Having hit my teenage, hormone-induced, T&A littered, monster movie loving phase somewhere in the early 1990's, I grew up listening to the legends of the great horror movie classics of the 70's and 80's. By the time I was old enough to go see these movies in the theater, I was getting the watered-down recycled formulas of Nightmare on Elm Street 4 or Jason Goes to Hell. Gone were the days of wildly original movies like Scanners and its exploding heads or the sheer intensity of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
One of the movies that I heard the most about was The Howling. After all, It had an amazing poster, and by 1991 there were already 6 movies in the franchise, one of which being the weirdly outlandish Howling III: The Marsupials, which I saw late night on HBO when I was 12 and was not terribly impressed (though I think I'd now want to screen it for the Cavalcade). Unfortunately, after that I never made it a priority to go back and see the one that started it all, no mater what my friends said about it. They would go on and on about the transformation sequences, how scary the whole thing was, and how it was even better than the later An American Werewolf in London at mixing comedy with horror. Eventually however, as video tape gave way to DVD and the Special Edition of the movie fell into my lap, I gathered the minions of the Cavalcade and set down to watch.
After having done so I have to wonder, what was all the hype about?
This film was directed by Joe Dante, who had by this point in his career helmed the Schlocktastic Jaws knock-off, Piranha, and would later go on to direct Gremlins, which was produced by none-other than Jaws director, Steven Spielberg. A staple of Dante's work is a mixture of Comedy and Horror along with numerous references to other films, things that are in full effect in The Howling. The scenes in the bookstore, with veteran actor and frequent Dante collaborator, Dick Miller as the store owner are some of the funniest. After providing the key explanations about the rules of the werewolves of the movie, he's asked, "Do you really believe all of this?" only to respond, "What? Do I look crazy to you?"
Sadly, these scenes are few and far between, with the best reserved for the ending. So we have to rely on the horror and suspense to keep us going... which is where the film completely falls apart. Aside from one cheap scare with a dog, and one really effective stalking sequence, this movie fails at generating any level of excitement on the suspense. Long, television soap opera scenes with Dee Wallace and her on-screen (and soon to be real-life) husband Christopher Stone are the order of the day. This is something that was completely left out of the tales I was told of how "awesome" this movie was by my friends as a teenager, all I heard was:
"Dude! Freaky Werewolves!"
"Dude! Freaky Sex!"
"Dude! Freaky Werewolf Sex!"
I should mention that a lot of the kids I knew as a teenager did a lot of drugs.
While they didn't lie-this film does indeed contain a great transformation sequence and some on-screen doggy style (and not in the traditional sense), it's also filled to the brim with the worst thing possible in a low-budget movie... Padding for time.
Over the years, The Howling has become a revered cult classic, with many hailing it as best of the staple of werewolf movies to come out of the 80's. Not only do I have to disagree, I can't even argue that it was all that good. Though when you're comparing it to other werewolf movies like Silver Bullet, Teen Wolf Too, or it's own sequels, this film is pure gold...
But still not recommended for a Cavalcade.