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Severely shaken after a near-fatal encounter with a serial killer, TV newscaster Karen White takes some much- needed time off. Hoping to conquer her inner demons, she heads for "the Colony," a secluded retreat where her new neighbors are just a tad too eager to make her feel at home. Also, there seems to be a bizarre link between her would-be attacker and this supposedly safe haven. And when, after nights of being tormented by savage shrieks and unearthly cries, Karen ventures into the forest to find answers, she makes a terrifying discovery. Now she must fight not only for her life... but for her very soul!
For more about The Howling and the The Howling Blu-ray release, see the The Howling Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 3, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dee Wallace, Dick Miller, Christopher Stone, Dennis Dugan, Patrick Macnee, Kevin McCarthy
Director: Joe Dante
» See full cast & crew
The Howling Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 3, 2010
Joe Dante's "The Howling" (1981) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Studio Canal. The supplemental features on the disc include the excellent documentary feature "The Werewolf Effect", a teaser, and the film's original theatrical trailer. In English, with optional French, Spanish, German, and Dutch subtitles. Region-B "locked".
Karen (Dee Wallace, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial), a prominent news reporter, gets severely traumatized after she encounters Eddie (Robert Picardo, Gremlins 2: The New Batch), a psychopathic murderer, in a sleazy porn shop. Her doctor suggests that she joins the Colony, his private sanatorium located deep into the countryside, where she could relax and regain her strength. Karen agrees and heads to the Colony together with her husband, Bill (Christopher Stone, The Joys of Jezebel).
Karen and Bill arrive at the Colony where they are immediately introduced to some very strange characters. One of them, Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks, The Forgotten One), a strikingly beautiful nymphomaniac, hits on Bill but he politely rejects her. Later on, on the way back to his cabin, he is attacked by a giant wolf.
Bill returns to Marsha and the two have sex under the moonlight. Before they part ways, Marsha gently bites Bill on the neck, which causes his body to react in a rather strange way. Bill is unsure why but likes the feeling a lot.
On the following morning, Karen phones her friend Terri (Belinda Balaski, Cannonball!), also a reporter, and begs her to come visit her at the Colony – Karen needs Terri because there is definitely something serious going on with Bill, and because there are strange howls that she hears late at night that scare the hell out of her. Terri arrives at the Colony and immediately notices that the area looks a lot like a hand-drawn sketch she has seen at Eddie's place. While speaking on the phone with her friend Chris (Dennis Dugan, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking) about her discovery, Terri is attacked and killed by a giant wolf. Chris, who already has a pretty good idea what is going on at the Colony, immediately buys a box of silver bullets for his rifle and jumps in his car. A couple of hours later all hell breaks loose.
Joe Dante's The Howling was released in 1981, which was the same year John Landis' An American Werewolf in London arrived in theaters across America. Roger Ebert liked the latter but loathed the former. A lot of passionate horror fans had similar feelings.
The Howling has not aged well (aside from perhaps Sidney J. Furie's The Entity, though, not a lot of horror films that were made during the early 80s have). The script is notably weak - and now it certainly shows more than ever before -and the special effects no longer look special. Many of the once great one-liners also feel terribly amateurish.
Thankfully, the great enthusiasm with which The Howling was made is still easy to detect. The film has a unique rhythm, which is in fact quite similar to that of Dante's Piranha, that makes a lot of the cliches, inconsistencies, and plot holes in it easy to tolerate. Its music score, perhaps one of the most bizarre collections of tunes used in a horror film, is also as effective as it was some nearly thirty years ago.
The acting, though far from stellar, compliments the enthusiasm mentioned earlier very well. Wallace and especially Stone, however, tend to overdramatize during already problematic scenes that have a tendency to stick out. From the supporting cast only Brooks is memorable with her sexual advances toward Stones.
Note: In 1981, The Howling won the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film granted annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
The Howling Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Joe Dante's The Howling arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Studio Canal.
The high-definition transfer for The Howling appears to have been struck from a dated source, but despite some minor sharpening that is occasionally easy to spot on it, it actually looks quite good. Fine object detail, for example, is mostly pleasing. Clarity varies, particularly during the nighttime footage, but contrast levels are stable. Though mixed with noise, film grain is present. Some extremely mild edge-enhancement is easy to spot during a few outdoor scenes. However, I did not see any traces of heavy banding, macroblocking, or aliasing. Blown through a digital projector, The Howling remains stable. Generally speaking, the film's color-scheme is subdued, with blues, greens, browns and blacks looking soft and warm. For the record, I did not detect any large cuts, marks, stains, or scratches to report in this review. All in all, despite some of the limitations mentioned above, fans of this cult horror film should consider an upgrade if the price is right. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Howling Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are four audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, German: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Studio Canal have provided optional French, Spanish, Dutch, and German subtitles for the main feature.
I was pleasantly surprised with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. It has a wonderful dynamic amplitude and it truly gives The Howling a tremendous boost. Many of the random noises that could be heard throughout the film sound better than ever (shots, grows, etc). Additionally, the dialog is exceptionally crisp, clean and very easy to follow.
I quickly tested a couple of scenes with the French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, and while the dubbing is predictably inferior, the dynamic amplitude of the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track appears to be as good as that of the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
The Howling Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Werewolf Effect - a very good documentary focusing on the special effects and production history of The Howling. Joe Dante's comments on the history of werewolf films are particularly interesting. In English. (27 min, PAL).
Trailer - the original English-language theatrical trailer for the film. (2 min, PAL).
Teaser - a short teaser for the film (1 min, PAL).
The Howling Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Despite some minor issues with the transfer, Joe Dante's The Howling looks very good on Blu-ray. Fans of the film should definitely consider an upgrade. Keep in mind that Studio Canal's disc is Region-B "locked". RECOMMENDED.
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