Monday, November 09, 2009

The Howling

I thought I saw this movie before but it turns out I saw the sequel, The Howling II, which has little to do with this thing. It is a werewolf movie, directed by Joe Dante and starring a fairly good cast. Not a great movie, but worth watching. Okay, worth watching if werewolves are worth watching. There is something to the genre, more compelling, perhaps, than the extended malarkey associated so much with the Vampire genre.

I suspect that this movie might have seemed pretty decent when it came out in the early 80s but now its aura of datedness obscures its virtues. Movies get dated quickly. The only type of movie that I want to see is guilty pleasures, which is to say, they interest me despite themselves. Poetry, you know, offers no guilty pleasures. You take poetry on the level it was intended. Few movies satisfy me on that level.

Anyway, the cast is pretty good. Dee Wallace Stone all play a tv reporter who allows herself to meet with a serial killer. Something happens in that meeting. She nearly gets killed and he does. And she is much shook up by this, so goes to a getaway with her husband. This  getaway is a sort of Esalen. It is run by Patrick MacNee.

Among the denizens at the institute are John Carradine and Slim Pickens. Another character in the movie is played by Dick Miller. Do any movies lacking at least one of those three exist?

The plot fizzles a bit. I mean, guess what, everyone’s a werewolf. First hubby gets bit, then Dee’s reporter friend, and so on. The chills are given surprisingly little scope.

What is given scope is the special effects. Rick Baker is credited as a consultant, la-de-dah. In the glee of using new technology, Dante offers prolonged execution of werewolf transformation processes. I would sooner see the stop action sort of transformation that Lon Chaney underwent than these static animatronic rituals. Watching this stuff is as interesting as listening to Bill Gates explain future conveniences to us.

I wonder who established that these physical transformations make noise? The crunchy plastic noise that these extending snouts produce is not what you call intuitive to me. The werewolves, when all that is done, look little better than the Halloween masks you wore when you were eight. Again, I’ll take Lon Chaney and his hiatus from Gillette.

The plot goes as you might expect. Dee and a co-worker escape from Esalen. Dee is bitten during the escape. They arrange for Dee to tell the world about the menace. On a newscast she explains things, then turns into a werewolf, at which point the co-worker shoots her. See, there were effective elements in the movie but everything, finally, just hangs there. Sigh.

The sequel, as I recall, was more outrĂ©. It followed directly from Dee’s funeral. Someone who was not in the original decides she needs to know more, and heads off to the Balkans, where things are more orgiastic, and accents are thicker. It was a little more laughable than this movie, by my estimation. There are three or four other Howlings that I have not seen. Don’t miss them if you can.