Review: ‘The Howling’

Director Joe Dante's work reflects Alfred Hitchcock's insistence that terror and suspense work best when counterbalanced by a chuckle or two.

Director Joe Dante’s work reflects Alfred Hitchcock’s insistence that terror and suspense work best when counterbalanced by a chuckle or two.

There are good one-liners throughout, some delivered straight-faced by Kevin McCarthy as an empty-headed TV news producer and Dick Miller as the colorful expert on werewolves. And in a picture like this, John Carradine and Slim Pickens only have to open their mouths to get a laugh from long-time appreciative fans.

But this is supposed to be a horror film, after all [from the novel by Gary Brandner]. And it definitely is in a good old-fashioned way, complete with a girl venturing out alone with a flashlight to investigate a weird noise. In large part the picture works because of the make-up effects created by Rob Bottin.

Dee Wallace, who was exceptional as the lonely woman at the bar in 10, turns in another solid performance in a much dumber role. As the anchorlady, she has set herself out as bait for psycho Robert Picardo, meeting him in a porno shop where he winds up shot to death by cops. Back at the TV station, Belinda Balaski and Dennis Dugan are still working on the Picardo story, picking up clues that lead them into a study of werewolves.

If the picture has a major problem, it is that Dante uses up his best effects midway through the picture, leaving him with little for the grand surprise that’s supposed to come at the end.

The Howling

Canada

Production

International/Avco Embassy. Dir Joe Dante; Producer Michael Finnell, Jack Conrad; Screenplay John Sayles, Terence H. Winkless; Camera John Hora; Editor Mark Goldblatt, Joe Dante; Music Pino Donaggio Art Dir Robert A. Burns

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1981. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Dee Wallace Patrick Macnee Dennis Dugan Christopher Stone Belinda Balaski Kevin McCarthy
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