I was a British Rail train guard but I’m alright noooooooooooooooow!!!!
Werewolf movies are something of a lost art. Notoriously difficult to nail anyway, in modern horror they have kicked to the back of genre conventions whilst their zombie and vampire friends get done to death. A shame really because the romance involved of half-wolf humans still appeals. Howl doesn’t deal in that romance, offering a black comedy claret filled tale of why it’s a bad idea to get the last train home under a full moon.
Down on his luck railway guard Joe (Ed Speleers, Downton Abbey) has just been turned down for a supervisor position, knocked back by the secret love of his life Ellen (Holly Weston, Hollyoaks) and is forced to take charge of the last night train to the end of the line. Life is grim for our hero needless to say. As the filthy commuter train with a varied collection of passengers from all sort of life rattles through the rural English countryside, it suddenly comes to a screeching halt in a mobile phone reception dead zone and Tony the driver (Sean Pertwee, Gotham) goes missing. Soon Joe and the rest of the train’s inhabitants find themselves under attack by a group of werewolves as the humans are picked off one-by-one.
Possibly the most frustrating element to Howl is that it’s low budget purposely stops it from excelling in one or two places. There are some pretty dire sound effects with the opening wolf howls evoking laughs rather than fear. Surely there were better ones in the audio library to use guys? Being honest, the actual werewolves themselves do not look the best as they comes across as mouldy discoloured bags of skin with wigs stapled on. That’s not to say it’s not fantastic elsewhere – the blood and gore effects are all done practically which gets Brucie Bonus points from me. The numerous bites and wounds look pretty authentic to the point where you are suspicious the make up people didn’t just take a cast member down to the Zoo to get a chomp on by a Wolf. The scene dressing for the train (which is actually a great setting for a horror film in it’s own right) is impressively grim and dirty. Why it’s almost like the filmmakers were used to the dank conditions of commuters lines.
I do love the downtreading black comedy of Joe. In a superb 28 minute opener, we get introduced to how rubbish his life is, his aching for Ellen, his put upon work schedule and him toeing company line for fear of his job before we run through the various victims which include an old couple, a slimey London business type, a put upon works in the city mum who forgot her railcard, a drunk obese football fan and an annoying teenage tramp who plays music on her phone through the loudspeaker. A highly effective chunk of time which gets everyone’s characteristics over. You know who you’re routing for and who you want to get senselessly ripped to shreds. Joe gets a neat little story-arc of standing up for himself and taking charge as the ‘leader of the pack’ which does keep your attention throughout the runtime. I did like the commentary of the city worker mum finally having a chance to stand up to the archtype London boss figure for being a sleazy sexist scumbag. It added to the tension as everyone is being picked off and how that pans out nicely.
Despite not being the best looking versions of the creatures, I would be lying if I said that the werewolves in Howl were not effective. Filled with menace throughout, there is some nice playing about with the mythology created here with the broken down train in a years old spot for similar incidents. The numerous set pieces of the ‘wolves making frequent visits to the train work so well to gross you out as claret flies lavishly everywhere. Whilst it is unquestionably on the level of a B-movie, Howl does not forget to appease it’s audience with it’s own individual piece of entertaining horror.
Howl never gives the impression that it is this new level of modern horror but what it does offer is a fine, campy black comedy/horror. Trapped at some level by it’s less than modest budget, it still nonetheless delivers with a line of rich bloody slashing set pieces and that setting of a broken down train in the spooky remote woods is just too lovely to ignore the appeal. Whilst not hitting the heights of An American Werewolf In London, it’s easily the best werewolf flick since Dog Soldiers. Worth a watch and buy on DVD.
|Buy from Amazon.co.uk||Buy from Amazon.com|