Wednesday, June 29, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: Hour of the Wolf and The Howling

At first glance these two titles seem to imply a double review of werewolf movies, but you would be wrong! One is a surrealist introspection in personal demons, and the other is... about werewolves. So one of them is about werewolves, so what! I will also briefly talk on Cars 2, the Pixar movie the internet loves to hate right now, while forgetting that, "comparable to a Dreamworks outing," doesn't mean a 40% rating. Anyway, onward to our first movie. These may be short, as I have only slept a very little these past few days and have been fairly busy. Hence the double review! Kill me!

Hour of the Wolf is a strange experience, lets get that out of the way now. Unlike in your namby pamby Hollywood ventures, this movie won't ruin the fun and come out and tell you who is crazy, who is real, and who is a vicious externalization of ones inner most demons. It makes for a rather interesting viewing experience.

The movie is presented as a true account, the movie opens with the sounds of a camera crew setting up over black, and eventually cuts to a woman recounting an experience while directly addressing the camera. The fourth wall, thusly obliterated, will no longer be around to help you when a character decides to peer directly at you, despite being in the retelling portion of the film. You are on your own.
I know. I told you it was weird.
The story recounted is that of a wife regarding her husband. He is a tortured artist, plagued by an insomnia I can relate to and hounded by strange persons who may or may not represent his own inner shames and hatreds. That last part I worry about relating to one day. His wife, meanwhile, wants to be by his side through these times, staying awake with him when he can't sleep, and often reminding the viewer that couples who grow old together grow to act and look alike. This foreshadowing can get a bit heavy handed at times, seeing as how she manages to mention it several times.

As the story progresses, so too does the look into this mans slipping grasp on reality. At the open of the film, we are told of these people that haunt him so, he shows his wife drawings of them even, though we are never privileged to see those pieces. Interestingly, we never get a direct look at his finished works, only glimpses of whatever is under his arm or half finished in the background. Soon enough though, they begin to hound him in earnest for us to see, never really sure if they are real or not at this juncture.
No wonder he sees things. Stop that!
This becomes increasingly disconcerting as the encounters become more unhinged and violent, with our tormented artist murdering a child he believes is one of the demons. We, like his wife, have no idea if this was murder, or a violent episode of his degrading mind. It makes for a very effective exercise in mounting dread. Never being sure if the events are actually transpiring or not, who is actually being harmed. The images of the placid island go from beautiful to isolated and foreboding as we watch things decline.

Its not for everyone, certainly, but its an interesting peek into madness and self loathing. If one stops to consider the movie carefully, each character encountered can fit nicely into some aspect of the husbands past and mind. Budding sexuality and curiosity, despair, pompous artistic integrity, and many more. Each one is reacted to in a different way, each a shard of a broken mirror cascaded on the floor.
"Shit, I dropped a contact up here."
If you like Ingmar Bergman, then you would of course like this movie, plus have the added interest in how this relates to the director. If you don't mind surreal and disturbed portraits of mankind, then give it a go. If you prefer a nice linear plot with clear motivations and outcomes, then like Picnic at Hanging Rock, you may want to pass on this. Though you are missing out if you do. Now for our second movie.

Ah, the werewolf myth. The classic tale of man's inner animal, the evil we try to mask through society. Every culture has a myth like it, from skin-walkers to the classic shape-shifters, its one of out oldest legends regardless of where you are. Its natural story fodder, being a part of the collective unconscious as it is, and thus you can find countless movies about it. Such as The Howling!
I too fear large walls of paper.
The Howling is a bit heavy handed at times regarding the nature of the myth, with characters constantly mentioning the inner animal. That's fine though, this isn't exactly an exorcize in subtly here. Its just a good old romp with monsters eating people, and we shouldn't fault it for going through the trouble of adding some story. Even if it drops various threads along the way.

