Okay folks, ready for the last “Halloween” flick of 2007? Yeah, yeah, I know – you can’t wait. Tonight’s movie complements one I reviewed way back in 2005 during the first Halloween movie roundup.
AVCO Embassy Pictures, 1981, 91 minutes, R
actors: Dee Wallace, Christofer Stone, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Belinda Balaski, Robert Picardo, Don McLeod (of the Clan McLeod), Elisabeth Brooks, Dick Miller, Kenneth Tobey, Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Kevin McCarthy, Forrest J. Akerman, Roger Corman, John Sayles
writers: John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless; based upon the novel by Gary Brandner
director: Joe Dante
producer: Daniel H. Blatt
special effects: Rick Baker and Dave Allen
Taxonomy: Horror; werewolf flick; b-movie fans world-wide
Plot: An LA news woman goes to a country retreat to find relief from stress. The locals do not help.
The flick starts right off by letting us follow Los Angeles news anchorwoman Karen White (Wallace) as she goes to meet a suspected serial killer. Eddie “The Mangler” has been terrorizing LA, but he has a thing for Karen, so he contacts her and tells her he will meet her in a movie booth in a porno shop! Karen wares a wire, but the cops lose the signal. While watching a violent skin flick, Eddie tells Karen he has something he wants to show her. When she turns around to look Karen is stunned, but eventually screams and the two beat cops who were looking for her shoot Eddie.
The station manager can’t wait to get Karen on the air, but she freezes. She meets with Dr. George Waggner(Macnee), a psychiatrist who is also frequently featured on Karen’s news program. Karen cannot remember what happened in the booth, but she keeps having disturbing dreams. Dr. Waggner suggests she visit his woodland retreat “The Colony.” he thinks the peaceful setting and therapy might be able to help her. He tells her that The Colony is only for very special patients – and he ain’t kiddin’!
Karen and her husband Bill (Stone – soon to be Dee Wallace’s real life husband) drive up to The Colony and meet the folks. They seem like nice normal people, who really like their barbecue. Meat gets pushed on veggie Bill. Uh… that does not sound quite right, but you know what I mean. Oh sure a few of the folks at The Colony seem a bit odd, like old Erle Kenton (Carradine) who tries to jump into the fire, and TC (McLeod) who is, well, uh … rustic. And then there is TC’s sister Marsha (Brooks). Marsha seems to be a bit of a bitch, but she wears tight low cut leather clothing and has a nice body, so I guess we can put up with her attitude! Marsha tells Dr. Waggner she does not want her brother reading his book, “The Gift.” Waggner says that Marsha is very “elemental.” She also gives Bill a rather obvious, “Hello Sailor!” look. Well, it is a retreat for Waggner’s patients, so a little bit of odd behavior is expected.
Meanwhile, Karen’s friends and coworkers Terry and Chris (Balaski and Dugan) go to Eddie’s seedy apartment. There they find rooms full of newspaper clippings about murders and sex crimes as well as Eddie’s artwork. Most of the artwork involves very hairy feral looking people, but there is also one landscape. Yep, Eddie was a sicko! When Terry and Chris go to the morgue to view Eddie’s body, they discover it is gone! Well that’s odd.
Back up at The Colony, Karen hears some disturbing sounds in the night and finds several mutilated cattle. She attends group therapy while Bill gets invited along with some of the menfolk to try to hunt down what ever killed the cattle. They don’t bag a wolf, but Bill gets himself a rabbit. TC tells him that his sister will be happy to cook it up for him, so Bill goes to see Marsha. Marsha is more interested in Bill than the bunny and jumps right up and slips him the tongue! Bill leaves and is attacked buy a large wolf. He is bitten and Dr. Waggner gives him rabies shots as a precaution!
Back in the big city, Terry and Chris talk about werewolves with Walter Paisley (Miller), the owner of an occult bookstore. He fills them in on werewolf lore and even shows them a set of silver bullets a guy ordered but never purchased. They seem interested because of Eddie’s art and the fact that his body is missing. Paisley tells them, “They [werewolves] don’t stay dead, if you don’t kill them right.” What’s right? Silver or fire.
