Gary Brandner (novel), John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless (screenplay)
Dee Wallace as Karen White
Patrick Macnee as Dr. George Waggner
Dennis Dougan as Chris
Christopher Stone as Bill Neill
By Dr. Chills
Good versus evil is always a great theme for a horror movie. In The Howling the use of this tried and true motif strikes gold because the battle between good and evil takes place primarily within the individual – within the self – within the soul.
The Howling opens up with reporter, Karen White (Dee Wallace), in the midst of a vigorous investigation of the grisly serial killer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). Simultaneously, the news station where she works is in the midst of a series featuring noted psychologist and expert on human behavior, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee). Dr. Waggner’s theory of human behavior is grounded in the idea that human beings repress their intrinsic animal natures and that the repression of such carnal instincts can cause neurosis. He encourages humans to unleash their inner beast.
Karen decides to take his advice. Her investigation into the serial killings leads her down seedy city streets and into the basement of a porno shop. She is about to encounter the beast and guess what… Her eye’s said ‘yes’ before her lips said ‘no’… Unfortunately, the beast was shot (though not killed) before she could fully engage and her interlude with the fiend would have to wait. Because of the traumatic experience of witnessing the shooting of Eddie Quist, she and her husband (Christopher Stone) are offered solace at a retreat called “The Colony” by Dr. Waggner.
Now if there’s one thing I learned in my English classes growing up it’s that words mean things, and you know what? There is something inherently creepy about the word “colony.” To me it implies cult like practices, inbreeding and some sense of ‘us versus them’. So why go, that’s what I want to know? Unfortunately they didn’t have the benefit of the modern day Internet to go online and read a review for the ‘Colony’, for had they done so it might have read “Beautiful views, loved the cabin…Could have done with less of the shape shifting humans!”
From the time of Karen and her husband’s arrival things were strange. Old men trying to throw themselves into the fire as penance… Overly friendly people… What did these people want anyway? Were they trying to sell Amway?
It turns out they were looking for converts, but this was no multilevel marketing scheme. They were not evangelicals, but they were looking for people to be born again. Born again as werewolves that is.
The rest of the story unwinds with the eventual unveiling of the werewolves’ dastardly plot, the deaths of a few key people, a racy sex scene, silver bullets to the heart and the eventual escape of a key character back to civilization – only somewhat scathed and changed.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the racy sex scene again and raise one persistent question. Wolves are gorgeous animals. Marsha Quist (Elisabeth Brooks) and Bill Neill (Christopher Stone) are both gorgeous people. Why then were the werewolves so ugly? Why does the genetic mixing of beautiful humans and beautiful animals yield such a hideous hybrids? Things that make you go hmmmm.
The Howling is a wonderful movie; A genuine scare and a treat for werewolf fans. Here’s a word to the wise if you find yourself suddenly invited for a free vacation to a remote “colony’ on the bluffs of an ocean; Do not wander off by yourself, do not under any circumstances answer phantom voices calling to you in the night … and take plenty of silver bullets.