HOWL [FrightFest 2015]

PrintE-mail Written by Joel Harley

Howl is a horror film that perfectly captures the terror of travelling on public transport, working on public transport and being murdered by werewolves on public transport. Train guard Joe (Speleers) is glum and disenfranchised, passed over for promotion and ignored by the trolley dolly he fancies. The last thing he needs, then, is to be covering for a sick colleague and trapped on a train full of bickering passengers under attack from a vicious beast of the lycanthropic variety.

Confined to its singular location for almost the entirety of the film, Howl is a fast-paced and surprisingly brutal horror actioner; like Dog Soldiers crossed with the more recent (and similarly excellent) Brit flick Tower Block. The brief presence of Sean Pertwee strengthens the Dog Soldiers link while Elliot Cowan plays the sort of malevolent asshole that would put Aliens' Carter Burke to shame. The cast is rounded out by Shauna Macdonald, Amit Shah, Emmerdale's Duncan Preston (surprisingly good as the pensioner of the piece) and a number of other likeable, believable faces. The character work isn't exactly rounded, but it's good enough that you'll feel something whenever a character bites the dust.

If you're getting a Neil Marshall vibe from all of this, that's because director Paul Hyett has worked as a special effects technician on The Descent and Doomsday (plus, um Centurion) in addition to many other British cult favourites. Now that he's gotten the repulsive The Seasoning House out of his system, Howl marks him as a director to watch, particularly for his fantastically shot action sequences. While a little rough around the edges, the werewolf effects do the job, especially during one big action set-piece. If there's anyone who doesn't come out of it so well, it's love interest Holly Weston, who feels less like a character than a reward for Joe's emergent masculinity. She's the only one of the bunch who doesn't feel like a person in her own right – several times you'll forget she's even there – and it really hurts the film. When you remember, that is.

Such niggles aside, Howl is one of the best werewolf movies we've had in years. Action packed and full of fun, this gruesome creature feature shows that there's life in the old dog yet.

CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PAUL HYETT / SCREENPLAY: MARK HUCKERBY, NICK OSTLER / STARRING: ED SPELEERS, HOLLY WESTON, ELLIOT COWAN / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 26TH (DVD)

 


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