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Review: The Howling

Hello again, Werewolf Cafe patrons, and prepare to settle in for another fantastic yarn of man-eating lycanthropes and the hapless women they stalk. This month’s topic of one-sided discussion is the 1981 classic, “The Howling.” I think it goes a little somethin’ like this...

The Howling

Dee Wallace-Stone (E.T.’s mom, as “Scream” so eloquently put it) stars as Karen White, a TV news reporter who’s become the object of serial killer Eddie Quist’s psychotic obsession. The film opens with Karen’s daring attempt to catch the killer and land a great story by playing bait in a police sting. With her husband, co-workers, and the police listening in, Karen follows the smiley face stickers and obscene phone calls to a porno shop in a bad part of town, where she soon finds herself in a screening booth viewing a rape flick with Eddie breathing over her shoulder. As Karen begins to sweat more profusely, Eddie rants on and on about how he’s going to light up her whole body. Okay, it’s no secret that this is a werewolf movie. After all, this is the Werewolf Cafe, so I’ll just go ahead and say it: Eddie is a werewolf, and apparently he’s decided to recruit Karen. Sort of a werewolf take on what vampires always do when they see a chick they like. Hey, if it works... Anyway, the bad news is, the auditory connection to Karen has been lost, so she’s pretty much on her own. The good news is, she’s a screamer, and the cops hear her cries for help when Karen finally sees Eddie’s true face. A young rookie comes to the rescue and fills Eddie with lead before Karen can be physically harmed, but she’s already the victim of psychological damage. By the way, the older cop referring to the rookie as “Quick Draw McGraw” here never fails to make me chuckle.

Even the famous Dr. Waggner (Patrick Macnee) can’t help Karen remember the face she saw that night, which has been locked away deep in her subconscious. Finally, the concerned doctor suggests that Karen and her husband, Bill, spend some time at his “Colony,” a retreat in the California woods for some of his patients who need to “unwind.” When the two arrive there, however, Karen hardly finds it relaxing. Introduced to her fellow patients at a nighttime barbecue, Karen is not at all comfortable with their behavior. Hillbilly dancing, howling at the moon, and old men setting themselves on fire simply aren’t her thing, but Karen tries to make the best of it. She quickly makes friends with the ditzy Donna, and the two spend their time playing tennis and gossiping. But being surrounded by strangers who just keep getting stranger, disturbing howls coming from the woods at night, and a sudden rash of animal mutilations are all weighing heavily on Karen’s mind. To make matters worse, the Colony’s lovely resident nymphomaniac, Marsha, has designs on Karen’s frustrated husband.

Meanwhile, back in the city, Karen’s friends and co-workers, Chris and Terry, are doing their best to discover the secrets of Eddie Quist, who they find has mysteriously disappeared from the city morgue. Their search leads them to the serial killer’s home, his deranged yet impressive art portfolio, and a charming scene in a quaint little occult book store (Dick Miller is a national treasure). Their investigation is interrupted when Terry rushes out to bring some citified sanity to her friend, Karen, along with an all meat picnic basket that vegetarian Bill goes crazy for. See, Bill has secretly been seeing a little too much of the luscious Marsha Quist lately (did I mention Marsha was a Quist?), and their recent exchanges of bodily fluids have come with their share of side effects. But hey, if you’re going to become a werewolf, Marsha Quist is the way to do it. Everything starts to come to a boil when Karen catches onto her wandering husband, Terry has a deadly Quist encounter, and Chris swipes some silver bullets in a mad rush to join the fun! As the climax approaches, Karen comes face to face with the face that’s been haunting her dreams since she first saw it, Eddie Quist! She throws some acid in that face though, and makes a run for the door. Thank goodness doctors always have deadly acids sitting around their offices for emergencies! As Karen searches for help, Chris finishes off Eddie, and everything comes to a head in a nearby barn. The Colony’s werewolf pack takes Karen prisoner, still offering to make her a new member (which is actually quite nice of them when you think about it, she should really be quite flattered). Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with the way things are going under the good doctor’s alpha male leadership, and Marsha begins challenging his status. The power struggle only makes things more frightening for Karen, whose fate seems to depend on who comes out on top in what is basically a losing situation for her either way. Luckily, bright boy Chris shows up just in time, armed to the teeth with silver and rarin’ to go! Once the werewolves realize that Chris has the upper hand, he manages to back them into the barn and trap them inside. They commence to setting the place on fire and driving off to safety, though they still have to deal with Sheriff Newfield (played by the wonderful Slim Pickens), Bill, and a few others along the way.