Karen calls Terry and tells her about Bill’s wound. Terry and Chris are watching The Wolfman(1941) when they get the call. Terry goes up to visit Keren and Bill while Chris does a little more research for their show on Eddie The Mangler. Bill seems to be in good spirits, in fact he really snorffles up the meat – you know what I mean! The pace picks up and soon old Bill is screwing Marsha in front of a campfire! My friends and I spoke of this scene often as teens, you see, Bill and Marsha transform in mid diddle! They are eventually shown fully changed back-lit by the fire. This is done with cell animation and it is a bit awkward. Terry finds the spot where Eddie drew his landscape and winds up at his cabin! She is attacked but crawls inside the woodshed and chops off her attacker’s hand with a hatchet! The hand then changes back into human form in the first real transformation scene. She runs in a panic to Dr. Waggner’s office and calls Chris. While searching Waggner’s files Terry learns that Eddie is related to Marsha and TC. Then Eddie shows up in werewolf form and kills Terry as Chris listens!
Well boys and girls the stuff is really starting to hit the fan now! Karen finds Terry and then has her own encounter with Eddie (Picardo). Eddie tells her, “I want to give you a piece of my mind.” and pulls a bullet out of his head! Then we get the real transformation scene! Rick Baker and company worked overtime on this one! The transformation is quite grotesque and the resultant werewolf quite monstrous. Then we have a b-movie moment! As werewolf Eddie closes in on Karen, she miraculously finds a jar of acid to throw in his face! That was handy! Why oh why do doctors in b-movies have big old jars of acid just sitting around!? Karen escapes Eddie, but she is soon captured by her Colony “friends.”
Now we learn The Colony’s real purpose. Dr. Waggner started The Colony to help his fellow werewolves try to become less barbaric and more like normal humans. The others are fed up with this approach. They don’t want to eat cattle anymore – they want their natural prey – humans. Marsha seems to have become the Alpha of the pack. They give Karen a choice, accept “the gift” of lycanthropy or die.
Then Chris shows up with a rifle and the silver bullets from Mr. Paisley’s store …
Babeage: Dee Wallace and Belinda Balaski are attractive, but the hands down babe award goes to Elizabeth Brooks as the bitchy nympho Marsha Quist! Ms. Brooks shows everything during her scene by the fire. Talk about something to howl over!
Sleazeploitation: The character of Eddie Quist is just about all sleaze. He is a serial killer, an implied sexual deviant and a renegade werewolf! It is never explicitly stated, but there is a strong suggestion that Eddie sexually assaulted his victims. It is also not too much of a leap to imagine the Quist siblings … uh … together. Not that I would imagine such things! You people have filthy minds!
Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: Just about everyone at The Colony in either human or werewolf form!
Violence: Werewolf attacks, hand chopped off, gun-play, arson, televised murder.
Gore & FX: Lots of blood, the transformation scenes – which come hot and heavy during the climax – you know what I mean!, werewolf nookie.
Hey! that’s what’s his name!: This flick is loaded with character actors from b-movies including the Grand Master of all b-movie actors John Carradine! Dick Miller who plays Walter Paisley also played Walter Paisley in Roger Corman’s b-classic Bucket of Blood (1959). Ya got: Kevin McCarthy Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); Kennith Tobey The Thing from Another World (1951), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Came From Beneith the Sea (1955); and Slim Pickens Dr. Strangelove(1964). How can you not love a movie with Slim Pickens as a werewolf!? Additionally there are cameos by: Roger Corman – the cheapo b-movie producer extordinair – looking for change in a pay phone, John Sayles who plays the morgue attendent and Forrest J. Ackerman who is browsing in the occult bookstore while holding copies of his magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland” with a werewolf cover no less! And of course Robert Picardo who plays Eddie is now famous for Star Trek: Voyager.
Karen about The Colony: “Well I hope these people aren’t too weird!”
Erle: “I ain’t going like this. Damn teeth are shot! Hell of a note!”
