Skip to content

Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

The Howling

1981 | United States | 91 min | More...
A still from The Howling (1981)
B: 4 stars (out of 5)
on Fri Mar 31, 2023

Dee Wallace plays an investigative television reporter suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after an encounter with a monstrous serial killer. Patrick Macnee plays a therapist guru who invites Wallace to his remote commune to convalesce, but there she only finds more terror.

Director Joe Dante updates the werewolf story for modern times, transplanting it from the misty moors to seedy downtown Los Angeles. He packs his supporting cast with genre favorites, including John Carradine, Dick Wallace, and Slim Pickens. The result proves a monster movie made by and for fans of monster movies.

And yet the script, by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless from Gary Brandner’s book, affords Wallace’s character no agency. She’s always helpless, screaming, waiting for someone to save her. In a post Alien and Texas Chain Saw Massacre world, this felt lazy.

Imagine a script where Wallace had more edge. Maybe she was an ambitious reporter and her career focus was driving a wedge between her and her husband? Maybe she’s scared to show weakness by admitting she’s hurting and her male bosses push her into going to the commune? Not only would this add another dimension, but it would setup a finale where Wallace completes her arc by overcoming her fear and returning to her past assertive self.

But I digress. As a monster movie, The Howling shines. Dante got his start editing for Roger Corman, who cameos early, and while the film includes the classic Corman finale of a burning building, it stands out thanks to the memorable werewolf effects and the oppressive tension Dante infuses into several scenes. A good movie. One a less whiny protagonist could have nudged toward greatness.

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Fri Mar 31, 2023 via 4k UHD Blu-ray (Shout Factory, 2022)