The Howling

Year: 1981
Production Co: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Gary Brandner
Cast: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Slim Pickens, Dick Miller
Along with that other werewolf movie from the early 80s, this one is more than worth watching. A totally different mythological set-up from Landis' seminal lycanthropia, The Howling does away with the full moon and silver bullet, making those stricken far more like evil murderers, changing into their monstrous form whenever they want to.

Reporter Karen (Wallace Stone) is traumatised after a sexual assault by a psycho in a porno theatre, so her husband takes her to a rural psychiatric retreat to recuperate.

But there's more to the retreat and its inhabitants than meets the eye - just as there was more to Karen's attack than there seemed, and it soon turns out the retreat is a commune for the local werewolf community.

Unlike American Werewolf, it's not a comedy, but despite treating its subject seriously there are said to be plenty of visual puns and in-joke cameos scattered throughout the film.

The animatronics are good while not as iconic as Landis' work with Rick Baker, but they contribute to the Jaws effect of not showing you too much of the monster. The one long shot of several of the villains we see after Karen makes her escape at the end is fairly clunky stop motion animation but the whole film is effective as a thriller and horror movie, putting director Dante in good stead to make Gremlins a few years later.

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