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Howling, The (1981)

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"A secret society exists, and is living among all of us. They are neither people nor animals, but something in-between."
Karen White


The Howling is an American werewolf movie released in 1981 and directed by Joe Dante. Along with John Landis' 1981 horror/comedy, An American Werewolf in London, the Howling is known for revolutionizing the werewolf genre for modern audiences. With this film, producers evolved the look of the werewolf beyond that of the furry gloves and latex masks used in earlier films. Dante's werewolves were more animalistic in appearance, with longer ears, extended snouts and canine fangs. The Howling was also known for its tongue-in-cheek humor as well, with several key characters who are named after famous genre directors. The plot centers around California news broadcaster and investigative journalist Karen White and her involvement in tracking down a noted serial killer known only as Eddie. A stark encounter seemingly ends with Eddie's death, but Karen is traumatized by the incident. At the behest of psychiatrist Doctor George Waggner, Karen and her husband go to the Colony – a patient outreach community which secretly serves as a haven for werewolves. Karen learns the truth about her attacker and finds that he is not only still alive – but is also a werewolf.

Plot Edit

Eddie the Mangler Edit

Eddie Quist and Karen White (Howling)

Beauty & the Beast

Karen White is a news anchor and investigative journalist working for Channel 6 KDHD news in Los Angeles, California. For weeks now, KDHD has been working with local police in their ongoing efforts to track down and apprehend a serial killer known only as Eddie the Mangler. Eddie, having taken an interest in Karen White, contacts her and arranges for her to meet with him. Karen becomes part of a sting operation to bring Eddie down. Wearing a wire, she goes to an adult book store where she is expected to meet with Eddie. Due to the excessive quantities of neon in the neighborhood however, the police monitoring her wire are unable to keep a lock on her position.

Eddie invites Karen into a private movie booth where he forces her to watch a graphically violent pornographic film of a woman being raped. He reassures Karen that the people in the film are "dead" and that "they don't feel a thing". Karen wants to turn around to get a good look at Eddie's face, but Eddie won't let her. He's not yet ready. Moments pass and Karen hears Eddie panting and breathing heavy behind her. His voice becomes gravely and he says, "Turn around now, Karen". What she sees horrifies her and she lets out a scream.

As luck would have it, two police officers are present inside the book store and hear Karen's screams from the booth. A younger officer draws his sidearm and fires into the booth, presumably killing Eddie. Blood begins to pour out from under the door as Karen scrambles away, screaming. Karen is taken away by the police and brought to her husband, Bill Neill. When asked about what had just transpired, Karen tells them that she cannot remember. She has repressed all memory of her experience with Eddie.

Although she has blocked the memory of the incident from her conscious mind, her dreams torment her with images of Eddie and the violent rape film. Even her husband's touch sets her on edge. She goes to visit famed psychiatrist Doctor George Waggner. Waggner invites her to spend some time at a private retreat that he owns called the Colony. He has recommended the Colony to several of his patients who, like Karen, were in need of psychological therapy.

The Colony Edit

Karen and Bill drive to the Colony and arrive there in the early evening. They are greeted by several affable men and women including Jerry Warren, his wife Donna, Erle Kenton, Charlie Barton, Sheriff Sam Newfield, T.C. Quist and his sister, Marsha. Donna Warren immediately ingratiates herself with Karen and warns her that Marsha Quist is a nymphomaniac and she may want to keep a close eye on her husband. While enjoying a bonfire barbeque, Karen and Bill notice elderly Erle Kenton behaving strangely. Repeatedly shouting, "I want to die", he tries to throw himself into the bonfire, but Charlie and Jerry hold him back. They tell Karen and Bill that Erle gets like this when he's had too much to drink.

