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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Howl (2015)




This is another of those movies that I hadn’t heard of until it popped up on my Amazon Prime list. I’m a sucker for werewolf movies and this one is set on a train which I also love. I figured it was worth an hour and a half of my time. Was I wrong about that?

We are introduced to Joe. He works for the train company as a guard or what we in the States would call a conductor. He walks the cars making sure that the passengers have tickets and aren’t trying to sneak a free ride. After not getting a promotion that he applied for he is then sent on a late-night run by the jerk who did get it. That is fine with him since he has a crush on the woman working with him. That leads to an awkward conversation where he unsuccessfully tries to ask her out for drinks. He really is having a bad night.

As if getting shot down and not getting promoted wasn’t already bad enough the train hits something and stops. We find out that they hit a large deer and while the driver is trying to clear it, he is attacked by something lurking in the woods. Not only is the train disabled and without the engineer (aka. the driver), but they are now surrounded by werewolves! At first the creatures just lurk around the outside making creepy sounds, but then they realize the tasty meal waiting for them inside. The attacks commence as the passengers and crew get picked off as they defend and barricade themselves in. Who lives and who dies? No spoilers here other than to say the ending is satisfying and a bit sad.

Howl is a decent flick. The story is solid and quickly establishes the characters before getting to the action. Admittedly this means we get familiar character archetypes like the reluctant hero, the love interest, the jerk (always have to have one of those), comic relief, and the mother. These movies are always better with the mother character especially when she has a child proxy to take care of and perhaps lose. There aren’t any twists to be had with the characters nor with the story. That isn’t a criticism from me as I like a movie that has a familiar and fun vibe like Howl does. If you have seen a creature feature in the past, you can pretty much predict what will happen and to whom it will happen to. The strength here is in the execution. The movie is made very well and gives the audience exactly what it wants. Some blood, a few scares, and monsters are dished up on screen in perfect proportions.

The creatures look great!
My biggest concern when seeing that this was a werewolf movie was the creatures. Of all the movie monsters it seems to me that werewolves get screwed up the worst, especially when filmmakers decide to use a ton of CGI. I was shocked to see that we get multiple werewolves and that they all were brought to the screen with practical effects work. These aren’t cookie cutter either as they all have a different appearance. This supports another cool twist where they aren’t so much a supernatural creature, but it is more of a disease. No full moon or silver bullet stuff here. Get bit and you change on a genetic level into something no longer human and not quite wolf either. The creatures and their origin are clever, and I dug it.

My only complaint is that all the kills are implied and not shown on the screen. The one time that we do see a throat getting ripped out it is a bad CGI effect complete with that annoying attempted blood spray that someone somewhere must think looks good. They would be wrong. While a bummer it doesn’t affect my opinion of the movie much as the rest is so well done. I recommend that you check out Howl.


© Copyright 2019 John Shatzer



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