Initially the movie is about a reporter hunting down a serial killer who eats parts of his victims. This of course draws parallels to cult like behavior and the werewolf myth, as well as a clever little moment where someone mentions our societies fixation with violence. Something that was constantly in the news when 80's horror films like this were the big societal scapegoat, after comics got de-fanged. The serial killer is the focus, and with his body vanishing from the morgue, its assumed his werewolf self would play a major role.
Suddenly the sex scene is awkward for everyone.
Well, the writers disagree, and instead we get a whole colony of werewolves! The colony that our poor reporter is sent to as a way of recovering from her PTSD after her encounter with the killer. So, while our serial killer drops from the limelight and is officially the first werewolf to die, that's alright since we have about 15 more to work with. Its a fun, entertaining werewolf story. It sets up more plot threads and themes then its able to actually address in anyway, but that doesn't stop it from being a good old 80's horror experience. Sometimes that's all someone wants. The plot turns are expected, but no less exciting, and we have plenty of hammy actors having fun with the roles. Oh, and the director was Joe Dante, who you may recall from earlier in the list with The Hole. So good times all around.

While this certainly isn't the best werewolf experience, that comes much later in my schedule, it certainly does have some damn good effects for the time and budget. Making liberal use of air bladders under foamed latex appliances, skin bubbles and crawls all over the place. Skin rips open, bones snap and warp, and everything is visceral and immediate. Few cuts, and some clever use of time shifts make for some very nice transformation scenes. Although some of the puppet work once they finish transforming makes it look like an aggressive Muppet doesn't understand how hugs work at times. For me, this is less a detracting from the experience, and more a happy perk. Something to laugh at besides the useless female lead hugging the silver bullet loaded rifle as opposed to firing it.
Aw, look! Hes happy!
If you enjoy campy, bloody, and oft times goofy horror, then watch it already. Its a good time, and a great choice come Halloween. It manages to evoke a tense and creepy atmosphere at times, but also breaks its own spell with hammy goodness enough to keep it a good party movie. Well worth watching alone or with friends.
"Hugging! HOW DO I DO IT?!"
Only 4am and here I am wrapping this up! I may not die today! Well, tomorrow, which is today, is another day, despite really being today. That means another movie! The Howling eased us out of our older movie streak, and tomorrow's The Loved Ones firmly returns us to modern horror for awhile. After that is Insidious, which made lots of waves this past year at festivals and among horror bloggers. So I'm looking forward to the next two days for sure.

As always, check out the full 150 Days of Halloween schedule for future movie dates and previous review links. Hope you didn't mind the slightly delirious tones these revie-OH! Almost forgot about Cars 2!
Cars 2 - A danger to our children?
The internet angry men who review movies have gone feral and now foam at the mouth over how bad Cars 2 is. Lamenting the lack of emotion or soul that we have come to expect from Pixar. They rant about having the redneck tow truck as the focus point, and that its too James Bond, with enemy cars dying left and right. They then give it abysmal ratings, but not before saying its on par with Dreamwork's movies.

That last bit is what annoys me. They give Cars 2 a 30% or a 40% which is a pretty abysmal score, but the average Dreamworks outing in mediocrity gets a 60% or 70% instead. I can promise you that Cars 2 is disappointing when held up to previous Pixar movies, but when you hold it up to Megamind, or Mars Needs Moms, or so many other movies that scored better, Cars 2 is the clear winner. People are skewing the score board HARD for Cars 2, making what is an average movie out to look like some kind of abomination. It's not, its just average. Hell, its slightly above average considering the talent involved.
See it for this short. DO IT.
It's fun for kids, and if you just want to watch some James Bond knock offs that are living cars blow shit up, then hell, your in for a good time. If you want to be emotionally moved in some way, re-watch any other Pixar movie. They didn't hit a home run, doesn't mean we need to beat them to death with the bat for it.

Really done now. No, I won't proof read it at 4:30am. Suffer grammar nazi's!


  1. The horror movies i remember watching them before ") their all great and the movie Cars is also an awesome movie. Nice Post !

  2. The Howling looks good, I'm going to have to check it out.

  3. Nice reviews. I personally didn't like Cars 2 at all so agree with all those bashing it.

  4. Wow, great post, you put a lot of work in it.
    Thank you!

  5. Scrolling down, seeing some great movies, then see Toy Story and it threw me off.