There are not nearly enough good werewolf movies. Glancing over the “Werewolf” index on Box Office Mojo is a stark reminder of this. The top four grossing werewolf movies are all Twilight movies. Next is 1994’s Wolf, which doesn’t seem like a genuine werewolf flick. The awful Red Riding Hood and the ‘80s comedy Teen Wolf both rank higher than the first truly outstanding werewolf movie on the list, An American Werewolf in London, which sits at #13.
Of course, good werewolf tales do emerge every so often, including 2014’s Late Phases and 2002’s Dog Soldiers. And now there’s another addition to the list, director Paul Hyett’s Howl. Essentially werewolves on a train, it’s a well-crafted ride that doesn’t break any new ground but should entertain any fan of werewolf flicks or creature features.
Joe (Ed Speleers) can’t catch a break. His jerk of a co-worker gets the promotion he wanted. He’s spurned by another co-worker, Ellen (Holly Weston), after finally working up the courage to ask her out. And adding insult to injury, his jerk co-worker/new supervisor informs him that he has to work a double shift, which means catching the last train out of London’s Waterloo Station.
Unfortunately for Joe, his night is about to get a whole lot worse. After the train makes a sudden stop in the middle of a forest, some new passengers kill the driver (Sean Pertwee in a very brief cameo) in attempt to get on board. These passengers are extremely hairy and incredibly unfriendly. Once they find out the hard way that leaving the train won’t be so easy, Joe, Ellen, and a small group of passengers try to stay alive and keep the creatures off of the train.
Working with a simple yet effective premise and a low budget, Hyett wisely keeps the werewolves off the screen for as long as possible, building tension by showing a leg here and some claws there (while getting more graphic with the victims). It’s about an hour into Howl before we see a beast in its full glory, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Once the werewolves start attacking the train, Howl sticks to the tried and true formula of people getting picked off one at a time. There are the usual arguments about what the best course of action is, and of course some people rise to the occasion while others act cowardly and selfishly. In this instance the formula works because the isolated setting is ideal for this type of movie and Hyett stages some great set pieces on the train (a highlight being a scene that includes the first time we see the beast in full).
While the werewolves don’t look quite as frightening during daylight, the practical effects are excellent. The kills are appropriately gruesome, the performances are strong, and Hyett keeps the action moving along at a nice clip. Howl is a good old-fashioned monster movie, a familiar tale told well, and sometimes that is something worth celebrating. It is now available on DVD!
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Paul Hyett
Writer(s): Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler
Stars: Ed Speleers, Holly Weston, Shauna Macdonald, Elliot Cowen, Amit Shah, Sam Gittins, Rosie Day.
Release: January 12 (DVD)
Studio/Production Co: Alchemy/Starchild Pictures
Length: 92 minutes