Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Howling

Go To

The Howling is a series of loosely-connected werewolf horror-comedy filmsnote  and part of The Howling franchise. They are loosely based on the trilogy of novels by Gary Brandner, though most of the films bear only a glancing resemblance to any of the novels.

The first film was released in 1981 and followed by seven sequels, the last of which was released in 2011. Most of the sequels are standalone stories with no shared characters and events; the exceptions are the second movie, which is connected to the first by virtue of the main character being the previously-unmentioned brother of the original film's heroine, and the seventh movie, which makes an attempt at Arc Welding the previous three films and has returning characters. The main thing the movies have in common is people having encounters with werewolves, which usually doesn't go well for them.

The following movies have their own pages:

Other movies in the series include:

  • Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988): Author Marie Adams is troubled by disturbing dreams and visions of nuns, werewolves and burning churches. On the advice of Marie's doctor, she and her husband Richard rent a cottage in the remote town of Drago so she can recover from her apparent nervous breakdown. However, Drago is not as peaceful as it appears, with Marie’s visions continuing, while she is also troubled by the sounds of howling and the strangeness of the townsfolk. Richard is drawn to seductive artist Eleanor, while Marie tries to uncover the mystery behind Drago and her dark visions. It's not so much a sequel as it is a more faithful adaptation of the original novel, though it still makes some substantial changes to the plot.
  • Howling V: The Rebirth (1989): A mysterious Hungarian count invites six strangers to the reopening of a castle in Budapest with a dark past. According to local folklore, centuries ago the region was terrorised by werewolves. When the inhabitants of the castle start to be picked off one-by-one by a seemingly supernatural killer, they start to realise the tale is more than a legend.
  • Howling VI: The Freaks (1991): A young drifter named Ian Richards who is secretly a werewolf is imprisoned in a travelling freakshow, under the control of the sinister circus owner, R.B. Harker. Ian must find a way to escape while also battling his curse and grappling with his growing feelings for Elizabeth, a local pastor's daughter.
  • Howling: New Moon Rising (1995): A detective, the priest Father John and Australian drifter Ted Smith investigate a recent string of killings in Pioneertown, California, with Father John being convinced werewolves are responsible. The townsfolk begin to believe Ted is the culprit and he must find the real werewolf before he’s taken out by a lynch mob.
  • The Howling: Reborn (2011): Eighteen years after his mother was killed by a werewolf, high schooler Will Kidman discovers he himself has werewolf heritage. When a pack of vicious werewolves invades Will's school, it's up to Will to rally his friends and his crush to defend themselves and escape, though matters are complicated when Will discovers the threat is closer to home than ever imagined.

A remake of the original movie is in early planning stages for Netflix. As of this writing, the remake is set to be directed by Andrés Muschietti, the director of the It duology.

These movies contain examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Shared tropes 
  • Denser and Wackier: The first film has a lot of Black Comedy, satire and humorous inside jokes regarding werewolf fiction, but overall it's a serious and scary horror film. Some of the sequels incorporate more comedy, with Stirba: Werewolf Bitch, The Marsupials and especially New Moon Rising having a lot more goofy and campy moments. The other four sequels are generally more serious in tone.
  • The Film of the Book: The first movie and a few of the sequels loosely adapt the books by Gary Brandner, but many of the films have no connection to them beyond revolving around werewolves and featuring "The Howling" in the title.
    • The Howling shares its basic premise and certain plot points with the first novel, but otherwise tells its own story and the way it depicts the werewolves differs slightly.
    • The Marsupials is credited as being based on The Howling III: Echoes, but adapts virtually nothing from that book; about the only things they share in common are taking a more sympathetic stance on the werebeasts than is typical for the franchise.
    • The Original Nightmare is heavily inspired by the first novel, actually being more faithful to the book than the 1981 movie in places, though it also takes several liberties, such as adding a plotline about nuns and the heroine being plagued by mysterious visions and dreams.
    • The Freaks bears little resemblance to any of the novels, but it does take a few pointers from the third book, such as featuring a sympathetic werewolf protagonist and werewolves working for a carnival freakshow.
    • Reborn is credited as being based on the second book, The Howling II, but it actually has more in common with the first and third books while still mostly being its own thing, such as starring a sympathetic young werewolf and ending with the protagonists burning down a building to kill the evil werewolves; it also takes cues from the first movie by having the last scene feature the protagonist transform on-camera to reveal the existence of werewolves.

    Howling IV: The Original Nightmare 
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the book, Karyn moves to Drago to recuperate after being brutally raped and suffering a miscarriage, with her psychological problems clearly stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder. Here, Marie moves to Drago to relax after she experiences disturbing dreams and visions, which are attributed to stress and an overactive imagination.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Despite being more faithful in terms of plot, the film changes many characters' names from the book.
    • The main heroine's name goes from Karyn Beatty to Marie Adams.
    • Marie' husband goes from Roy to Richard.
    • The werewolf seductress goes from Marcia Lura to Eleanor.
  • Adapted Out: Despite being based on the same source material as the 1981 film, The Original Nightmare lacks an Eddie/Max Quist equivalent.
  • 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, with a lot of Gorn. The second Werewolf transformation involves the recipient ripping his jaw apart before his face reforms into a beast-man appearance.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Marie's recurring dreams and visions warn of the werewolf threat and how she can stop them, though she doesn't realise the significance until she's already in grave danger.
  • 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.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Werewolves in this film are defeated by being sealed in a burning church.
  • Nuns Are Spooky: Marie has visions of a creepy nun throughout the film.
  • Truer to the Text: The plot follows the original Gary Brandner novel more closely than the first film, though it still makes some notable changes to the story and characters. Some of the most notable differences include the characters having different names and backgrounds, the plotline involving nuns and the heroine's recurring visions. The climax also plays out a bit differently, although both involve the werewolves being locked up in a burning building.

