I like werewolves. If I had to be either a vampire, a zombie or a werewolf, I’d be a werewolf. Vampires are whiny little bastards, and zombies stink, but as long as I had a heady supply of ketamine on the nights of the full moon when there weren’t any Westboro Baptist jerkoffs to munch on, and plenty of anti-dandruff shampoo, I’d be fine.
And I like werewolf movies, even when the werewolves in them are shit (see THE BEAST MUST DIE) or if they’re decent but the movie is shit (see HOWLING 2 – though I still enjoy watching it). The British have produced some good werewolf movies in recent years, most notably Neil Marshall’s DOG SOLDIERS. Among Marshall’s later works, THE DESCENT and DOOMSDAY, he worked with a special effects designer named Paul Hyett, who went on to direct his own movies, the ultraviolent revenge film THE SEASONING HOUSE, and now the one I’m reviewing today, HOWL, an unpretentious little horror offering that proves quite palatable.
Joe Griffin (Ed Speleers) is a train guard who just lost a promotion to supervisor to an asshole we thankfully won’t see again after this scene, because he’s the sort of tool for whom you’d happily piss in his coffee. He’s there long enough to assign Joe an extra shift on the Midnight Special going across England, though at least he gets to share the shift with Ellen (Holly Weston), who sells the drinks and snacks (what, they’re serving food and drinks on a late train? That’s more unbelievable than the werewolves), though his attempts to finally ask her out on a date crash like a night out with Gary Busey and Mel Gibson.
The passengers are a motley collection, including an elderly couple, a fat drunken slob (Calvin Dean) who couldn’t die quick enough, a banker (Elliot Cowan) so desperate to be Alpha Male he gets spontaneous erections at the mere mention of Dog the Bounty Hunter, and some other werewolf fodder. Oh, there is also the driver (Sean Pertwee, also from DOG SOLDIERS), who stops the train in the arsehole of nowhere because they’ve run over a deer. And of course he gets out to try to clear the body from under the wheels. Oh, and there’s a full moon…
Now, I could go through all the usual tropes, tick all the usual boxes – the search for the driver, the initial attacks, the arguments about who’s in charge, the siege reinforcement, the victim who transforms, the idiots who deserve their gruesome deaths – but that’s not important. HOWL’s strength doesn’t lie in its original storyline or original characters (the cast are fine, but with the exception of Speleers and Cowan as the Hero and the Asshole they don’t have much to work with), but rather in its use of an unusual setting (when you’ve got a train set and no money to film elsewhere, why not stick it in the middle of a wilderness in the middle of the night?).
And in some decent creature work. The werewolves aren’t the full quadrupeds of some movies or the Larry Talbot Wolfman, but a hybrid of both, the creatures showing some individual traits. Hyett, who also worked on the effects for THE WOMAN IN BLACK and ATTACK THE BLOCK, knows how to deliver on a low budget. The gore scenes are intense if not as plentiful as they could be, and the pace of the movie is quick, and they even try to build a sense of history about the creatures and previous attacks on trains in the area.
HOWL is available on DVD and VOD, and the trailer is below.
Director: Paul Hyett
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy