"LIVE in person: THE MUMMY and KING KONG (famous Hollywood gorilla)! We can't advertise what THE MUMMY does to beautiful slave girls when the lights go out ... BUT WOW! SOMETHING YOU NEVER DREAMT YOU'D SEE ANYWHERE!"
Yes, it's 2:30 a.m. on a Monday morning and as usual I cannot sleep. So I figured blog, why not?
For those few of you still playing along at home, there is a last minute addition to the lineup: as I was looking through the list of remaining movies, I noticed I didn't see "The Howling 2" on there, and I was shocked. I own this movie and it's one of my all time bad movie favorites. I probably removed it because it was a sequel and I was trying to avoid those for the most part, but I just had to add it somehow and this seemed like the logical time.
Next year's version of this blog will be much improved, with different information and a different format. Also, we will be launching "100 Days of Futureshock" on Jan. 1. During this challenge, we will watch 100 science fiction films - many of them for the first time - and we will bring you the best and worst of those films. Yes, we will pan the proverbial shit to bring you folks the gold. More details on all that later ... let's get through this one for the time being!
Today, we watch what I recall as the first film I ever remember seeing in the theaters at the tender age of eight. Two people got naked and had sex next to a fire as they transformed into werewolves and I had nightmares for a month. Thanks Uncle Herb and Aunt Phyllis! You started my love of being terrified out of my wits by taking me to see "The Howling!" And thanks to you all for reading!
"The Howling" (1981): Directed by Joe Dante. Starring Dee Wallace Stone, Patrick MacNee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone, Elisabeth Brooks and Robert Picardo.
The Skinny: When a journalist on the hunt for an elusive serial killer has a traumatic face to face with her quarry, she is sent to a mountain retreat for some New Age R&R. It turns out her mentor's ideas about controlling the beast within are quite literal, however, when the retreat is revealed as being populated by werewolves.
What's Good: For a time in the 80s, Joe Dante was the go-to guy for that subtle blend of humor and horror. And while for the most part there is a running gag of in-jokes throughout the whole film, for the most part this one deals in horror. Derided by popular critics when it first appeared, "The Howling" stands up still today as a challenging and top-notch scarefest. First off, the werewolf transformations by Rick Baker protege Rob Bottin are fantastic, particularly when Robert Picardo's Eddie Quist shows Dee Wallace Stone how it's done. Air-filled bladders beneath the top layer of later pulsate and quiver with eerie reality, and masked in the shadow of a dark office, the grinning Quist looks like your worst nightmares come true. And while the movie departs from the original novel by making the main character a tele-journalist, that also adds a whole new layer as she allows herself to transform in front of the camera during a live broadcast.
What's Bad: There are a few ridiculous moments in the film, like when two characters transform into wolves and have at it in front of a bonfire - the resulting shadows are obviously animation and aren't very scary at all. And some of the lines leave something to be desired (despite a sharp script penned by John Sayles). But for the most part, this is a worthy entry into both the horror genre and in werewolf movies in general.
Why We Like It: I think I was eight or nine when my aunt and uncle took me to see this flick, of course unaware that it was a.) so horrific, and b.) it has a bizarre (and graphic) sex scene. Maybe the "R" rating should have tipped them off. Oh well. Anyway, needless to say the movie scared me utterly out of my wits. I am talking nightmares for weeks. Those transformations were so frigging realistic to my prepubescent mind, I was convinced werewolves were stalking my ass down every street. And the howl itself - that soulless, disparate wail that echoed through the hills ... it still haunts me to this very day.
Memorable Stuff: The scene where Stone shows the world (or at least the greater Los Angeles area - this is before the advent of the 24-hour news broadcast) her transformation into a lycanthrope is pretty terrifying. Stone gives it her all, complete with tears and a wail that seems inhuman. But the best scene acting-wise is when Quist confronts Dennis Dugan in a doctor's office. It is after Quist's face has been damaged by acid and his burned flesh hangs off in strips and you can see his skull beneath in places. And when he starts to transform (after tossing Dugan the rifle and patting his chest, "C'mon, shoot me, do it!"), it is absolutely the scariest thing out there.
The Howling 2 - Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985): Directed by Philippe Mora. Starring Christopher Lee, Jeb Brown, Annie McEnroe, Sybil Danning, Jud Omen and Marsha Hunt.
The Skinny: Picking up (roughly) where the first film ended, the brother of slain telejournalist Karen White journeys off to find the people responsible. teaming up with a mystic, he finds himself at the mercy of demonic forces that have existed for millennia.
What's Good: This film lies at the almost polar opposite of the original film. It's poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed and has some shitty special effects. Oh wait, maybe I should move on to ...
What's Bad: Even Christopher Lee, with all the powers of Mordor at his command, couldn't save this movie. They took Rob Bottin's amazing special effects and ruined them with some of the cheesiest werewolves you have ever seen. And the acting? Dear god, don't get me started. Is what Sybil Danning does actually considered acting? Because in this fucker, all she does is roll around on a bed with half-transformed werewolves. That, and there is a scene at the end where they repeatedly play a clip of her ripping her bodice open again and again and again.
Why We Like It: Two words: Werewolf. Orgy.
Memorable Stuff: See above. Also, there is a scene early in the film where a new wave punk band plays a great song that I have never been able to find. Called "Howling," it's actually a good take on the early 80s new wave scene and has proto-industrial elements. Badass.