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Film / The Howling

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The Howling is a 1981 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 (Robert Picardo), television anchorwoman Karen White (Dee Wallace) is left traumatized and in dire need of a rest. Her psychiatrist Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee) sends her and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) 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. A remake of the original is in early planning stages for Netflix. It's, as of this writing, planned to directed by Andy Muschietti, the director of the It duology.

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

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    The Howling 
  • Actor Allusion: Dick Miller plays Walter Paisley, named after his character from A Bucket of Blood.
  • Affably Evil: Most of the werewolves are actually pretty friendly when they aren't killing people or the like.
  • 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 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: 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.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: The medical examiner keeps his lunch next to a pan full of body parts.
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Chris arrives in the nick of time to rescue Karen from the werewolves.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Colony.
  • Body Horror: Transformations courtesy of Rob Bottin, the effects guy from The Thing (1982).
  • Deadline News: I wonder if there's a Peabody pending for that final broadcast?
  • Downer Ending: Karen manages to escape the werewolf colony and kill them all before they go on a rampage. However, she decides she has to expose the existence of werewolves to the world, and then transforms on live television. She is shot by Chris as a Mercy Kill, and the public believes it's special effects. Meanwhile, one of the colony werewolves survived, and continues on her merry way.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The final line of the movie: "...rare."
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "Don't you know anything?" Eddie Quist
    • "Thank God.." Dr. Waggner
    • "Tonight... I'm going to show you something... to make you believe..." Karen
  • Face–Heel Turn: Bill and 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: Marsha.
  • The Hero Dies: Karen is shot after turning into a werewolf on live TV.
  • Heroic BSoD: 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.
  • Mercy Kill: Chris shoots Karen with one last silver bullet after she transforms.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened to/with the guy who originally ordered the silver bullets that Chris ends up using.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: Nearly all the characters are named after werewolf film directors.
  • 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...
  • The Titling
  • Took a Level in Badass: Chris, once he figures out the werewolf deal.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action:
    • When Eddie transforms into a werewolf to kill Karen, frozen in place as he shifts, she makes no attempt to try to escape the room and instead gapes at his transformation for a good three minutes. Eventually, she notices a vial of acid nearby and decides to use that against him, but still waits until after he's done transforming to do so.
    • Chris pretty much waits there while Karen turns into a werewolf. When the transformation is complete, he shoots her on live television. Justified in that they're doing this to show the world that werewolves exist.
  • Transformation Sequence: It can't be a werewolf movie 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.
  • Urban Fantasy: Played for Horror by showing it from the perspective of Muggles without any romanticism. Many of the features of urban fantasy depictions of werewolves — internal politics within werewolf society, people being Killed to Uphold the Masquerade, a Weirdness Censor that prevents society from noticing the monsters in their midst, a sexy female werewolf who tempts one of the male heroes, a set of werewolf "rules" (particularly their ability to transform at will) that in many depictions is used to make them more sympathetic — are all here... but to the protagonists, those changes simply make the werewolves an even more dangerous threat. In short, it makes for a pretty good approximation of what it's like to be a human trapped in the world of Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: To silver, and to fire.
  • Weirdness Censor: Apathetic Citizens see a werewolf on the evening news and react in bland, skeptical fashion.

    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 
  • Birthmark of Destiny: The Count reveals that all the guests were brought to the castle because all of them have birthmark in a shape of a wolf's head on their right arm, making them descendants of a bloodline that can turn one into a werewolf.
  • 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).
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The werewolf's attacks are often accompanied by the chanting of the Latin word sanctus (sacred).
  • Pretty in Mink: Anna, a Scandinavian movie star, first appears with a silver and white mink coat draped over her shoulders.
  • Slashed Throat: Richard is attacked by the werewolf, and his body later discovered hidden behind a curtain, with his throat slashed open.
  • 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 IV The Original Nightmare, Howling V The Rebirth, Howling VI The Freaks, Howling New Moon Rising, The Howling Reborn


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