The following afternoon, Karen spends time with Donna while Bill goes on a hunting trip with Jerry, Charlie, T.C. and Erle. During the trip, Bill shoots a rabbit. T.C. tells him to bring it to his sister Marsha and have her cook it for him. Bill declines, reminding T.C. that he's a vegetarian. T.C. tells him that it's a sin to kill something that you don't eat and that Marsha would be more than happy to cook it up for him. Bill reluctantly brings the dead rabbit to the Quist cabin. Marsha cuts it up, but she has more on her mind now than just cooking. She presses herself up on Bill and begins kissing him. Bill pushes her away and returns to his cabin.

Back in L.A., Karen's co-workers Chris Halloran and Terry Fisher continue to investigate the Eddie the Mangler case. They go to Eddie's apartment where they discover a room filled with animal pelts, fetishes and bizarre drawings. They peruse through a series of sketches which detail individuals in various stages of werewolf transformation. Terry finds a drawing of a landscape and wonders if it's intended to reflect and actual location. Chris finds Eddie's signature on the sketches and learns his last name – Quist. The two bring their findings to Doctor Waggner.

At the Colony, Bill is walking through the forests when he is attacked. A werewolf leaps out from the bushes and bites him on the shoulder. He returns to his cabin where he is patched up. The following day, Bill is feeling much better, but Karen is disturbed when she sees him ravenously eating meat.

Call of the Wild Edit

Bill Neill (Howling) 002

The seduction of Bill Neill

That evening, Bill wanders back out into woods. He secretly meets with Marsha Quist and the two begin fornicating near a bonfire under the full moon. Both Marsha and Bill transform into werewolves during their sexual escapade. In the heat of passion, Marsha rakes her claws across Bill's back.

The following morning, Karen awakens inside her cabin and sees Bill getting dressed. She notes the scratches on his back, but Bill tells her that they probably happened when he was attacked. Suspecting infidelity, Karen asserts that the scratches are new and accuses him of sleeping with Marsha. Bill responds angrily, backhanding his wife across the face.

In L.A., Chris and Terry continue to look into the Eddie Quist case. They visit the morgue to inspect the body, but when the coroner opens the locker, Eddie's body is gone. The interior of the locker door is mangled as if something were trying to break out.

Their research eventually brings them to an occult bookstore where they meet a gregarious proprietor named Walter Paisley. Paisley tells them all about werewolves and how they are invulnerable to nearly anything except for silver.

Terry gets in contact with Karen who tells her about her experience with Bill. Terry agrees to go out to the Colony to get her. When she arrives, she begins looking around the place and eventually finds the lake that was represented in Eddie Quist's drawing. She then finds the Quist family cabin and begins looking about. She finds more sketches similar to the ones found in Eddie's apartment. Terry now knows that Eddie is connected to the Colony.

T C Quist (Howling) 002

A werewolf attacks Terry!

Suddenly, T.C. (as a werewolf) arrives and begins terrorizing Terry. She tries to escape, but T.C. keeps coming after her. She finds a small hatchet and manages to hack off T.C.'s arm with it, thus allowing her the chance to escape.

Terry runs to Doctor Waggner's office and telephones Chris Halloran. She tells him about what she has discovered as well as the werewolf attack. Chris tells her that he is driving out there immediately. Along the way, he stops at the occult book store and picks up a case of silver bullets.

Back at the Colony, Terry encounters the very-much-alive, Eddie Quist. Quist is in full werewolf form and slaughters Terry, leaving her bloody remains piled on top of Waggner's desk.

Karen White enters the office and finds Eddie, who has now reverted back into human form. Eddie wants to finish what he started in L.A. and begins the slow process of transforming back into a werewolf. Karen is stricken with fear, but manages to interrupt Eddie's transformation by splashing him with acid. She then runs out of the cabin.

Chris arrives and goes to Waggner's office. He finds a tape recorder playing sounds of Eddie killing Terry. Eddie walks into the room. His face and body are severely burned, but he is otherwise healthy. Chris wheels around and levels his shotgun at him. Eddie gloats over his handiwork as demonstrated on the tape recorder and taunts Chris into shooting him. He learns only too late that Chris is firing silver bullets and Eddie's throat explodes in a gush of blood. He falls over dead.

