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Default Howling, The




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: December 22, 2002

Released by: MGM
Release date: 8/28/2001
MSRP: $14.95 (OOP)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



At long last The Howling has made its way to DVD. Sadly, none of the extras from the special edition laserdisc release of The Howling made it onto this DVD release. Fortunately, we can at least say that MGM has created a brand new anamorphic transfer for this DVD release. Better yet, MGM is working on a special edition DVD of The Howling that is due out in 2003. In the meantime, lets take a look at this bare bones DVD.

The Story

inline Image Karen White (Dee Wallace Stone) is a TV newswoman who's been contacted by a serial killer by the name of Eddie (Robert Picardo). Karen agrees to meet Eddie at a public location - a pornography store in the middle of the city. Little does Eddie know that Karen has teamed up with the police who are planning on using the opportunity to catch Eddie. But before police can determine where the meeting is going to take place, they lose Karen's signal. Karen goes in thinking the police will be there soon after, but the police only have a general idea of the area she's in. She enters one of the sex rooms as the back of the store; waiting inside is Eddie. Eventually he starts to attack her, but before he can do much the police arrive just in time and shoot Eddie dead. Karen has survived the ordeal and heads home with her husband Bill (Christopher Stone).

inline Image The nightmare may be over for the police in regards to Eddie, but for Karen it has just begun. She's haunted with visions of the attack to such an extent that she can't even make love to her husband or work in front of the camera. Karen begins therapy with Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), who suggests she take some time off and go recharge her batteries at his relaxation colony up in the woods. She takes his advice and heads up to the colony with Bill. Meanwhile, Christopher (Dennis Dugan) and Terry (Belinda Balaski) - two friends of Karen's that are fellow news reporters for the station - begin investigating the trail Eddie left behind.

inline Image Karen and Bill arrive at the colony and start off their r&r by attending a barbecue the residents of the colony are having on the beach. Bill isn't much for barbecues since he's a vegetarian, but it gives them a chance to introduce themselves. The next day the two begin to enjoy themselves - Karen plays tennis with a friend and Bill soon goes hunting with the boys and catches himself a rabbit. He has Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks), a resident at the colony, cook up the rabbit for him. When she makes a move on him he quickly pushes her away and heads back to his cabin. On his way back he's attacked by a wolf. He survives the attack but is left with some deep wounds on his arm. Between the attack and some noises she's been hearing out in the woods, Karen is freaked out. She calls home to Chris and Terry, who promise to come up and stay with her. Chris and Terry found many drawings wolf-like drawings in Eddie's apartment. During their investigation they visited a book store where they find lots of information on werewolf folklore. Terry ends up going alone while Chris tries to pitch a special on the life of Eddie to their boss.

inline Image Terry arrives at the colony and later that night she hears lots of howling wolves. As she begins investigating areas of the colony the next morning, she's attacked by a werewolf. She manages to escape into a nearby building, and has just enough time to call Chris and tell him what's happening. But before long the werewolf shows up and takes care of her for good. When Karen stumbles across Terry's body, she begins to discover the truth about the colony and many of its inhabitants. Now that she knows, can she make it out of the colony alive? Her only hope is Chris, who is on his way up with a pocket full of silver bullets. Will that be enough to stop a mob of bloodthirsty werewolves?


inline Image Director Joe Dante did an incredible job creating a very dark, scary and unique werewolf movie with The Howling. Though I do prefer An American Werewolf in London, The Howling takes a very close second place. Certainly The Howling is a much, much darker and scarier than Werewolf in London, but I loved Werewolf in London's wonderful story, special effects and the character development that really makes you care about the characters. While many characters are likable in The Howling, I didn't find myself caring for them as much. Overall the effects in An American Werewolf in London are superior, but I think The Howling has the best transformation scene. The Howling also lets you see more of the werewolf throughout the movie which is nice.

