The Howling (Scream Factory)
Directors - Joe Dante
Cast - Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee
Country of Origin - USA
Discs - 1
Distributor - Shout Factory
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 07/09/13
The Film (4/5)
Like the age old Beatles Vs. The Rolling Stones debate, I have always stated that there are 2 types of horror fans. There are ones that are devoted followers of American Werewolf in London and others that are all about 1981's other werewolf FX extravaganza the Joe Dante directed, Rob Bottin FX'd THE HOWLING. Now in the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I am a bigger fan of American Werewolf in London, but have a special place in my horror loving heart for Dante's brilliant forward thinking homage to werewolf cinema.
The Howling tells the story of Karen White a news reporter for a local affiliate station. She has been stalked in recent weeks by a man who has been giving her obscene phone calls. For the sake of a getting a good story, she agrees to meet the man, named Eddie Quist one night. After receiving a phone call from him at a designated pay phone, she goes to a adult video store, and enters a private viewing booth, where Eddie soon approaches her. Within moments he changes, behind her back, into his lycanthropic form, but before he can complete his planned attack is shot dead by two cops who have been following Karen.
Fast forward to a while later, and Karen is still having trouble making sense of the encounter. Her counselor encourages Karen and her husband Bill to take a relaxing trip to his secluded campsite the Colony to get away from the city and get the root of her issues. Unfortunately, it appears that being at the Colony exacerbates these issues with the strange denizens that also occupy the place, one of whom, Marsha, has a deep sexual appetite, and her eyes on Bill. Also, Karen keeps hearing a strange howling in the night.
American Werewolf in London was like a mix of black comedy and Wolfman-like tragedy. That formula combined with Rick Baker's stellar makeup FX combined to create something truly unique and amazing. The Howling on the other hand while comedic in parts has a more serious tone to the film. It mixes elements of psychological and relationship dramas with an air of suspense and mystery (although let's be honest that mystery isn't difficult to resolve), and also fantastic makeup FX from Rob Bottin.
The performances are across the board fantastic with Dee Wallace turning in a particularly dynamic performance as Karen White who has to play both vulnerable, and also someone who is ready to take action when the time comes. The cast is also filled out with genre notables such as Robert Picardo (Star Trek) as Eddie, John Carradine (Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath), and also features some fun cameos from Roger Corman, Forest J. Ackerman, and Dick Miller (Who is once again playing a character named Walter Paisley).
In a year with at least 4 fantastic Werewolf films hitting cinemas (1981), The Howling stood amongst the competition, and has stood still against the test of times. The Howling from the John Sayles script, to the direction from Joe Dante, to the FX from Bottin has created a truly timeless entry into the world of Werewolf Cinema.
I'll be upfront in admitting I skipped all iterations of the Howling on DVD, and have not owned a copy of the film since my well worn MGM VHS copy of the film. Therefore, any upgrade is going to look substantially better to my eyes. That being said Scream Factory has brought Joe Dante's The Howling to Blu-ray in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC Encoded transfer that looks quite nice overall. There is a nice amount of grain in the transfer, detail is solid, black levels and colors are stable and look quite good. There does appear to be some digital manipulation of the image, but that could have been present in the elements Scream Factory was given to work with overall a very nice transfer.
The audio has been presented with 2 options a DTS-HD Master Audio track in 2.0 and 5.1 both in English. For the purpose of my viewing I primarily went with the 2.0 track which was very solid. The dialogue was completely audible throughout the films running time, as was the sound FX and score. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks ,or hissing on the track.
Scream Factory has put together a fantastic package together for their release of the Howling. Some of the material was ported over from prior releases, while other material was created exclusively for this release. The disc includes 2 commentary tracks. The first is archival and includes Joe Dante, Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone, Robert Picardo. The second is with DVD Producer Michael Felsher and Howling author Gary Brandner. The next and probably most substantial extra is an SD documentary called Unleashing the Beast that runs 49 minutes long that goes into detail about the films production. We then have Howlings Eternal a 19 minute interview with producer Steven Lane about the film. This is followed with a 13 minute interview with Terrence Winkless the original screenwriter of the film. We then have Horror's Hallowed Ground a 12 minute piece that follows the editor of Horror Hound magazine as he gives us a tour of the films locations as they appear now. Cut to Shreads the next featurette is a 11 minute interview with Howling editor Mark Goldblatt, and then we get a 9 minute interview with the late David Allen about his stop-motion contributions to the film. We then get the 8 minute EPK for the film entitled Making a Monster Movie. The disc is rounded off by deleted scenes, outtakes, a stills gallery, and trailers.
The Howling is one of the greatest entries in 80's Werewolf Cinema, if not one of the greatest werewolf films of all time. The A/V restoration is quite nice, and Scream Factory have loaded this title with extra features. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.