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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

The Howling 1981 Reviewed

Featured Image For The Howling 1981 Reviewed.  Movie poster for "The Howling" featuring a close-up of a screaming woman with sharp claws ripping through the poster, with a tagline above and movie details below.
Feel the piercing shrieks and the primal fear as 'The Howling' claws its way into the realm of your nightmares.

They say a wolf’s howl slices through the night, a primal scream echoing forgotten instincts. It makes the hairs on your neck stand on end, a shiver of something older, wilder than you know. Joe Dante’s 1981 cult classic "The Howling" does just that—it sinks its teeth into that deep-buried animal inside you, and tears it loose.

The Howling 1981 Key Takeaways

  • The Duality of Human Nature: The film explores the tension between our civilized veneer and the primal, possibly monstrous urges lurking beneath the surface.

  • The Power of Transformation: The werewolf transformations are grotesque and horrifying, emphasizing the destructive, uncontrollable power lurking within change, both physical and psychological.

  • Insidious Nature of Evil: Evil isn't always a glaring monster. Sometimes it hides in plain sight, disguised as charm and normalcy, like the characters inhabiting the "Colony".

  • The Illusion of Safe Spaces: The remote mountain resort promises healing and sanctuary, but actually harbors something much more sinister. It reminds us that safety can be an illusion, and danger can lurk in the most unexpected places.

  • The Fine Line Between Horror and Humor: The film expertly combines horrifying moments with an undercurrent of dark, satirical humor that adds a unique and unsettling dimension.

  • Practical Effects Triumph: The film's reliance on practical effects creates visceral and unforgettable creature transformations, showcasing the timeless power of well-executed special effects.

  • Legacy of '80s Horror: "The Howling" is a quintessential product of its time, capturing the campy, over-the-top, yet genuinely terrifying spirit of '80s horror filmmaking.

Woman huddled on a couch, bathed in the TV's light, mouth agape as a werewolf howl echoes from the speakers and through the room.
Sometimes the worst thing you can see is what you can't.

Let’s rewind. It’s ‘81, the year of the werewolf. "The Howling" snarled its way onto the big screen, bloody fangs clashing with the stylish, almost comedic transformation in "An American Werewolf in London." Both classics, but Dante’s beast digs a little deeper into the darkness.

Dee Wallace, an icon in her own right, plays Karen White, a television newswoman left rattled after a traumatic encounter with a serial killer. It’s pure B-movie brilliance—the breathless stakeout, the shadowy alleys… and Eddie Quist, the monster that lurks far closer than you think.

Her well-meaning psychiatrist, the charming Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee with a twinkle in his eye), suggests a retreat. But this ain’t no spa weekend. Karen and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) are sent to a remote mountain resort whose residents may or may not be exactly what they seem. Think less yoga, more howling at the moon.

If you crave practical effects, "The Howling" is a feast for the eyes. The werewolf transformation sequences are brutal and visceral. Men become monsters before you, bones cracking, flesh rippling—all courtesy of Rob Bottin, the legend who'd just dazzled audiences with "The Thing." This isn’t a sleek, romantic werewolf; this is pure, bestial rage unleashed.

A boy watches The Howling, his face mirrored in the TV screen. His eyes are wide, focused on something just out of frame.
The monster wasn't just on the screen. It was fighting to get out.

The Critic Reviews Howl For This Film

Yet, what truly sets "The Howling" apart is its strange, almost dreamlike undercurrent. Sure, it's got the scares–those shadowed figures stalking through the woods, the eerie howls cutting through the night—but it’s also slyly funny in a way that makes the horror hit harder. Think those B-movies that’d play at the drive-in, mixing cheesy goodness with genuine chills.

Where Dante excels is in the quieter moments. The knowing looks the characters share, the bizarre and near-psychedelic scenes in the colony— it's all a bit off-kilter, lulling you into a sense of unease before flipping that switch back to full-blown terror.

Now, it wouldn’t be a true '80s horror film without a little camp thrown into the mix. But in Dante's hands, even the silliest moments become a strange, unnerving delight. It's a balancing act he pulls off masterfully, keeping you on the edge of your seat with a mix of terror and wicked amusement.

Perhaps that’s why, decades later, "The Howling" still has bite. It was a hit when released the same year as other horror gems, earning an award for best horror film. Its legacy didn't end there – sequels arose from the film's success, though few could ever match the twisted brilliance of the original.