inline Image The Howling doesn't go to the level of humor found in Werewolf in London, and as I said it is a much darker movie, but don't let get you into thinking The Howling is humorless. Not the case at all - there's a few spots of humor to be seen throughout the movie. One I enjoyed quite a bit is when Terry is being attached by the werewolf and she calls Chris on the phone. When the movie cuts to Chris you see that he's watching a big bad wolf cartoon playing on his TV. So here you have this tense moment in the movie when Terry is being stalked by a werewolf, yet at the same time a dose of humor is injected when you see this big bad wolf cartoon playing on the TV. It works nicely; it gets you to let your guard down slightly, which may weaken your defenses for what's to come. There's other humorous scenes too, but part of the enjoyment is finding them on your own. I can see where many people might enjoy The Howling as it mostly sticks to a straight horror movie, except for a few small jokes thrown in occasionally that are often not even noticeable. If you goal is to get scared or to scare someone else, I think The Howling does a better job with the scaring aspect.

inline Image I also like how Dante dealt with the characters personalities in terms of knowing that they were a werewolf. In most werewolf movies the characters don't want to be a werewolf and their only desire is to end the curse. These people weren't upset about it and they didn't feel like it was a curse - they act as if it's a blessing to be a werewolf. What it boils down to is that they're evil people that are shapeshifters. They enjoy hunting, killing and eating humans, just as many humans enjoy hunting, killing, and eating deer. The rules are slightly different here too. They don't only change when the moon is full. These werewolves will change whenever they damn well please - middle of the day or the middle of the night, it's no matter to them. All of these elements combined - wonderful effects, good acting, a good plot, and its uniqueness - make The Howling the classic werewolf movie that it is.

inline Image From what I hear, most of The Howling sequels are quite bad. I've only seen the New Moon Rising sequel, which I imagine is the worst sequel ever created in the history of sequels. I may checkout the other sequels though because I've always heard mixed opinions on them, plus it's always best to judge for yourself. But make no mistake, the two best werewolf films ever created were made in the early 80's - An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. If you haven't seen them, crawl out of the hole you're been living in and go buy them today! VHS, DVD or laserdisc - whatever it takes to see them.

Image Quality

inline Image The Howling is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer has some problems, but it's definitely superior to the widescreen laserdisc. Most of the image is sharp, though there are a few scenes that are soft and lacking in detail. Various signs of print damage appear throughout the presentation, but not as severe as the laserdisc. Colors appear accurate and grain is fairly minimal. Overall it's a decent transfer. I'm rating it with a B.

Sound

The Howling is presented in mono sound. Everything is clear and audible; I found no real problems with the sound. Obviously with a mono track there isn't much UMPH to it. As it stands the score is very enjoyable - it sets the tone of tension and fear, which I felt was effective even on the mono track.

Supplemental Material

inline Image This is where the DVD fails miserably. All we get is the theatrical trailer. Considering there's already a special edition laserdisc of The Howling, this makes a barebones DVD even more painful, and also causes me to complain about something I normally wouldn't. I love supplements as much as the next guy. But I always say give me a/v quality first - extras are just icing on the cake. They are non-essential to me, except for when a special edition already exists on laserdisc. Image has licensed out plenty of their laserdisc supplements, so we know they're not pulling a Criterion on us where they just plain refuse to license supplements. What's left? $$$$$$ It's all about money. Fortunately, as evidenced with the recent special edition DVD of The Fog, it seems either Image has lowered the price or that MGM has ponied up more money. Better yet, a special edition DVD of The Howling is in the works for a 2003 DVD release.

Final Thoughts

For $10.00 this DVD is an absolute steal. If you haven't seen The Howling, rush out today and spend the $10.00 to own it. Good story, great effects and a great transformation sequence make it one of the all time classic werewolf movies. Why rent for $3 or $4 when you can own this classic for such a great price? I suppose some are waiting for the special edition DVD due out in 2003, but if you have any desire to see The Howling during the wait, I would definitely recommend this DVD.

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - D

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 27 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital Mono

Supplements
  • Theatrical Trailer

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