The werewolf film is a certainly a severely neglected sub-genre of the horror genre. That being said, the number of genuinely quality werewolf films is absurdly scant. Of course, the horror genre has a rotten wealth of mediocre zombie flicks (will these ever stop?!?), but it is sorely lacking in the classic supernatural wolfman department. Unfortunately, it seems that most modern day werewolf movies are not much more than sterile action-packed cross-genre works (e.g. the supremely overrated Underworld franchise) that are designed to be sexy, cool, and even funny, but totally lack the distinct nuances of the ancient monster myth. Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981) is one of few notable works that manages to capture some of the elements of the traditional werewolf story, but, unfortunately, time has been a little unkind to this mostly worthwhile horror flick.
It is not often that a serious female professional goes to a sleazy porno theater to meet a murderously perverted werewolf. Of course, television anchorwoman Karen White thinks that she is just going to meet a mere pathological serial killer. Naturally, she is met with quite a surprise of the lethal lycanthropic sort. After suffering amnesia after her less than charming meeting with the somewhat degenerate werewolf, a doctor orders Mrs. White to stay at a highly suspect colony getaway. Karen and her husband decide to go and end up at a peculiar rural colony inhabited by mysterious individuals that are somewhat similar to the violent villagers of The Wicker Man, minus the odd proclivity towards Celtic paganism.
As one soon comes to suspect, the dubious individuals of the colony are actually a pack of werewolves who don't take too kindly to silver bullets. Unfortunately, some of the werewolves featured in The Howling look exactly like what they actually are in real-life: people wearing werewolf costumes. Due to age and less than stellar special effects, the werewolves in the film aren't very petrifying and even disappointing at times. Like a lot of older horror films, The Howling has more than shown its age. Additionally, the vintage wardrobes of the characters featured in the film are nothing short of repellant, but, of course, such blatant aesthetic-displeasantness comes with the territory for a horror film created in the early 1980s.
The real meat of The Howling lies in the buildup leading to when the eccentric colony residents collectively morph into werewolves and do as werewolf do. Whether it be Richard Ramirez-look-alike Eddie or nefarious nymphomaniac Marsha, one can’t help but yearn for the little lycanthropic legion to shred their human prey apart. Like most worthwhile werewolf flicks, The Howling has an imperative erotic component that is probably best expressed when seductive beastess Marsha lures in Karen White's husband and brands him on the back via her she-wolf claws, thus marking her property. In regard to Mr. White, one must ask themselves whether or not the man committed active adultery when engaging in bestial intercourse whilst entranced by an exceedingly sexual supernatural being? To answer my own question, I give a positive: NO.
The Howling has a number of glaring flaws and aesthetic blemishes, yet it is most certainly one of few werewolf films worthy of viewing and returning to. The film has enough nudity, violence, and true horror to at least keep most viewers reasonably gratified. Still, I can't help but feel that while The Howling shows immense promise during its undeniably captivating opening, it never quite reaches its full potential. Then again, the actual ending of The Howling is quite splendid, especially for those viewers that fancy scenes of extravagant mass bodily dismemberment. Unfortunately, it seems that Karen White never reaches the solace of soul that she originally sought out to achieve in the first place on her luxurious vacation retreat.
In conclusion, I highly recommend that viewers should take the opportunity to bite into a big juicy hamburger upon finishing The Howling, so as to heighten the overall experience of the film.