The Howling (1981) – Charles Rector

 Over the years, there have been a great many attempts at making what’s known as a "horror comedy." Ideally, a horror comedy is supposed to be both scary and funny at the same time. Problem is that all too often, such movies are more funny than scary and all too often are hardly scary at all. One such flick is the 1981 effort, The Howling.

The Howling is a treasure trove of insider jokes for horror flick fans. Many of the characters named after previous werewolf film directors. In one scene, there is a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poetry book "Howl" laying by a telephone. Werewolf flicks and cartoons are shown on TV, and "wolf" items pop up regularly. There is also a reference to radio disc jockey Wolfman Jack, a photo of werewolf movie actor Lon Chaney, Jr., and a character eats a can of Wolf brand chili.

One of the biggest problems with The Howling is the fact that what is supposed to be scary often comes across as being goofy. For example, when Dee Wallace transforms into a werewolf towards the end of the movie, she looks more like a cute widdle puppy instead of a frightening werewolf. In order to be scary, werewolf movies need to have frightening monsters, and The Howling is rather lacking in that department.

Despite its artistic defects, The Howling proved to be a huge hit on the big screen. It cost $1 Million to make and grossed about $17 million on its initial release. Add in TV rights and rights for VHS/DVD releases, and you have a profitability bonanza. No wonder The Howling has generated a multitude of sequels, all of which are least as bad as the original and in many instances even worse. Perhaps the most lasting beneficial effect of The Howling is that it furthered the careers of special effects/costumes men Rick Baker & Rob Bottin.

In any event, The Howling is not scary enough to be a horror flick and comes across as being goofy instead of funny, so it fails as a comedy as well. As such, it is not recommended.