Director: Paul Hyett. Writers: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler. Cast: Ed Speelers, Holly Weston, Shauna McDonald, Sean Pertwee, Rosie Day.
Werewolves are awesome aren’t they? howling at the moon, voraciously stalking their prey, fighting vampires (but mostly losing, ’cause Kate Beckinsale kicks arse… obviously!) Over the decades there have been a fair few great movies based upon the shape shifting lycanthropes, dating back as far as 1935 with ‘Werewolf of London’ through classic Lon Chaney’s ‘The Wolf Man’ from 1941, and beyond with such deliciously depraved delights as The Howling, An American Werewolf In London (my personal fave), The Company Of Wolves, Ginger Snaps and the aforementioned bad-arse Beckinsale movie series ‘Underworld’ , this particular horror sub-genre has been well served over the years.
In 2002, British director Neil Marshall (Descent, Centurion, Hellboy) gave us his own vision of the classic genre with the stupendous ‘Dog Soldiers’ an absolute gem of a movie that followed a small group of British soldiers on a training mission against the S.A.S in the Scottish Highlands, but the Special Air Service turns out to be the least of their worries as they are assailed by an even deadlier force (yep, deadlier than the SAS!) a pack of ravenous lycos! The low budget horror/comedy was a huge smash hit not just in the UK but worldwide, and helped propel the career of it’s helm Neil Marshall to international stardom.
‘Howl’ is the most recent Anglo entry into this lycanthropic category, and feels very much like it’s embedded in the same universe as Dog Soldiers, in fact there’s even a cameo by brilliant British thesp – Sean Pertwee (this time with entrails intact!) though in the popular tradition of English actors named ‘Sean’ he doesn’t last too long! (seriously, English actors bearing that titular name have about the same amount of movie survivability as a red shirted Star Trek security officer!)
Train guard Joe, winding down after a long shift, is pushed into taking on a red eye journey by his new (sneery and unpleasant) supervisor. Tired but unwilling to rock the boat (train?) Joe agrees, and boards the non-stop train from Waterloo, yet his resolve and that of his fellow commuters will be tested to the utmost when the train seemingly breaks down in a dark and ominous stretch of forest miles from anywhere. With communications down and the train driver inexplicably missing, Joe attempts to keep the passengers calm, which ultimately proves futile as the train is assailed by an unknown animal, large of stature and with a blood lust for the occupants of the stricken carriages.
Howl is a tense, fun and rollickingly wild Werewolf siege movie, in the style of the aforementioned Dog Soldiers. Some decent acting from a great cast (which includes Ed Speelers of Downtown Abbey, Shauna McDonald of The Descent, and of course the legendary Sean Pertwee ) a superbly creepy setting, but most importantly of all, the gore and werewolves themselves are top notch, though the film isn’t quite up to the standards of Dog Soldiers, the creature effects in HOWL far outstrip those in Marshall’s earlier lyco opus, in fact the practical effects are some of the best I’ve seen in a UK horror for years especially considering the rather low budget nature of the film (a measly £1,000,000) Highly Recommended!