So far 2015 is shaping up pretty well for werewolves what with Stuart Jopia’s Crying Wolf, Til Kleinert’s The Samurai and a whole pack of the beasts in Emma Dark’s soon to be released Seize the Night. Now along comes Paul Hyett’s Howl, which sort of does for the railways, what Dog Soldiers did for the Army.
Trainguard Joe (Ed Speleers) is having a bad day. first he gets turned down for promotion then his new supervisor puts him on the late night service to Eastmoor out of London’s Waterloo Station. Then as the train heads through a dark wood it hits something and suddenly stops, the driver (yay it’s Dog Soldiers and Gotham‘s Sean Pertwee) gets out to take a look, which as we know is seldom a wise idea in a horror film, when the Moon is full. When Sean doesn’t come back Joe gets pressured by the passengers to lead them on to the next station by foot.
Everything is fine until Joe finds the driver’s body and in the mad scramble to get back to the safety of the train one passenger gets bitten. The train then comes under sustained attack from the werewolf pack outside while the social cohesion of the motley group of late night passengers buckles under the strain inside as Joe struggles to find the leadership qualities that the interview board didn’t think he possessed.
Howl is a bit like the western Rio Bravo (which of course inspired John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and then Ghosts of Mars) only set on a train instead of a jailhouse and with a bunch of werewolves replacing John Russell’s angry ranchers, only there’s a lot more blood. The late night passengers are the expected horror movie cannon fodder: obnoxious sexist corporate bloke, annoying teen with a mobile, geeky, bloke with a book, a pair of pensioners on a night out, fat bloke with kebab etc, but then the anticipation of seeing which of them gets eaten first is all part of the fun of this kind of movie.
Director Hyett builds an effective aura of suspense leading up to the full-scale werewolf attack on the train, with nice atmospheric camera work, lighting and sound design and excellent and very gory action sequences. The acting is solid from the largely unknown cast while the werewolf make-up and prosthetics are pretty good too.
A very entertaining British werewolf horror I give Howl a 666/666
Howl is released theatrically in the UK on 16 October and on DVD and Bluray on 25 October