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George At 

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The Howling


THE HOWLING was a huge box office hit in 1981, but for me, it always suffered in comparison to the other brilliant werewolf movie that same year, "An American Werewolf in London".

This one is much more in the Hammer horror camp, mixing sex, lots of lurking around in foggy beach side forests and some very 80's outfits.

Director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) does a hell of a job with the material, bringing the same tongue in cheek scares that he did to Gremlins.

Dee Wallace (Cujo) is a news anchor on the trail of a twisted serial rapist. After a dangerous meeting with him at an adult bookstore (who thought THAT was a good idea?) goes horribly wrong, Karen (Wallace) goes to a California retreat for some therapy and relaxation, hoping to regain her confidence.

It's not going to be a relaxing time.

It seems that Dr Waggner (Patrick Macnee of "The Avengers") has a very special group of patients that seem somehow tied to the killer.

The mystery isn't that complicated, the werewolf transformations by Rob Bottin (The Thing) are pretty damn good and Pino Donaggio's music score echoes his work for Brian De Palma, setting up some pre-attack romance of the horny 80's slasher variety along with plenty of suspenseful creeping around in the woods.

Wallace is pretty good, Macnee is having a blast, 50's actors Slim Pickens, Dick Miller, John Carradine and Kevin McCarthy have excellent cameos and I lost count of the number of WOLF Chili cans and references to wolves that Dante has wallpapered across the movie.

It's funny, twisted in spots and full of enjoyable scares. It never even comes close to John Landis' Werewolf in London, but did manage to scare up a bunch of horrible sequels. When the next film was named "Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf", I bailed from the series.

Sometimes, forewarned is forewarned.

Two horrible animation sequences are proof that the budget ran out, but you have to appreciate what Dante was able to create on a shoestring.

THE HOWLING doesn't have enough bite to be great but it's final scene earns points for sheer, hairy madness. I'll give it a C+.

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