"The Howling" might not be the most polished or self-serious horror movie ever made, but there’s an undeniable raw power to it, a wildness that burrows under your skin. It's a film that understands the duality of our nature - the civilized façade we present to the world, and the howling beast that lurks beneath the surface. And, if you listen closely in the dead of night…you just might hear an echo of your own.

And that is The Howling 1981 Reviewed. Another great classic horror movie

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If You Liked The Howling 1981 You Might Also Like These Films

  • An American Werewolf in London (1981): The ultimate werewolf classic, released the same year as "The Howling." This film balances genuinely terrifying moments with a wry, dark humor that fans of "The Howling" will appreciate. John Landis directs, with incredible makeup effects by Rick Baker.

  • Dog Soldiers (2002): If you enjoy the blend of humor and horror in "The Howling," this British cult hit is perfect. A group of soldiers on a training exercise find themselves besieged by a pack of ferocious werewolves. It's gory, action-packed, and has some genuinely funny moments amidst the terror.

  • Ginger Snaps (2000): This Canadian film gives the werewolf myth a feminist twist. It follows two outcast sisters infected with lycanthropy, and explores themes of transformation, female rage, and sisterhood.

  • The Wolfman (2010): A remake of the classic Universal Monster film, starring Benicio Del Toro. This version offers a gothic atmosphere, stunning visuals, and intense werewolf action, emphasizing the tragic, monstrous aspects of the werewolf myth.

  • Wolfen (1981): Perhaps a less obvious choice, but fans of "The Howling"'s exploration of animal vs. human nature might enjoy this film. Set in New York City, it follows a detective investigating a series of brutal animal attacks that may have a supernatural origin. The creatures here are wolf-like spirits, creating a unique blend of urban thriller and Native American mysticism.

The Howling 1981 Reviewed FAQs

Q: Who directed the movie "The Howling"? 

A: "The Howling" was directed by Joe Dante. Dante is a prolific filmmaker with a cult following, known for movies like "Gremlins" and "Piranha." His horror work often mixes dark themes with a touch of mischievous humor, a style undeniably present in "The Howling".

Q: What is "The Howling" about? 

A: "The Howling" is a werewolf film based on the novel by Gary Brandner. It follows television newswoman Karen White, who suffers psychological trauma after a terrifying encounter with a serial killer. Seeking respite, she visits a secluded mountain resort called "The Colony," unaware that it harbors a dark secret – its inhabitants are werewolves.

Q: What are some notable cast members in "The Howling"? 

A: The movie features actors like: Dee Wallace: A scream queen icon, known for roles in "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and "Cujo." Patrick Macnee: Renowned for his role as John Steed in the British series "The Avengers." Dennis Dugan: A comedic actor and frequent collaborator of Adam Sandler. Robert Picardo: Best known as the holographic Doctor on "Star Trek: Voyager." John Carradine: A prolific character actor with a career spanning decades. Kevin McCarthy: Featured in films like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Slim Pickens: A legendary Western actor. Elisabeth Brooks: A character actress of film and television.

Q: Is "The Howling" considered one of the best werewolf movies ever made? 

A: Yes, "The Howling" is often praised as one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Fans and critics alike commend its groundbreaking special effects, compelling blend of horror and humor, and its exploration of the darker side of human nature.

Q: Who is known for the special effects makeup in "The Howling"? 

A: The special effects makeup in "The Howling" was done by Rob Bottin, who took over the project after special effects legend Rick Baker left to work on "An American Werewolf in London." Bottin's visceral and gruesome transformation sequences are a highlight of the film and stand as a testament to the power of practical effects.

Q: Has "The Howling" received any awards? 

A: Yes, the movie won the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 1982. It also garnered nominations for Best Actress (Dee Wallace), Best Supporting Actor (Patrick Macnee), and Best Makeup (Rob Bottin) at the same awards ceremony.

Q: What sets "The Howling" apart from other werewolf movies? 

A: "The Howling" is known for several things that make it stand out: Brutal Transformation Scenes: The werewolf transformations feature grotesque and incredibly detailed practical effects, contributing to their overall impact. Psychological Elements: The film doesn't just focus on physical horror; it delves into the psychological trauma of the protagonist and the unsettling atmosphere of "The Colony." * Dark Humor: "The Howling" injects black humor into the narrative, creating a unique and disquieting tone.


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