Chris runs out and finds Karen. She has been captured by the other werewolves and taken to an old barn they refer to as the Ritual Center. Waggner appears and Karen learns that he is also a werewolf. More horrifying however is the revelation that her husband Bill has now sided with the werewolves. Marsha Quist proudly informs her, "He's one of us now".

Chris arrives and the other werewolves begin filing out of the barn. T.C. is the first to move forward and he begins to transform. Chris shoots him with his rifle and announces that he is armed with silver bullets. Jerry Warren doesn’t believe him and tells the dead T.C. to "get up". Chris then fires another shot into Jerry, killing him as well. The other werewolves now know to take him seriously. He forces them into the barn while Karen runs outside to Chris' car. He then locks them in and sets the place on fire. As Chris and Karen drive away, the others shift into their werewolf forms and claw through the barn doors.

Several of them descend upon the car as it spins away, but Chris manages to shake them off. One werewolf, Bill, tears through the roof and manages to bite Karen on the shoulder. Chris shoots him, and he falls into the back seat dead. Further up the road, Sheriff Newfield has set up a blockade. At first, they think that the sheriff might be able to help them, but they quickly discover that he too is a werewolf. Like with the others, Chris fells him with a shotgun blast. As the two survivors return to L.A., Karen decides that the entire world needs to know what kind of monsters are actually out there.

Final Fate Edit

Karen White (Howling) 003

Karen White transforms

Back at the studio, Karen prepares to do a news broadcast. Chris and she have something planned, but Chris is wary of their strategy. He asks her if she is sure that she wishes to pursue this and Karen calmly tells him, "yes". She begins her news broadcast, but she is not reading the pre-recorded material from the teleprompter. Instead, she begins to speak about how there are secret societies in this world that harbor creatures that are neither man nor animal. With that, she begins to transform into a werewolf on live television. Once the transformation is complete, Chris, sitting out of camera range, but still armed with his shotgun, shoots her dead. Station manager Fred Francis orders his crew to cut the broadcast.

Elsewhere, a group of locals sit at a bar watching the bizarre news broadcast. Some of them believe what they are seeing. Others think it's a hoax. One of the patrons orders a hamburger for his lady friend. When he asks how she likes her burger, the woman, Marsha Quist, responds with, "rare".

Cast Edit

Notes & Trivia Edit

  • Copyright Holder: © 1980 AVCO Embassy Pictures Corp.
  • Rated R for strong violence, language and nudity.
  • Film includes clips from the 1941 film The Wolf Man and the Three Little Pigs animated short by Disney. The antagonist of each feature is a werewolf.
  • A food product known as Wolf Brand Chili makes several appearances throughout the film. Sheriff Newfield is seen with an open can on his desk and another can appears in Marsha's cabin.
  • In keeping with the numerous wolf-based puns, a copy of Howl, a collection of poems by Allen Ginsberg appears in this movie.
  • Science fiction aficionado, Forrest J. Ackerman, makes a cameo appearance in Walter Paisley's book store. He is seen holding several copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland. Ackerman was the editor and principal writer for this magazine.
  • Screen writer John Sayles plays the part of the morgue attendant.
  • Famous b-rated horror film director Roger Corman also makes a cameo appearance. He is the man standing outside the telephone booth in the beginning of the film when Karen talks to Eddie.
  • Director Joe Dante re-used several actors for his 1984 horror/comedy, Gremlins. Dick Miller, Jim McKrell and Belinda Balaski all made appearances in both films. Robert Picardo, who played the role of Eddie Quist in The Howling also appeared in the sequel to Gremlins called Gremlins II: The New Batch (also directed by Dante). Ironically, the sequel to Gremlins also starred Christopher Lee, who likewise appeared in the sequel to The Howling called The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf where he played a werewolf hunter named Stefan Crosscoe. Dante however, was not connected to this movie.

External Links Edit



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The Howling
This article relates to the films and characters within the Howling franchise. This template will categorize articles that include it into the The Howling category.

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