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The Howling – 1981 Dante
- Joe Dante’s The Howling is his follow up to 1978’s Piranha and it happened to arrive in 1981 – the same year as John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London.
- Dante’s work is more self-aware. He has John Carradine and Slim Pickens in support and at this point in their distinguished careers they had both been in spoofs (Pickens in Blazing Saddles in 1974 and Carradine in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask in 1972). In one scene in The Howling, Christopher Stone’s character, after getting bit by a werewolf, is shown reading “You Can’t Go Home Again”. 1941’s Wolf Man is in the text. In another scene, a brutal attack is intercut with other character watching cartoon wolves.
- John Sayles wrote the screenplay (like Piranha), and he is also in the film acting.
- Dramatic score from De Palma’s frequent collaborator Pino Donaggio (Dressed to Kill, Carrie)
- Dante opens in medias res with Dee Wallace (the year before E.T.) as an investigative journalist trying to out a predator by meeting him in a dingy porno theater.
- A great Jaws-like dolly zoom at the 38-minute mark with Dee’s character in therapy. The early attack plays like a post traumatic stress throughout the film. She goes to see a physiatrist who recommends a getaway in the woods. The Colony is the getaway—and the widespread community conspiracy here works beautifully- like The Wicker Man. The narrative intermixes the eeriness of The Colony with two investigators from the station trying to solve the mystery.
- The scenes of the transformation into werewolves are very similar to Landis’ film, they are crisply and effectively cut, though, I would give the edge here to Landis’ film.
- It ends with a wink at the camera as well a barfly is talking about special effects and there is a great “rare” order by the temptress werewolf (played by Elisabeth Brooks) at the end of the bar. The credits role with a slab of rare meat on the screen.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1981.