Erle: “I still think it was UFOs. Them cattle mutilations!” Sherrif Sam Newfield (Pickens): “Good Erle good. You watch the skys for us now, that’ll be your job!”
TC to Bill: “You kill something you don’t eat, now that’s a sin.”
Walter Paisley on the subject of werewolves: “Silver bullets or fire, that’s the only way to get rid of the damn things. They’re worse than cock-a-roaches!”
Dr. Waggner: “Times have changed and we haven’t. Not enough!”
Eddie Quist on Waggner: “He’s so repressed!”
Chris: “You’re crazy!” Eddie: “Oh I’m much more than that bright boy. I’m much more!” I am the Emergency Medical Hologram. Please state the nature of the medical emergency.
Karen: “We have to warn people, Chris. We have to make them believe.”
Moral: Seriously – don’t fuck crazy chicks – no matter how hot they are!
Conclusion: The Howling came out the same year as An American Werewolf in London. I have to say I think AWL is better, after all it has Jenny Agutter, but The Howling comes in a very close second. One of the things that pulls this flick down is its association with the several crappy sequels that were made, which is not this film’s fault. There is of course the terrible end effect that comes close to spoiling the entire movie. That scene could have been so much better! Both flicks use humor well, never letting it break the spell of the story. Both feature great effects and good music. I usually don’t like the concept of werewolves forming communities, but it is well done here. They seem to band together for mutual protection and a desire to be more human. This points to the basic tragic nature of werewolves – they may be good people, but they cannot control themselves when they change. I like this idea better than the vampire cabals so popular nowadays. Vampires are supreme sociopaths each of which wants ultimate control, so vampire communities are complete nonsense. Anyway, if you have never seen The Howling give it a try and maybe compare it to An American Werewolf in London. See which you prefer. You are sure to have a howl of a good time – HA!
The Howling Sight Gag / Werewolf B-Movie Checklist:
cans of Wolf Chili
Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”
victims just stand there and gawk as the werewolves transform
big old jar of acid!
Bill reads “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe
Chris watches Big Bad Wolf cartoon
picture of Lon Chaney Jr. in Waggner’s office
Eddie’s sequence of evolution drawing – Neanderthal, man, werewolf
Marsha licks Bill’s wound!
close-up of hamburger frying during credits
can you spot all the characters named after werewolf movie directors?
One to Ponder: Why would a modern-day werewolf want to live in the woods? Plenty of homeless people to munch on in the big city.
What ya drinkin’, Jack?
Saranac Pumpkin Ale
Matt Brewing Company, Utica, NY
Y’all know about pumpkin ale by now right? Ale made with pumpkin and the traditional pumpkin spices served during Autumn. Saranac Pumpkin Ale is brewed with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, vanilla and ginger.
ABV: 5.40% IBU: 30 to 40
Color: a deep amber brown, darker than many pumpkin ales
Aroma: Lots of spice, the ginger comes through, clean not heavy
Head: Semi-persistent small bubbled dense cream colored head
Taste: Smooth start moves to a warm and spicy middle with no particular spice predominating then to a tart / bitter finish where the cloves really kick in and a short bitter aftertaste where you may get a ginger kick. The mouth-feel is quite rich, almost like a porter.
Recommendation: Saranac Pumpkin Ale is one of the richer darker pumpkin ales I have tasted. It is smooth and even with a nice spice snap when you swallow. I have to admit, I did not really taste any pumpkin. Overall a well crafted pumpkin ale with a character all its own. If you dig the pumpkin juice, this is one to try.
Okay, well there you have it! The 2007 “Halloween” movie reviews. Yeah, I know they were late, but hey I got them all in before Thanksgiving! Even gave you my traditional Halloween pumpkin ale review. What more could you ask for?
Oh and yes, I know “Sister Moon” is supposed to be about vampires, but it seems to fit werewolves better methinks.
Hope you all had a great Halloween and here’s to a happy Thanksgiving!
Remember: Comments, questions, suggestions, requests and contributions welcome!