The Howling (1981)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Without question one of the most visceral and satisfying werewolf movies ever released, director Joe Dante's knowing lycanthrope classic is sure to get a few jumps, as well as a few chuckles, out of even the most jaded horror fan. From the smart and innovative script from screenwriter John Sayles to solid performances all around, The Howling is a rare example of a werewolf film that likely would have succeeded even if Rob Bottin's groundbreaking makeup effects hadn't been so terrifyingly convincing. Endless in-jokes and film references are bound to keep cinephiles constantly on their toes, and even if you're not up to the task of weeding out all the fine details, this fast-paced chiller isn't likely to leave you bored -- and that's an extremely difficult weight to balance. From television news reporter Karen White's (Dee Wallace Stone) mysterious and terrifying initial encounter in a cheap porno shop to the dark secrets of the "colony" she retreats to in hopes of escaping the nightmares that plague her, Dante and Sayles keep things moving at a lean pace that is notably enlivened by Patrick Macnee, John Carradine, and Slim Pickens' colorful supporting performances. If the makeup effects seem slightly outdated from a revisionist standpoint, the images they create (the image of sharp, talon-like claws growing out of the main werewolf in particular) are hard to shake regardless of the technological advancements that have aided effects artists since The Howling's debut in 1981. These unforgettable images, combined with a clever script and tight direction, make for a film as self-consciously fun as it is truly unsettling.