Capsule Review: “The Howling”

The Howling (1981 film) poster.jpg

Give Joe Dante’s cult horror-comedy its due: It’s a film only Joe Dante could make. But despite some impressive scenes and Dante’s delightfully caustic sense of humor, it’s not one of the director’s best. What starts as a powerful allegory for sexual trauma, when a fetching female news anchor (Dee Wallace) is assaulted by a strangely furry man who has been stalking her, eventually morphs into a satire on cults, pop psychology and the desire to go “back to nature” to escape the restrictions of modern life after she relocates to the woods for what turns out to be some rather unorthodox therapy.  Both halves have their redeeming qualities, but they’re so tonally mismatched, one wonders if they don’t belong in separate films. Many of Dante’s jokes simply don’t sit well when juxtaposed with the film’s legitimately distressing depictions of violence against women. And the practical effects look cheesy and retrograde when compared with those in An American Werewolf in London, released the same year.

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