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: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen is a comic by Space Goat Publishing, continuing from the first film.

These movies contain examples of:

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    The Howling 
  • 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.
  • Anti-Villain/Token Good Teammate: Dr. Waggner wants the Colony to have both their human and animal instincts be harmonious, and even try to live with the rest of civilization. The rest of the Colony ultimately reject this, preferring being taken over by their primitive instincts.
  • 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.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The final line of the movie: "...rare."
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "Don't you know anything?"
    • "Thank God.."
    • "Tonight... I'm going to show you something... to make you believe..."
  • Face–Heel Turn: Bill, Dr. Waggner.
  • Facial Horror: Karen throws acid over Eddie's face while he's in wolf form. The end result isn't pretty.
  • Fan Disservice: Marsha and Bill's sex scene becomes more primal as their animal instincts take over... and then they transform in the middle of it.
  • Femme Fatale: Martha.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Karen, after being attacked by Eddie. This incites the entire film.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Karen.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Ends with actual wolf howls.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Karen put herself in danger as part of a sting to nail Eddie. Later, it's Terri who actually unravels the secret of the colony.
  • Kill It with Fire: Other than silver, fire is the werewolves' Achilles heel.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Karen is a famous anchorwoman, and she would be missed.
  • Meaningful Name: Nearly all the characters are named after werewolf film directors.
  • Mercy Kill: Chris shoots Karen with one last silver bullet after she transforms.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the werewolves realize that Chris actually managed to wrangle up some silver bullets.
  • One-Winged Angel: The primary transformation scene is so elaborate that it ends up verging on this trope.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Popularized the "man-wolf" style of werewolf. Here the wolves can transform at will, without need to rely on phases of the moon.
  • Painful Transformation: Averted. Eddie seems to enjoy it.
  • Rape as Drama: In the book Karen is actually raped. In the movie, the police sting saves her at the last minute, but the trope still plays out more or less the same.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Chris.
  • Silver Bullet: Of course.
  • The Sociopath: Eddie Quist. He's a Serial Killer mixed with a werewolf who thinks that normal people are just nothing.
  • Stalker With a Crush: Eddie has his eye on Karen for a long time.
  • Suicide by Cop: After realizing that Chris has silver bullets, Dr. Waggner intentionally goads Chris into shooting him.
  • Tempting Fate: Eddie Quist once surprises Chris and takes away his rifle, but a bit later, in order to gloat, returns the rifle and invites Chris to shoot him, because as a werewolf he's Immune to Bullets: "Don't you know anything?" What we know and Eddie doesn't, is that the rifle is loaded with silver bullets. Whoops...
  • Took a Level in Badass: Chris, once he figures out the werewolf deal.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: Chris pretty much waits there while Karen turns into a werewolf. When the transformation is complete, she shoots her on live television.
  • Transformation Sequence: It can't be The Howling without a good ol' werewolf transformation, now could it?
  • Transhuman Treachery: After being bitten, Bill's wolf instincts take him over, causing him to go from being a vegetarian to happily eating meat, cheating on his wife with Marsha after previously turning down her advances, and even being the one who bites and turns Karen.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: To silver, and to fire.
  • Weirdness Censor: Apathetic Citizens see werewolf on the evening news and react in bland, skeptical fashion.

    Howling II: Stirba: Werewolf Bitch 
  • 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.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In Russian bootleg translation, the translator mixed up milleniums and millions, and thus made poor Stirba ten million years old.
  • 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. Possibly lampshaded when Ben calls the footage he is shown fake and claims the Karen in the video looks nothing like his sister.
  • Hunter of Monsters: 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.
    • During the credits, the graffiti says BATCAVE.
  • 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.
  • Title Drop: For the second version of the title.
    Stefan: This type of bullet, Mr. White, means your sister is a werewolf.
  • 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, or 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.
  • Standalone 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.
  • Hollywood Satanism: 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.
  • Truer to the Text: The plot follows the original Gary Brandner novel more closely than the first film.

    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.
  • 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.
  • Un-person: Janice, who died in a Heroic Sacrifice at the end of 4, isn't mentioned or seen at all in the flashback footage, which gives the unwitting impression that Marie is attempting to take all the credit for stopping the werewolves in that film.

    The Howling: Reborn 

Alternative Title(s): Howling II Your Sister Is A Werewolf, Howling III The Marsupials, Howling IV The Original Nightmare, Howling V The Rebirth, Howling VI The Freaks, Howling New Moon Rising, The Howling Reborn, Howling II Stirba Werewolf Bitch