’s all good fun. The transformation effects are OK in the snout sprouting department but the over reliance on air bladders is a bit distracting. Talking of distracting the score is a nightmare of overly earnest organ playing and plinky plonk synth - give it a rest I could hardly make out the dialogue in some scenes.

As alluded to earlier there is a bit of full frontal nudity which I remembered from my youth - what I’d forgotten is that after the act they turn into cartoons - my Jessica Rabbit fetish is explained!

It’s not out the park great but for a slightly off beat take on an old genre you could do a lot worse than ‘The Howling’ - just stop at 1 - the many, many sequel prove the law of diminishing returns holds fast.

THE Tag Line : Not Just For Minute 48! 70%

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