The Howling (1981)

the howling poster 1981 movie werewolves
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great transformation scene, smart script

Some FX near the end don't match up with the great earlier effects, hate those claymation wolves

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Howling

Studio:  Avco Embassy Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Comedy

Release Date(s):  April 10, 1981

MPAA Rating:  R


I’m the big, bad wolf…and you’re dead!

A serial killer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo) has been killing women and become obsessed with a local reporter named Karen White (Dee Wallace). When Karen is attacked in a police attempt to capture Eddie, she begins to suffer flashbacks and can’t recall why the attack was so terrifying. At the advice of her psychiatrist Dr. George Wagnner (Patrick Macnee), she and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) travel up the coast to the Colony where Karen is going to try to connect to her past. As Karen tries to remember her attack, her friends Terri Fisher (Belinda Balaski) and Chris Halloran (Dennis Dugan) research Eddie and discover the Colony is hiding a secret that could be deadly.


Watch this, it’s going to be fun!

The Howling was directed by Joe Dante and received high marks from critics and fans. It was based on the novel by Gary Bradner (which had a radically different story) and was scripted by John Sayles who Dante also worked with on Piranha. The movie started a series with multiple sequels.

The story is a smart blend of comedy and horror. It has some truly scary moments (like when Terri is pursued through the creepy woods by the werewolves). It manages to make a lot of jokes about the whole ideas of werewolves while mixing in vintage clips and famous moments in “werewolf” history throughout the movie. The movie alone is worth the pay-off “joke” ending which is even handled tongue-in-cheek by onscreen dismissive viewers.


Really…claymation werewolves after all the cool stuff you’ve shown us? Really?

With An American Werewolf in London, the special effects of the werewolf movie really took a jump. Rick Baker, who was assigned to The Howling, left production to work on An American Werewolf in London and that film was released later in the year. Both films really made transformations painful and cool. Eddie’s transformation in the office is amazing, but it also makes the transformation scenes at the end and the unfortunate claymation werewolves not fit in well.

The Howling still has a lot of jumps and scares and much like Piranha you can tell has a lot of fun doing it. Most of the sequels after the first one are quite bad (though Howling IV: The Original Nightmare in 1988 was a closer adaptation to Bradner’s original novel). The Howling was followed by The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf in 1985 (and Bradner did help write the script for that one).

Related Links:

Howling III:  The Marsupials (1987)

Howling IV:  The Original Nightmare (1988)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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