Retro Review: The Howling (1981)

I decided to watch The Howling in preparation for reviewing the new sequel comic over on HorrorTalk. (Unfortunately I’d confused it with Wolfen, a very different kind of werewolf movie.) Decades ago, Howling used to run on Saturday afternoons, along with its countless sequels, on the local Paramount network where I grew up–further proof that the ’80s were a crazy, crazy time.

Karen is a TV news reporter in LA who is contacted by a serial killer named Eddie. They arrange a meeting, with the LAPD planning to use the occasion to bust Eddie, and Karen’s station hoping to use it as a ratings coup. When Karen follows Eddie’s instructions to meet him in a booth at a peep show, something more than ordinarily serial-killery happens. Given the title of this movie you can probably imagine what.

As Karen and her colleagues get deeper into the story of Eddie the serial killer, they learn that he hailed from a place called “the Colony,” which, we eventually discover, is a den of werewolves who’ve been attempting to pass as human. Dr. Waggner, the psychiatrist employed by the station where Karen works, is conveniently one of the ringleaders of the wolves, and he’s the one who sends her up there after her traumatic encounter with Eddie. (He claims it will help her “recharge her batteries.”) Karen and her husband schlep up to the happy hippy Colony, where they eventually are pulled apart by the crazy werewolf-sex shenanigans that naturally happen in such situations, a single (human) person dies, and then comes the showdown with the werewolves.

Seriously, this is a 1980s horror film and only one person dies. Let that sink in.

There’s also only one sex scene! But at the end of that sex scene the people turn into cartoon werewolves. So… score?

Amazingly, The Howling is not horrible. There are plot holes galore, but the first in the franchise is far from the worst horror film I’ve seen. Some of the practical effects are actually pretty good, like the severed werewolf hand that slowly and bubblingly changes back to its human form. It’s not especially violent, as such things go, and the plot is coherent, if superficial and somewhat stupid. (And loaded with horror clichés.) Best of all are the numerous tongue-in-cheek moments, like the can of “Wolf Chili” visible in one scene, or the ending sequence with drunk patrons in a bar debating what they’ve just witnessed.

If you want to turn off your brain and forget about the awful, awful world we actually live in, you could do far worse than this.

Dragon Quest Heroes 2

Oh god, why do I do these things to myself.

It’s no secret that the shitty, shitty Warriors games are a guilty pleasure of mine. If you’ve never played any of Tecmo-Koei’s crappy one-versus-army beat-em-ups, suffice to say that they’ve basically released the same game approximately 25 times over the past 17 years or so. You control a lone military hero–in their flagship series, Dynasty Warriors, you choose from among ancient China’s Three Kingdoms; in the spinoff Samurai Warriors, you get to pick from feudal Japan’s Warring States–and you go up against literal armies, mashing buttons to the tune of square, square, square, triangle over and over again until thine enemies art smited. (Smitten?) They even changed things up in the Warriors Orochi series, which combines both Dynasty and Samurai into a single, equally stupid and equally satisfying mashfest. (Zhou Tai and Ginchiyo Tachibana ftw.)

(Incidentally, Tecmo-Koei also owns my favorite game series.)

They’ve pasted skins from major franchises onto the Warriors skeleton before, as they did with The Legend of Zelda in Hyrule Warriors (which I didn’t play). In Dragon Quest Heroes 2, they’ve done the same with the second-fiddle RPG series to Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy franchise. (Ancient history now, but it still seems ironic to me that the two greats of the JRPG subgenre, Enix’s Dragon Quest and Square’s Final Fantasy, are now owned by a single company, Square-Enix. It’s like if Russia and the US became a single hybrid entity. On which topic, stay tuned!) I never played the first DQ Heroes, as I didn’t have the appropriate console until just recently. But I’m enjoying DQH2 very much. Which is to say, it’s a stupid, stupid, mindless, repetitive button-masher wherein one is privileged to decimate hordes of enemies in a generic cutesy-poo fantasy anime setting and I fucking love it holy shit.

The plot is stupid and who cares. You get to control a party of four as they run around a generic fantasy world full of Akira Toriyama-designed monsters, slay said monsters, and then do it again forever because slaying monsters is the only thing that matters. Characters have unique weapons and attack patterns, though they really do–in true Warriors fashion–come down to square, square, square, triangle. Again, and again, and again…

I still think it’s fucking adorable that these games have a block button. A BLOCK BUTTON. HAHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Here’s my girl Maya, who despite the impractical metal bikini is unarguably like the best at taking out big crowds of stupid monsters:

Pay no attention to the fact that her head is approximately the same length as her torso. It’s Akira Toriyama, dawg.

So yeah, okay. It’s a Japanese game, and there’s a fair amount of fanservice going on, which in this context is more than a little ridiculous and even worrying. But I don’t care because square square square triangle DEATH.

(For whatever it’s worth, Maya also turns into a dragon. As if that makes it better.)

AKIRAAAAAAAAA TORIYAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

I’m not saying you should buy this game. It’s kind of crap. But I’m also not not saying it.