Karen’s bad luck seems never ending when she gets bitten in the frenzy to escape, making hers and Chris’s return to the safety of high population and familiar surroundings a bittersweet one. The two friends make a decision to get the word out to the rest of the world, and on a live television broadcast, Karen exposes her new condition to the viewers. While she makes the change from woman to wolf, we are treated to the hilarious reactions of the disbelieving television audience. Finally, Chris puts Karen out of her misery, and a panicked Kevin McCarthy screams for a switch to commercial. Mm-mm, that dog food looks good. Cut to a local dive, where customers discuss the televised atrocity they’ve just witnessed. Who should be sitting amidst them but the loveliest nympho-werewolf the 80s ever provided, Marsha Quist, ordering up a rare hamburger. Very rare.

And that’s the story, folks! Only a few months before the legendary “An American Werewolf In London” was released, Joe Dante gave us the OTHER best werewolf movie ever made, the original “The Howling.” Rather than the lone, cursed wolf-man figure, The Howling gives us a very different take on the genre, portraying werewolves as pack creatures much like the animals they take their names from. Everything from alpha leaders, to challengers, to mating, hunting, and socializing is represented, giving us a much more realistically-based depiction. These tall and very impressive looking werewolves are also able to shape-shift whenever they choose, day or night, making them quite the formidable opponents. But “The Howling” doesn’t disregard the traditional Hollywood legends completely. It still takes silver bullets or fire to kill these werewolves, and their condition is still spread as easily as a single bite. The Howling’s effects are fantastic, only outshined by “An American Werewolf In London,” released that same year, and just as in that film, the material is handled with great love and respect. It’s loaded with humor and cute and funny references to wolf and werewolf pop culture, from cartoons and familiar illustrations, to a can of Wolf brand chili. There’s no shortage of gore and horror either though, with some genuine scares for any lone, nighttime viewers. The cast is excellent, studded with camp and horror favorites like Dick Miller, Patrick Macnee, Dee Wallace-Stone, John Carradine, Kevin McCarthy, Christopher Stone, Slim Pickens, Dennis Dugan, and Roger Corman, among others. Everyone is fantastic in their roles. Robert Picardo and Don McLeod are perfectly creepy as the Quist brothers (for those who haven’t seen the film, I’ve created a little illustration of Eddie to accompany this review), and Elisabeth Brooks is breathtaking as their sister, the frighteningly seductive temptress, Marsha. Now, for many, Karen’s final scene, in which we see a VERY different style of werewolf, tends to “ruin” the scary and impressive tone of the rest of the film. Don’t let this ruin it for you! According to Dee Wallace-Stone in a recent interview here at the Werewolf Cafe, this different look of the final werewolf was done to depict her character’s unwillingness to submit to the transformation. Knowing that makes the whole thing much more acceptable (thanks, Dee)! Overall, “The Howling” adds up to one frighteningly good time that I highly recommend! Definitely worth purchasing on DVD or VHS, as it is great for repeat viewings!

FYI, 6 sequels followed “The Howling,” ALL of which have an awful reputation. I recommend checking them out and judging for yourself, though. They’re all very different, and a couple might be rather enjoyable to you, but avoid the no-budget part 7 (New Moon Rising) at all costs. For more of my favorite werewolf movies, please check out my werewolf movie list on

Enjoy "The Howling," and see ya next review!

"Lycan Colony"

Submitted by: Full Moon

A big thank you goes out to director/writer/musician/producer Rob Roy for this cool promotional poster and magnet for the recently released werewolf film titled "Lycan Colony." To find out more about this movie, you can check out the "Lycan Colony" website at for information. Thank you so much Rob!

Lycan Colony Poster

Lycan Colony Magnet