"The Howling" is an 80s Horror Classic!


1981 was a full moon when it came to werewolf movies as two classics of the genre were released.  In the Springtime we saw Joe Dante’s “The Howling” and in late summer John Landis’s “An American Werewolf in London” came out.  Both films offer similar groundbreaking visual effects but this review will focus on “The Howling”.

Prolific actress Dee Wallace stars as Karen White a television reporter who is hot on the trail of a serial killer named Eddie the Mangler.  When she arranges to meet a source in a shady red light district porno shop.  As you might expect things go terribly wrong and she is attacked by Eddie.  She survives and Eddie is shot dead by the police.  Her husband Bill is supportive with his great hair and porn star mustache, but Karen still struggles with debilitating PTSD.  Dr. George Wagner, a psychiatrist plugging his latest book on television tells Karen about a backwoods retreat he runs called The Colony and invites her and Bill to check it out.  When they get there it looks like a hippie commune filled with a number of strange characters.  All of the residents stare at Karen and Bill and you know something is up.  Even when they get settled in their cabin Karen hears howling noises at night.  So her and another women go out to investigate and as you would expect in a horror movie her flashlight dies.  They then run into a mutilated cow and a couple of hunters and all is good.

Back in the city the police along with two other reporters Chris and Terry, who are friends of Karen, investigate Eddie’s apartment and find all kinds of weird pictures, drawings, and objects.  Drawings of wolf-like people that foreshadows what's to come up at The Colony.  They then come to find that Eddie’s body is missing from the morgue.  Chris and Terry go to an occult bookstore and get a history lesson on werewolves, then they decide to go to The Colony and try to save Karen and Bill. 

The mythology of the werewolf is of the beast that resides in all of us.  It’s about deeply repressed feelings and emotions that try to claw their way out of us.  Another great example is the movie “Ginger Snaps” about two teen sisters coming to grips with their burgeoning sexuality.

Bill is the first one to be bitten and changed as he is seduced by the sexy vixen Marsha.  Once Chris and Terry arrive all hell is breaking loose.  Eddie is back for some unfinished business with Karen and we see him fully transform into a wolf.  For 1981 these practical special effects are amazing and still look great every by today’s standards.  It gives the film a look that you just can’t get with CGI.  We also see Dr. Wagner as the Alpha wolf attacking Terry.  The fight for survival is on.  Just when Karen gets to a car and drives away she comes to a barricade put up by the kind old Sheriff Sam, but he too is a wolf.  Karen then is attacked from behind and bitten by none other than Bill.  When they get back home things seem to be normal as Karen is ready to get back in front of the camera for the first time since the initial attack.  Although she has a plan of her own when she transforms into a werewolf on live T.V. to make people believe they are real.  This all falls on deaf ears as the public thinks it’s a hoax or some kind of publicity stunt.  This movie is also jam-packed with in-jokes and ironic props.  Wolf Chili anyone?  All through this film launched a franchise of about 8 sequels the original is the only that should be ever be watched.  

"Dog Soldiers" is a Howling Good Movie!


British director Neil Marshall’s debut feature was the 2002 werewolf film “Dog Soldiers” which is now regarded one of the great werewolf movies since the 80s classics “The Howling” and “An American Werewolf in London”.  What’s more is that the film was very low budget and didn’t have a U.S theatrical release, although it did hit the festival circuit.

Taking place in the highlands of Scotland an army platoon is going through training exercises when they realize that they are ones being hunted and not by other soldiers, but by a pack werewolves   We spend some time getting to know the soldiers.  The main guy is Pvt. Cooper (Kevin McKidd) who when approached by a special forces commander and ordered to shoot a dog he refuses.  This scene is also echoed at the end of the film.  The army platoon reaches their camp and they tell stories around the campfire when a mutilated animal crashes the party.  The morning after they find that the special forces team was completely wiped out with only one survivor the commander.  On the run from the wolves, they are picked up by a woman in a Jeep and brought to a farmhouse that is still miles and miles from civilization.  With no phones or radio, the house is soon under siege from the pack and they must fight for their lives and barricade themselves inside.  The fear and paranoia that is created are real and consistent for the remainder of the film.  We also get P.O.V. shots of the werewolves when the film switches from color to high contrast black and white.

Megan, the woman who rescued them, starts to come off as a person who seems to know a lot more than she is telling everyone but still helps the team in their attempts to get help and also cares for the injured.  The third act is jam-packed with epic explosions, brutal combat, and a major double-cross. 

The filmmakers fully embraced using practical effects in creating everything from the blood, guts, and gore to the werewolves themselves.  All of the locations are real and not done on a soundstage, which is essential in creating the feel and atmosphere of the film.  It is ridiculous how good this film looks and feels for the reported 2 million dollar budget.  This film will definitely satisfy those hardcore horror fans and is worthy of a buy at add to your disc collection.

Brian De Palma's "Sisters" is a Classic!


*Contains Spoilers”

The 1973 film “Sisters” was director Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian murder mystery starring Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt.  Released a few years before his breakout film “Carrie” “Sisters” deals with a woman in the grips of severe psychological trauma and a female reporter trying to get her big break.

The film opens with a close up of a growing fetus inside a womb then revealing conjoined twins Danielle and Dominique.  Margot Kidder plays both parts but primarily as Danielle a French Canadian fashion model who is consistently stalked by her weaselly ex-husband Emil.  While on a hidden camera game show she strikes up a relationship with Phillip and after a dinner date they go up to her apartment.  The whole feel of the film is one of voyeurism, especially from the point of Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt), the newspaper reporter who lives in the next building over.  The morning after Phillip goes to the pharmacy to pick up Danielle’s medication and also gets her a birthday cake at the bakery.  When he gets back he is rudely greeted by a sleeping Dominque who stabs him to death.  

Alfred Hitchcock has been a huge influence on De Palma’s career and you can see allusions to several Hitchcock classics like “Rear Window” and “Psycho” within “Sisters”.  While Danielle and Emil frantically clean up the murder scene, Grace Collier witnesses the whole thing and is hot on their trail and calling the police to investigate.  De Palma is also known for using split screens in a  majority of his films.  It’s a unique and clever device when used correctly and he has perfected it.  The police find nothing out of the ordinary (of course) as the body is hidden within a sofa-bed.  

What we see next is a cat and mouse thriller between Danielle and Grace.  Grace hires a private investigator as this story could be her big break.  But her dogged tenacity has dire consequences when the tables are turned and she’s accused of being the crazy one.  In a big exposition dump, we learn about Danielle’s troubled past and that of her twin sister.  We end up with a rather anti-climactic ending that is none the less quite chilling.  Although not completely satisfying in the traditional sense it seems to fit quite well for a De Palma film.