    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, David and The Count tell Marylou to shoot the other, the Count being convinced that David is the werewolf killing everyone and David believing the Count is a crazy murderer. Marylou fires once...and David 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 killed off early in the film.
  • Haunted Castle: The ancestral home of the werewolf, and all the guests.
  • 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).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Anna the Scandinavian actress gets several nude scenes and several of the male characters are clearly attracted to her.
  • Mutual Kill: The prologue features a couple who impale themselves on the same sword after murdering the rest of their guests.
  • Off with His Head!: Peter the Butler accidentally beheads Susan in an attempt to kill David, believing he is the Werewolf.
  • 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: How the werewolf kills most of its victims.
  • 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 
  • Ambiguous Gender: One of Harker's loyal performers is non-conforming person who performs a solo double act with a male appearance on one side of their body and a female appearance on the other. At the very least they let the audience know their breasts are real.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Harker throws Winston's cat to a recently transformed Ian as part of the show, hoping the Werewolf will devour the cat. Because of his friendship with Winston, Ian regains his senses before he can eat the kitty. The other carnival freaks later kill the cat anyway which convinces Winston to help Ian and turn him against Harker for good.
  • Big Bad: R.B Harker, the Repulsive Ringmaster of the carnival who is also a murderer and vampire.
  • 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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Harker is quite cosy with the town residents and polite to Winston upon taking him into his carnival, but in actuality is an abusive control freak and murderer who enjoys humiliating his freaks and at one point tries to make his werewolf eat a cat.
  • Forced Transformation: Harker forces Ian to turn into a Werewolf by uttering a spell into his ear so he can be used as an attraction at his freak show.
  • Meaningful Name: The vampire is named "Harker", which is a Shout-Out to Dracula, where two characters have the surname Harker (Jonathan Harker and Mina, after she marries Jonathan).
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The Werewolf in this movie lacks control over his transformations and is triggered by the full moon or a spell being uttered. His appearance has a more human-like face than those seen in prior Howling movies.
  • 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.
  • Dull Surprise: Most of the cast is portrayed by Aussie-Californians with no acting experience. It shows in their performances.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: This Werewolf apparently has the power to take over peoples bodies and is possessing one of the town inhabitants, despite being the same Werewolf from The Rebirth.
  • 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.
  • Red Filter of Doom: Most of the Werewolf attacks are shot from a POV perspective. Unfortunately the filter is incredibly overexposed leaving it hard to tell what's happening in the frame.
  • 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 fourth film turns out to have survived the events of that film... only to be killed off after an appearance lasting about ten minutes.
  • Toilet Humour: A gag about bad chili culminates in the occupants of a bar leaving en masse from the foul smell of farts.
  • 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 
  • Arc Symbol: A red circle shows up as a recurring symbol throughout the film. Kathryn is shown painting the circle in the prologue and the bald man has it as a tattoo on the back of his head. The significance of this is never made clear.
  • Bald of Evil: In the prologue, Will's mother is attacked by a Werewolf whose human form is a tall bald man.
  • Big Bad: Kathryn Kidman is the leader of the werewolf pack terrorising the school; she intends to create an army of werewolves to Take Over the World and wants to recruit Will her son, whether he wants this or not.
  • The Bully: Will is bullied by a taller student named Roland, who cuts his neck and later intends to shoot Will for standing up to him.
  • Destination Defenestration: To protect Eliana from being killed by the Werewolf pack, Will throws himself and Eliana out of a high story window and uses his own body to cushion Eliana from the fall to save her life. They do it again once both of them have become Werewolves to escape from the burning school.
  • Disney Villain Death: Will's bully is killed after a Werewolf throws him down a stairwell.
  • The Faceless: The Bald man is only shown from the back of his head with a red circle tattoo being his only other identifying feature.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Bald Man who infects Kathryn is the root cause of all the misery in the film yet is completely irrelevant to the main plot otherwise.
  • Healing Factor: Will's Werewolf powers include healing from severe injuries, something he realises after cutting his own wrist.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Eliana turns into a Werewolf and kills the Alpha Werewolf. Will is able to bring her to her senses by reminding her of their relationship which subsequently gives her enough control to become human again.
  • Incest Subtext: Kathryn's interest towards her son is laced with disturbing sexual undertones. Word of God claims that this was intentional, to make her look more bestial since embracing her werewolf side.
  • In the Back: One of the Werewolves is killed by being stabbed in the back with a silver 2nd place trophy.
Eliana: "I guess it's a good thing you didn't win the gold"
  • Karma Houdini: Will never learns about the existence of the Bald man who infected his mother and the ending makes it clear that he's still out there.
  • Kill It with Fire: Once again, a large pack of Werewolves are destroyed by being sealed in a burning building.
  • Off with His Head!: How the Werewolves kill Sachin.
  • Sequel Hook: Will and Eliana have revealed the existence of Werewolves to the world. News reports over the credits reveal that Werewolves have been sighted on at least four continents. The Bald Man is still out there.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Will's friend Sachin provides a lot of the comic relief moments early on in the film. His death marks the point where the film becomes a lot darker.

Alternative Title(s): Howling IV The Original Nightmare, Howling V The Rebirth, Howling VI The Freaks, Howling New Moon Rising, The Howling Reborn