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The Howling (1981) Revisited

This Movie Review is the Brain Child of so many different personalities!!!

What if my worst fear has nothing to do with werewolves? Like spiders or being forced to listen to your podcasts?

What if my worst fear has nothing to do with werewolves? Like spiders or being forced to listen to your podcasts?

MPAA Rating

R

Running Time

91 minutes

Director

Joe Dante

Writer

John Sayles

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write this review about a werewolf movie when just this morning I found out my nephew Mortimer had been turned into a werewolf and I was forced to shoot him before he changed and went on a murderous rampage.

Pretty high actually. When I wrote the review for Crawl, Mortimer was eaten by a giant alligator. When I wrote the review for The Nun, Mortimer was killed by a bunch of rabid nuns. When I wrote the review for Midsommar, Mortimer was killed by a bunch of midsommars. It was pretty brutal. I hate that I’m writing a movie review about another thing that killed Mortimer.

No. Nothing could be further from the Truth or Dare. That accusation does not give me Serenity.

I’m just so sad that my nephew Mortimer is dead. His Ma will be so upset, Ready or Not. He was always afraid of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and really enjoyed playing Warcraft. He also loved eating food from The Kitchen.

He was always a very good Boy and never failed to be The Life of the Party. He would have made a great Accountant. If there was a way for him to come back to life, I hope returns as one of The Resurrected.

I will, though it fills me with the heaviest of hearts –

It fills me with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to think about Mortimer and his Starry Eyes. Though he’s a lifeless pile of flesh right now, The Dead Don’t Die if we keep them in our hearts.

That sweater looks comfy. So does that headband. Maybe that headband was made from that sweater.

That sweater looks comfy. So does that headband. Maybe that headband was made from that sweater.

Synopsis

The Howling opens in a busy newsroom during the 5 o’clock news.

Our intrepid lead reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) is awaiting a phone call in a busy downtown street on something called a “payphone”.

I believe you put money into the phone machine itself. Then you dialed the number after it took your money. Then you were able to talk with the other person.

Anyway, over the past couple of days she’s been getting breathy phone calls from someone named Eddie. He’s creepy and disconcerting and Karen just wants it to end. Karen’s husband Bill (Tom Atkins-lookalike Christopher Stone) also works at the news station and is totally cool with this.

If he has, he’s been mailing them through the US Postal Service.

Karen has been told to wait by the “payphone” for his call. Don’t worry, Karen has police protection.

Eddie calls. Karen answers. Eddie tells her to go into a nearby pornographic video and bookstore.

No. It’s an actual building that contains “videos” and “books” of an illicit adult nature.

BTW- When a guy that’s been creepily calling you tells to go to the nearest adult bookstore so he can finally meet you, then it’s a totally good idea for a locally famous and attractive white woman to do so even if she has police protection.

When Karen walks in the adult store, the police lose her.

I think they sell dolls of adults that you can inflate using your mouth. Anyway, Karen goes into the porn shop and waits for Eddie to tell her what to do.

He tells her to begin watching a movie. The movie is exactly what you’d expect to be watching in an adult bookstore. Eddie then ends up behind her and starts whispering disturbing stuff into her ear.

The gun matches his jacket.

The gun matches his jacket.

Karen is afraid. But the police finally catch up to her and shoot Eddie before things get taken to a more violent place.

Karen is understandably unsettled. Bill is relieved that Karen is not dead.

Karen tries to recount what happened on the air and has a nervous breakdown.

More like, her on-air breakdown got rewound so many times if people happened to be recording the news on their VCRs.

A British doctor who’s been interviewed by the news station recently, the world-renowned Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee) recommends that Karen and Bill take some time off together. Dr. George has a retreat called the Colony in which people do “group therapy”. He believes it will be a great help. He’s got a British accent, so there’s probably nothing sinister about him at all.

Karen reluctantly agrees. She hasn’t been able to have sex with Bill because all she sees is Eddie’s face. She’s having nightmares. She’ll take the totally trustworthy doctor’s advice.

Karen and Bill go off to the Colony. She’s recognized by everyone.

The Colony members have a barbecue to welcome Karen and Bill. They eat a lot of meat. Bill declines because he doesn’t eat meat. Karen declines because most of these people are a little off, but not in a way she can describe.

Karen’s been hearing howling in the woods, but it’s probably nothing.

Bill gets attacked by a dog (or something) later that night. Dr. Waggner patches him up.

Now Bill really likes eating meat, but it’s probably nothing.

And Eddie’s body is missing from the morgue.

What Works With The Howling 1981

  • She’ll probably forever be known as Elliott’s mom in ET, but Dee Wallace’s heartbreakingly fragile performance as Karen should not be overlooked. I’ve seen The Howling a handful of times over the years, but I’ve never noticed how subtle Wallace’s acting is, in spite of the craziness around her. Her final scene always gets me.
  • A requisite Dick Miller cameo that fills audiences’ hearts with joy. His line about the Manson family is only funny because of his delivery.
  • The final act is sustained terror at its 80s finest. Director Joe Dante (Gremlins Piranha) amps up the tension and gore but never loses the audience with overkill. Every time I see the final 30 minutes, I wish I could see it again for the first time.
  • That final shot never fails to make me hungry.

What Doesn't Work With The Howling 1981

  • The first act is way too exposition-heavy for what’s told is a horror movie. It more than makes up for it, but for the first 40 minutes you wonder if you’ve walked into the wrong movie.
Forehead like a drive-in movie theater.

Forehead like a drive-in movie theater.

Overall

There’s a reason The Howling is ranked as one of the best werewolf movies ever made. If you’ve never seen it before, I envy you. If you’ve seen it, it still holds up. If you’ve been bitten by what you think is a dog and start to eat copious amounts of meat, say hi to Mortimer for me.

Buy The Movie Here! You'll Howl!

Comments

Jennifer Jorgenson on September 05, 2019:

Oh that Mortimer sure gets into some adventures