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Film: The Howling

The Howling (1981) is a werewolf horror film directed by Joe Dante and scripted by John Sayles, loosely based on the book of the same name by Gary Brandner.

After a bizarre and near-fatal encounter with serial killer Eddie "The Mangler" Quist, television anchorwoman Karen White is left traumatized and in dire need of a rest. Her psychiatrist sends her and her husband to The Colony, a rural retreat where select patients go to relax and participate in group therapy. However, Karen notices that The Colony appears to be populated by a number of odd characters, which together with the remote location and the strange howling she hears at night soon lead Karen to believe that something is very wrong here. When she starts looking into The Colony's affairs, the apparent resurrection of Eddie Quist soon proves to be the least of her problems...

The Howling was followed by seven sequels, the most recent in 2011.


The Howling contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Ending: A lot depends on whether the viewer thinks anyone will believe Karen's report.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Chris is able to save Karen, but by this point she has become a werewolf as well. She ultimately gives up her life to train and warn other people about their existence.
  • Animal Motifs: As if all the werewolves weren't enough, there's lots of wolf motifs present.
  • Back from the Dead: The cops apparently kill Eddie ten minutes into the film, but since they're not packing department-issue silver bullets (budget cuts...) he comes back.
  • Big Bad: Eddie Quist.

Howling II: Stirba: Werewolf Bitch/Your Sister is a Werewolf
  • The Artifact: There's some strong evidence that the movie was originally going to be a vampire movie due to all the traditional vampire-killing methods being applied to werewolves, their leader being a woman who stays alive by sucking the youth out of people, it taking place in Transylvania and so on.
  • Big Bad: Stirba.
  • Due to the Dead: At the start of the film, Karen receives a Christian burial; her body is laid to rest in a mausoleum at the church's graveyard.
  • Eye Scream: Stirba has a spell that causes its victims' eyeballs to explode in a fountain of blood. Fortunately, the heroes are able to neutralize the spell with their holy earplugs (yes, you read that correctly)... until Stefan's dwarf friend trips over and loses his earplugs.
  • Fanservice: Virtually every moment that Sybil Danning spends on-screen in the film. Especially the end credits, which take it Up to Eleven by repeating the scene where Stirba rips off her top sixteen times.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: They don't even make Karen's on-air transformation remotely look like the scene from the first movie.
  • The Hunter: Stefan, Christopher Lee's character, holds basically the same role Van Helsing does in most interpretations of Dracula (with Stirba in place of the Count).
  • Liquid Assets: Stirba's rejuvenating technique requires a young victim, from whom Stirba magically steals her youth.
  • Monster Progenitor: Stirba for the werewolves.
  • Mutual Kill: Stefan and Stirba burn together in the end.
  • Shout-Out: A murderous dwarf with a knife? Sounds suspiciously like Don't Look Now.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Stirba operates like this in Transylvania.
  • Time Abyss: Unlike other werewolves, Stirba can restore her youth. She is very nearly ten thousand years old.
    • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In Russian bootleg translation, the translator mixed up milleniums and millions, and thus made poor Stirba ten million years old.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Holy Grail gets casually mentioned when Stefan lists the heroes' werewolf-killing weapons before the final assault and nobody as much as bats an eye.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Stirba is so old that she somehow became immune to silver. Luckily for the heroes, it appears that werewolves, including Stirba, also can be harmed by titanium weapons. For some odd reason Karen is also immune to silver, despite only having been a werewolf for a couple of weeks at most.

Howling III: Marsupials
  • Ashes to Crashes: The ashes of a deceased werewolf emerge from the remains of a funeral pyre to attack a group of hunters.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: Do not flash strobe lights in a werewolf's eyesight. They will transform whenever that happens, whether you like it or not.
  • Mood Dissonance: Word of God says it's a comedy, but the tone makes it not clear if this is supposed to be a comedy, a horror, a Green Aesop about not hunting animals to extinction.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Features were-thylacines. Thylacines are an extinct marsupial predator more commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: The town of Flow.
  • Show Within a Show: There are two. Donny is acting in a horror film called The Shapershifters Part 8. He wants Jerboa to join the cast, but she's never seen a horror film before, so he takes her to a B-movie called It Came from Uranus.
  • Stand Alone Episode: Whereas II follows directly on from the first film, and the following four sequels are revealed to form a Broad Strokes continuity in New Moon Rising, this entry is completely divorced any of the other films.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
  • Body Horror: Especially prominent in this film. The first transformation is quite horrific - it consists of the body disintegrating into a puddle of goo and then rebuilding itself into a wolfman shape.
  • From Bad to Worse: These werewolves happen to worship Satan.
  • Hong Kong Dub: A lot of the film was shot without any on-set sound recording due to budget problems. As a result, we get a mixture of this trope and the characters constantly having their backs facing the camera when speaking their dialogue.

Howling V: The Rebirth
  • Deadly Hug: At the end of the film, Peter and The Count tell Marylou to shoot the other, the Count being convinced that Peter is the werewolf killing everyone and Peter believing the Count is a crazy murderer. Marylou fires once...and Peter rushes to hug her telling her everything is okay now. Then the full moon shines down on the pair as Marylou grins savagely.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Gail is the first one to notice the strange things that start happening and is very suspicious of why they're at the castle. She's the third one killed.
  • Magic Pants: The werewolf is clearly a quick-change artist, due to how rapidly it appears and yet how fully clothed everyone is (including the werewolf's human form).
  • Pretty in Mink: Anna, a Scandinavian movie star, first appears with a silver and white mink coat draped over her shoulders.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: There's exactly one werewolf among the castle guests (at least the film implies that). And the guests are killed one by one...
  • There Was a Door: The werewolf is huge and has a tendency to simply explode through walls, snow drifts and doors—how the thing quietly disguises itself as human is anyone's guess.

Howling VI: The Freaks
  • Big Bad: R.B Harker.
  • Come to Gawk: Harker owns a carnival, with a freak sideshow among its attractions. He tries to get Ian into the sideshow.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: After transforming back to human, Ian finds a doll next to him. Knowing that its owner is most certainly dead, he picks it up, racked with guilt. It was planted by Harker.
  • Meaningful Name: The vampire is named "Harker".
  • The Reveal: Harker is a vampire, and has been framing Ian for the murders. After this, Fur Against Fang climax gets into gear.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Harker loses his cool near the end when the mob he formed to kill the werewolf hero refuses to shoot him because he is still in human form — they were prepared to kill a dangerous monster, not an unarmed man. Harker then tries to kill the hero personally.

Howling VII: New Moon Rising
  • Arc Welding: Clive Turner does a fairly admirable job at assembling the plots from the previous sequels into one narrative... unfortunately, these are delivered mainly in massive Info Dumps.
  • Franchise Killer: Effectively killed the franchise for sixteen years until 2011 when the series was rebooted.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Features a bunch of Australians who just happen to be living in the California Desert for no apparent reason. Since most of the film's cast were the real-life inhabitants of a Californian town, odds are that these random Australians are friends of the film's Aussie director, Clive Turner.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Subverted: two very minor characters in 4 and 5 are revealed to be the same person... who is also the hero of 7.
    • Played straight in the same film — the heroine of the 4 turns out to have survived the events of that film... only to be Killed Off for Real after an appearance lasting about ten minutes.

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alternative title(s): The Howling
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