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Howl

Year: 2015
Production Co: Starchild pictures
Director: Paul Hyett
Writer: Mark Huckerby/Nick Ostler

This film does its best to make something new of a very shopworn premise ('stranded-strangers-vs-monster') and is cleverer than most about melding the mythology of lycanthropy to the story, something few werewolf tales have managed for decades, let along the recent crop like Wolves, Werewolf Rising and Late Phases.

It's a shame then that the creatures, when they do appear, look more like hairy bodybuilders mid-transformation or sasquatches with sharp teeth and slightly elongated snouts.

Diverting from the Alien path where we gradually get to know characters while they're picked off, the Howl monster breaks into the stronghold (it's been a spaceship, a log cabin in the woods and any number of other classic horror movie locations – here's it's a train) midway through the movie, and what happens next puts the group of desperate survivors on a completely new footing alongside each other and the bigger threat they never knew existed.

Soft Spoken Joe is a conductor on a regional UK train service when he pulls an unlucky night shift. The passengers are moody and surly, nobody wants to be there and his only consolation is pretty snacks vendor Ellen – if he can get her attention.

But when the train apparently runs into something in the middle of the forest and grinds to a halt, things take a turn for the worse. After the engineer disappears following an attack by something huge, hairy and unseen, the commuters (against Joe's wishes and authority) decide to walk to the next station. When howls fill the night and it becomes apparent something is stalking them through the dark they hightail it back to the train, but not before something gets hold of one elderly passenger's leg and mauls it badly.

The battle is on to fortify the crippled train carriages against whatever wants to get to them and tear them limb from limb, and the script handles the interplay between the characters and their agendas/leadership struggles pretty well.

The story is good and the characters solid and there are good dose of both black humour and a level of blood and gore appropriate for the genre, but monster movies are one of the only genre were they can be let down if the effects don't stand up, and here it's apparently either a design or a budget issue but the monsters are just very uninspiring.

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