The Howling (1981)
Let’s take a walk down memory lane back to the time of cassette tapes, rotary phones, and the birth of cable television. The eighties, where I spent my formative years headbanging, reading sci fi, and burning stuff in my backyard. And going to my friend’s house to watch horror movies on cable television. Yeah he had the premium channels, and that’s where I first saw The Howling.
The Howling is one of the premiere werewolf movies, although it was overshadowed by An American Werewolf in London which was released in the same year. Clearly, An American Werewolf in London is a better film and more fondly remembered, but don’t forget about The Howling, it’s viscously good!
Early on we meet serial killer (umm, werewolf) Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). He’s pestering newswoman Dee Wallace (Karen White). After a while we get to the juicy bit, the big change! Eddie’s metamorphosis sequence is damn scary even today and certainly revolutionary for the time. I love the bubbling skin and growing nails. I also dig the creepy mid-change contorted rictus, bulging eyes, and puffed up chest. And it’s all kicked off by Eddie digging out a piece of his brain in front of a horrified Dee Wallace. Eewwwww!
Other notable scenes are the chopping off of a werewolf’s hand, a brutal throat chomping, and a werewolf sexual encounter with full frontal nudity. And I got a chuckle from the Forrest Ackerman cameo complete with Forry toting a couple of copies of his mag Famous Monsters of Filmland.
The Howling is director Joe Dante’s crowning achievement in a career began under the tutelage of the legendary Roger Corman. His other memorable film was the horror-comedy The Gremlins (a Steven Spielberg production). Interestingly, the effects on The Howling were originally to be handled by one of the masters in the field, Rick Baker. Baker ended up working on An American Werewolf in London leaving The Howling to be handled by Robin R. Bottin, one of Baker’s employees. Bottin certainly rose to the task. He was obviously a major talent and went on to do most of the effects for John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of the greatest and grisliest sci-fi horror classics of them all!
The Howling is a gruesome and groovy werewolf classic. If you’ve never seen it, go for it. If you saw it back in the day, it’s a great trip down a dark and shadowy memory lane.