Review: Howl

When passengers on a train are attacked by a creature, they must band together in order to survive until morning.

The second film from ex special effects Maestro Paul Hyett, Howl comes on the back of a very strong debut in The Seasoning House. Hyett goes for a completely different style and genre with his sophomore effort taking us into the world of lycanthropic monsters.

Joe (Ed Speelers) has just been overlooked for promotion at the train company he works for and to add insult to injury he is forced to work the shift checking tickets on the last train for the night. As he walks the carriages, slowly introducing us to all the characters, all seems well until the train is stopped after hitting something which ruptures some of the electrics and causes the train to break down. However it turns out that this creates more than a minor inconvenience on the journey’s home for everyone as the woods by where the train is stuck contains something hungry for blood and dinner has arrived. All they need is a tin opener.

Paul Hyett manages to create a claustrophobic air on-board the last train as the eclectic group of passengers band together to figure out how to survive after seeing one of their number picked off in sensational style. Importantly each character is distinctive, even though some are a little underdeveloped, which enables you to have ones to root for as well as creating believable conflict between some of them. Were they to all have a very similar voice then they all meld into one forgettable mesh leaving you just waiting for them to all die.

When the werewolves are revealed, they do not disappoint with a superb new take on their look. A fantastic mix of prosthetics and CGI ensures you don’t get taken out of the action due to the creatures lacking believability. And credit to Hyett for knowing how much to show of them and when. There’s no showing them off for the sake of it and no need for hiding them because they’re poor CGI creations suitable only for the syfy channel.

The film is well paced and keeps you entertained for its slim run time and essentially does exactly what it says on the tin. There is definitely a lack of quality Werewolf films but thankfully Paul Hyatt’s creature feature manages to transcend that trend and deliver a werewolf film packed full of blood and fun with added bite.

Howl is the second film from Prosthetic effects maestro Paul Hyett is a very different film compared to his directorial debut the bleak and dark Seasoning House. To be honest a werewolf film is pretty much a far as you can get from Seasoning House. Following its brief preview at Glasgow this past February I was excited to obtain a ‘hot ticket’ to this film, but part of me was wondering why it hadn’t been put on the main screen.

Stranded on a train in the middle of nowhere and in (surprise surprise) a mobile blackspot, a group of mismatched and socially opposed strangers fend off a bunch of monsters lurking in the forrest. While the special effects and mix of cgi and prosthetic creatures were very impressive, it all just felt like something was missing. Problem is – whatever was outside the carriage, the setup has been seen before, mismatched group vs zombies/werewolves/sniper/clowns etc etc. Bar a train, there isn’t much that howl brings to the table that is different or fresh. Even to the way the end plays out. Maybe it was frightfest finally getting to me, my dislike of the characters on the train, or not giving a hoot if they were devoured by their new neighbours. I just didn’t really find myself at any point getting into the film or connecting with it in any real way.

My biggest issue with Howl however was its playing with cannon. If as a horror fan you get frustrated and annoyed by sparkling or low powered vampires, then Howls cherry picking of lore should leave you just as frustrated. If they had been humanoid wolves in the forest and that was that then fine, but for people to be ‘turned’ then appear in daylight seemed to be a contradiction of film and werewolf history. This isn’t all Howls fault though, its a problem I’ve had with a number of films.

Howl (unfortunately) didn’t grab me at all and by the end I was waiting for credits to roll. Its not awful by any stretch of the imagination (I think I was the only one in our group that was non-plussed). Just not my film.

I can take or leave werewolf movies, yes I appreciate AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and thought that GINGER SNAPS was pretty cool but creature features I am not really a fan of but |I wanted to see this. Kicking off with a late night train ride home we are presented with a selection of Britain’s finest railway passengers in all their stereotypical glory. After the train comes to a halt after striking an object, that is when things start to get hairy…

HOWL wasn’t a bad movie but it wasn’t anything special either, the tail, sorry tale was in itself a plausible idea and it doesn’t really do anything wrong. Driver goes to investigate, driver doesn’t return, brave passengers detrain then realise that it was a truly stupid idea as the werewolves come in to attack. The monsters themselves come across as fearsome and the effects are fabulous and they seem to be graced with exceptional levels of strength too.

What I found with HOWL is that it just didn’t capture me, it doesn’t have anything wrong with it but it doesn’t do much either. It feels a bit predictable and it comes across more of a creature movie rather than an out and out werewolf film, there’s no human to beast transformation here but the creatures themselves do look terrifying.

Fans of the genre might find something worthwhile but I didn’t find this did enough to keep me interested and by the end I stopped caring who lived or died or what was going on. It’s a shame as certain parts of the film work ok but it just didn’t entertain me or frighten me at all. With a group of passengers you stop giving a shit about before the train has even left it’s down to the conductor as the only person that I found myself wishing survived.

For me this was a wasted opportunity to make something special and the end result was just above mediocrity. A werewolf movie with no bite, sorry.

Howl is out On DVD on the 22nd October 2015




17 thoughts on “Review: Howl

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