I’m both a Bigfoot and a Werewolf movie completist. And thanks to streaming services, there’s an abundance of both. Now that’s not to say the majority of them are any good. Hell, I’m still waiting for a legitimately good Bigfoot movie. Werewolves are better represented in the cinema, although they usually have some flaws, the main problem being the reliance on crappy CG effects. Give me a good old Rick Baker hairy body suit and fangs any day. Can this plucky underdog succeed where others have fallen? Let’s check it out, shall we?
The Amazon Prime description of the plot of Howl is “Passengers on a night train are harassed by a creature from folklore.” Hmm, which creature could it be? Since the title card spells “Howl” with a moon for an ‘O’, I’m hedging my bets on wolfmen.
Howl starts out intriguingly. There’s a guy walking through a darkened train station with ominous music and rain, so I like the atmosphere. This one is a UK production with British actors, so it’s already more interesting than the standard Netflix/Amazon werewolf movie, namely Werewolves vs. Hillbillies in the Woods with Shotguns. I’ve seen more than enough of those. Come to think of it, that’s the standard Netflix/Amazon Bigfoot movie as well.
I start to doubt my choice when the movie attempts a jump scare with a chihuahua hiding under a chair and a suddenly loud PA system crackling into life. Those are some sad jump scares. Luckily it picks up as the train gets rolling.
Our lead is the dweeby ticket taker on the red-eye train. All of the passengers are jerks to him, for some reason. There are spooky noises and then the train hits a deer. Thus begins the train ride from hell. I don’t recognize any of the actors except for Sean Pertwee, son of a Doctor Who. And I didn’t even recognize him. So it’s wide open who dies first, second and tenth in this movie.
My money for First Death was on the sweaty, fat guy eating fries, er, chips. But I was pleasantly surprised. I should’ve guessed in this low budget affair the most expensive actor goes out first. In this case, Son of Doctor Who is taken out by a growling POV camera. At this point, I’m still not digging the movie. But thankfully, it gets better.
Pretty quickly, a hairy, growling creature starts offing the cast. There’s a hilarious bit where the passengers decide to walk back to the last station. “It can only be about two miles.” They are immediately chased by the beast and they all run back to the train where the middle-aged lady gets her leg bitten. Oopsie. We all know what that means.
Clearly the filmmakers have seen An American Werewolf in London, as it pays homage to it in its attempts at humor, and the look of the creatures. And you know what, if you want to be inspired by a movie, why not choose the best one, my apologies to The Howling.
So in typical fashion for these kinds of movies, all of the passengers turn against each other and argue. The Designated Jerkface actively keeps screwing up and double-crossing everybody, at one point literally kicking one werewolf-harassed passenger off the moving train. Things get bloody really fast. And the movie rocks.
Some highlights include many of the wolf attacks, which are tense. The old guy gets a great rah-rah monologue about how “Animals hunt what is easy to catch… So let’s make it harder for the bastard, shall we?” And then there’s a moment where they discover the wolf creature is wearing a wedding ring and… he’s human.
Most importantly, the Wolfman costume is actually really good and the use of CGI is disguised by the dark and gloom. And the movie gets surprisingly gory, which is kind of the point of these things. When the bitten lady ultimately changes, she’s creepy-looking and I like how the wolfman eyes glow when hit with lights. That’s unsettling and well done. So the movie doesn’t break any new ground as far as Werewolf movies are concerned, but on the other hand, it plays its horror beats well and is all around well done. Bravo.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Howl is a pretty suspenseful, entertaining little movie that transcends its low budget. The filmmakers skillfully use strange noises, howling, lighting and music to build suspense. After a slow start, the movie gets cooking with numerous wolf attacks and man-wolf fighting. The movie embraces its low budget and uses its lack of extras to its advantage. This is the exact movie that Midnight Meat Train was hoping to be. But the filmmakers pulled this one off with a smaller budget and more ambition.
My only qualms are the reliance on flickering lights during the attacks. Literally half the movie is strobe-like neon lights and it’s not unsettling, just really annoying and frustrating to watch. But I’ll forgive that since the rest of the movie is skillfully done and entertaining. It’s a surprise when these movies are not terrible, so when they’re actually good, I’m impressed. Definitely check it out if you have Amazon, and a hankering for hairy beasts snacking on obnoxious train passengers.
After the sweaty, fat guy survived the initial attack, I then thought he was the wolfman as he disappears from the movie every time there’s a wolf attack. But no, he dies ignominiously on the toilet. Because of course he does.