The Howling – USA, 1981


The Howling is a 1981 American supernatural horror feature film directed by Joe Dante (Burying the ExTrapped Ashes; Matinee; Gremlins; Piranha). Only very loosely based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, the screenplay was co-written by John Sayles (Piranha; Alligator) and Terence H. Winkless (future director of Not of This Earth [1995]; Twice as Dead; The Nest). It stars Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee and Dennis Dugan.

The original music score was composed by Pino Donaggio (Tourist Trap; Dressed to Kill; The Black Cat).

Buy Blu-ray:

On 9 October 2017, Studiocanal released The Howling on Blu-ray in the UK with the following special features:

  • Howlings Eternal with Producer Steven A. Lane
  • Cut to Shreds with Editor Mark Goldblatt
  • Interview with Co-writer Terence Winkless
  • Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: A Look at the Film’s Locations
  • Interview with Stop-Motion Animator David Allen
  • Audio Commentary with Author Gary Brandner
Howling Carradine

Veteran horror icon John Carradine howls

Severely traumatised by a near-fatal encounter with a serial killer, TV newscaster Karen White (Dee Wallace) takes time off at a secluded retreat called “the Colony.” But when, after nights of being tormented by bestial, bloodcurdling cries, Karen ventures into the woods seeking answers, she makes a terrifying discovery. Now she must fight not only for her life but for her soul…


Rick Baker was originally handling the transformation and werewolf special effects for the film, but he left the production to work on An American Werewolf in London. Baker left the effects job for this film in the hands of assistant Rob Bottin.


Jeff Shank working on a werewolf

Both this film and An American Werewolf in London were released the same year and both received praise for their makeup work. The Howling also features stop-motion animation by notable animator David W. Allen.

howling 3

Both The Howling and An American Werewolf in London opened around the same time and there has always been debate as to which title is superior. In 1981 American Werewolf probably came out on top but over the years the reputation of The Howling has grown and is possibly now the more popular film of the two amongst genre fans rather than the general public.

howling wolf

The Howling spawned a series of largely unrelated, and widely derided, sequels. To date, the last in the series is 2011’s The Howling: Reborn.

Howling 7

howling blu

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the howling 1981 boxoffice magazine cover


“The atmosphere and setting, combined with the great casting and ambitious special effects, make The Howling one of those new classics that seemed to constantly crop up in the early ’80s; films that would set a standard that many makeup and filmmaking souls have tried to live up to since.” Bill Gibron, DVD Verdict

“As usual in Dante’s movies (Gremlins), in-jokes abound, from characters named after werewolf movie directors, amusing cameos (Corman, Sayles, Forrest J Ackerman), and hammy inserts of wolfish cartoons and Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”. It’s best appreciated now as a quintessential example of early-80s horror, with low-budget limitations evident throughout, but The Howling remains a giddy genre milestone.” Jeff Shannon,


Dee Wallace and director Joe Dante

The Howling is an absolute treat. It’s a werewolf movie, about people who know all about werewolves, for people who love werewolves. Fans can argue about which is best out of this and American Werewolf In London, but while I respect Landis’s very good film, I absolutely love Dante’s”. The Digital Fix

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“Why is it that the Landis film tends to eclipse its rival? Perhaps it’s because An American Werewolf doesn’t force its humor as much. In An American Werewolf we find the gags outrageous yet slyly mischievous, while in The Howling the jokes are insistent and sometimes mean-spirited. The Howling is campy fun, to be sure, but not as rewarding upon subsequent viewing as An American Werewolf.” John J Puccio, Movie Metropolis

the howling elisabeth brooks 1981

Elisabeth Brooks in a promo shot

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howling poster

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.16.16

Main cast and characters:

  • Dee Wallace as Karen White
  • Patrick Macnee as Dr. George Waggner
  • Dennis Dugan as Chris Halloran
  • Christopher Stone as R. William “Bill” Neill
  • Belinda Balaski as Terri Fisher – Matinee; Piranha
  • Kevin McCarthy as Fred Francis – Ghoulies Go to College; Matinee; Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • John Carradine as Erle Kenton – House of the Long Shadows; The Monster ClubVampire Hookers; House of Dracula; et al
  • Slim Pickens as Sam Newfield – The Swarm
  • Elisabeth Brooks as Marsha Quist
  • Robert Picardo as Eddie Quist – Mansion of Blood; Monsterwolf; Dead Heat; et al
  • Margie Impert as Donna
  • Noble Willingham as Charlie Barton
  • James Murtaugh as Jerry Warren
  • Jim McKrell as Lew Landers
  • Kenneth Tobey as Older Cop – Homebodies; The Vampire; The Thing from Another World
  • Dick Miller as Walter Paisley
  • Meshach Taylor as Shantz
  • Don McLeod as T.C. Quist

Wikipedia | IMDb

Posted by Will Holland

Categories: 1980s, adaptation of a novel, comedy horror, serial killer, werewolf

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. You know, I never could get into The Howling for some reason. I love a lot of Dante’s films (Piranha, in particular), but this one failed to connect. I much prefer American Werewolf.

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