30 for 31: “THE HOWLING”Columns,Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
The Season of the Witch is upon us, ye ole FANGORIA Readers! And to many, Halloween means candy, costumes and creepshows of all sorts. But to the staff at FANGORIA, Halloween can mean something more entirely. Therefore, we present 30 FOR 31, in which FANGORIA recounts the cinema that most strongly represents what Halloween means to us.
As you get older, the meaning of Halloween changes alongside the perspective of your generation. While the sense of mischief remains, the day progressively begins to represent something a little more wicked, sensual and universal rather than childish or communal. And when it comes to the adult interpretation of Halloween, there’s something about THE HOWLING in tone and content that feels most representative of that new meaning.
Of course, THE HOWLING also stands on its own as a horror film befitting of the season. Loaded with astounding practical effects and unnerving atmosphere, THE HOWLING is a much less humorous affair than it’s oft-compared contemporary AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. But by keeping the humor understated, THE HOWLING does something more representative of the “adult” version of Halloween: the viscera comes relentlessly during it’s scarier sequences.
THE HOWLING also represents the adult Halloween experience by perfectly balancing a tone of sexual lust within the horror. As you grow older, Halloween becomes almost commonplace for men and women alike to go a bit more risqué with their costumes. Likewise, the driving force between much of THE HOWLING comes in the form of sexual temptation, correlating both desires for flesh to one another. And even the depiction of sex in the movie feels more provoked than organic, which is completely evocative of the season’s witching on our hormones.
Another reason THE HOWLING works as a Halloween selection because the film also carries a wicked mean streak throughout. Whereas many believe AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON carries a biting and darkly comic edge, THE HOWLING makes these creatures creepy and sadistic in nature. That’s not say THE HOWLING isn’t fun, because it certainly is (especially in the last act), but the atmosphere of the film is exceptionally wicked and unforgiving to its characters. And if there’s any downside to maturing alongside Halloween is the immaturity that the festive nature of the holiday inspires among the sophomoric.
However, perhaps the greatest reason THE HOWLING is indicative of Halloween is the portrayal of a universally celebrated horror. As the town within THE HOWLING is populated by lycanthropes, there’s an apparent glee in their bloodthirsty debauchery. And as some people grow old and fall out of love with Halloween, it seems those that do not have an even more fervent passion for all things horror.
Overall, for the adult in me who loves Halloween, there’s few films that mirror my emotional investments as THE HOWLING. Between Joe Dante’s mischievous and genuinely scary vision to John Sayles’ ballsy and sensual script, every aspect of a mature Halloween is on display in the film. So while THE HOWLING may not be my definitive werewolf film, it certainly takes the top spot among the very R-rated Halloween fare.