Blu-Ray Review: The Howling

Director: Joe Dante
Screenplay: John Sayles, Terence H. Winkless
Based on a Novel by: Gary Brandner
Starring: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone, Belinda Balaski, Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine, Slim Pickens
Country: USA
Running Time: 91 min
Year: 1981
BBFC Certificate: 18

Hollywood has a history of releasing two similarly themed films to fight for an audience in the same year (memorably, 1998 had a double bill of double bills with A Bug’s Life competing against Antz and Armageddon up against Deep Impact). Back in 1981 it was the battle of the werewolves, with three films released that featured the mythological creatures – An American Werewolf in London, Wolfen and The Howling. Wolfen was the most expensive of the three but bombed and is largely forgotten these days. An American Werewolf made the most money, but The Howling hit theatres first and was still fairly successful (particularly as it cost far less to make than the other two). It certainly went on to spawn the greater legacy, with its seven sequels and a remake coming soon. That said, it’s always stood in the shadow of An American Werewolf, especially since both films take a humorous approach to the subgenre. I couldn’t help but compare the two either, so my review is definitely affected by the fact that I’m a fan of John Landis’ film and have seen it quite a few times, whereas this viewing of The Howling was a first time watch.

The Howling opens with newswoman Karen White (Dee Wallace) being tailed by police as she goes to meet a possible serial killer, Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo), who is obsessed with her. The killer is shot dead whilst he tries to sexually assault Karen, who is left disturbed by the experience. It affects her marriage and work, so she is sent to a retreat called The Colony by her TV station’s resident doctor, George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), who runs it. Once there, her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) gets bitten by a wolf and starts acting strangely. Meanwhile, a couple of Karen’s colleagues, Chris (Dennis Dugan) and Terry (Belinda Balaski), investigate Eddie for a story, but find his body missing from the morgue and uncover links between him and the Colony, so Terry heads over there to warn Karen. As more werewolves crop up, it becomes difficult to say who’s in danger from who.

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Toronto After Dark 2011: Exit Humanity Review

Surviving through life’s difficulties and is the central theme of John Geddes civil war zombie drama Exit Humanity. Exit Humanity provides a fresh take on the over pushed genre of zombie films. I don’t want to take anything away from the good zombie films but it seems to me that many new film makers just rely on the zombie love to bring get an audience. Fortunately, Geddes is able to create a compelling small scale epic drama with a strong performance by it’s lead actor Mark Gibson as Edward Young. The movie starts out with a bit of a prologue and then with Edward having just killed his wife after she turned into a zombie and heading off to find his lost young son. We follow Edward through his search, his loss and eventually his recovery while meeting a few people along the way and killing off some zombies. Like most zombie flicks the conflict is only partially with zombies with the other people still alive posing as the real threat.

Exit Humanity strength is also it’s biggest weakness. It is a very slow burn movie with long quiet moments of Edward traveling across the south with him working through his rage and depression. Very little dialogue is provided during the opening half except for voice over which is provided by Brian Cox. While I enjoy Brian Cox I will never understand the need for voice over in any movie. It is pretty obvious what is going through Edward’s mind and Gibson does quite well in conveying the emotions and the voice over is somewhat superfluous an feels as if the movie is dumbing itself down. The voice over in this case is text from the story which Young is writing and it the book is the justification behind both voice over and another important aspect of the movie. Animations are used in place of the more expensive and hard to film action scenes. For some this will be a negative but I found the animated sequences to be both beautiful and compelling and drew me in.

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