HOWL (2015)

3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 15th October 2015

Director: Paul Hyett (The Seasoning House)

Cast: Ed Speleers, Holly Weston, Shauna MacDonald, Elliot Cowan, Rosie Day, Amit Shah, Sam Gittins, Ania Marson, Calvin Dean, Ryan Oliva with Brett Goldstein, Sean Pertwee and Duncan Preston

Writer: Mark Huckerby & Nick Ostler

Trailer: HOWL (2015)


Ed Speleers (ERAGON) and werewolves! Maybe the makers of Howl were such big fans of Love Bite that they had to have him face done lycans once more. Such a lack of imagination runs through this film like a streaker at a 70s football match.

As it is about 10 people find themselves under attack from werewolves as they travel home on a late commuter train. Fans of the ‘then there was one’ storyline may find this fun as they predict who’s first to get eaten. Horror fans will know the first victim will be easy to peg as the film cast Sean Pertwee (EVENT HORIZON) who gets a single line of dialogue before he goes “argggghhhh!” – splat.

Ed Speleers and Holly Weston (ASSASSIN) play our heroes. (Even Holly Weston has werewolf experience – see Splintered.) So never under estimate those in charge of the buffet cart next time you travel by train. They too could be monster fighters. The rest of the cast are a bunch of cliches who get picked off in no short order. The performances are uniformly good for this kind of thing, but why it attracted the number of established TV / low-budget film named stars is a mystery as there’s nothing in here that shouts ‘innovation’ or ‘I’m special’. It’s just workman-like and for horror films that’s not acceptable. I’ve also seen scarier werewolves in Jonathan Sothcott‘s looney-tune Strippers vs Werewolves – which was ten times more fun than this.

Director Paul Hyett previously made the accomplished and interesting The The Seasoning House, which marked him out as one to watch, but this wipes away any signs of that early promise. This scores points only because it’s competently made and well-acted. Otherwise Howl has no voice. It should have been called ‘Miaow’.

3.5 out of 10 – Flat horror that could’ve been scarier, funnier, darker and more original. A sad waste.




One thought on “HOWL (2015)


    What is it with Ed Speleers and wolves? Not only is this his second werewolf comedy horror in three years (see LOVE BITE – an amiable enough effort or so I’m informed) but he’s also been on TV in Wolf Hall, which must be about werewolves. Does anyone think he looks lupine? Or maybe he just likes dogs. Any, here we find him as a hopeless train guard/conductor/ticket-inspector/whatever-they’re-called-these-days with vague ambitions but who is clueless about achieving them. So a typical underdog hero. He finds himself doing an extra late-night shift on a train from Waterloo to Eastborough, which is just under 2 hours away so is probably really Birmingham, though that doesn’t explain why the survivor(s) arrive back at Waterloo when they’re meant to be about five miles from Eastborough but never mind that’s not important right now. (And why invent Eastborough anyway? Is it to ensure that no real-life train company can be identified with the fictional one?) (Did Virgin threaten to sue the film-makers if they suggested Branson’s trains were liable to werewolf attack?)

    The film follows an almost textbook disaster movie template, though I quite like the economy of it: Speleers makes his way down the train checking tickets and we get glimpses of those people who will later play parts in the main story. This might have worked better if they hadn’t used some familiar actors but I still thought it was an OK way of introducing them. And Speleers is having a thoroughly miserable time of it with rude passengers and the girl he fancies too busy selling sandwiches (do they really have refreshments trolleys on trains that late?).

    Time passes and the train, having divested itself of all the extras at other stops, is deep in the heart of nowhere. Suddenly it stops! It seems to have come off the rails so the driver goes to investigate. The driver is played by our old pal Sean Pertwee who rapidly experiences one of his least interesting deaths.

    Can Speleers protect his passengers and win the girl of his dreams? What mysterious beast did for poor old Sean? (Spoiler: a werewolf.) In what order will our cast be killed? And who are they? The great Duncan Preston plays a pensioner who (a) has the moral gravity to get things done and (b) has a clue as to what is going on. Ania Marson is his nice wife. Rosie Day is the obnoxious self-obsessed teen. Sam Gittins (I hadn’t seen him before but I predict some good roles coming his way) is the chav with a talent and an uninteresting and not particularly surprising secret. Calvin Dean is the football slob. Elliot Cowan (who I tipped for great things some years ago so maybe Mr Gittins shouldn’t take my prediction too seriously) is a stereotypical city banker. Shauna Macdonald is a snappy snarky Scot. Amit Shah is the bookworm who turns. Holly Weston is the sandwich seller of Speleer’s dreams (and so much better than in that Danny Dyer film she did). They generally each get killed soon after they’ve had some significant character-exploring scene. Not only are the deaths themselves lacking in any interest – there’s surprisingly little gore and relatively little imagination on show – but the characters have such a lack of depth (honestly there’s nothing more to any of them than I’ve outlined above) that it’s difficult to keep track of who’s alive and dead. Any interest the film has is down to the valiant efforts of the

    actors who are stranded with a script which lacks any wit or shade, and which is stuffed with clichés. It’s a script which feels like it’s been written in close conjunction with a script-writing textbook. Everything’s there, except any spark of life. And you get the impression that the director spent most of his time asleep.

    It’s a good idea when making a comedy horror to make sure there’s some comedy in it. And some horror. And, indeed, a bit of life for the bad guys to drain. Somehow HOWL fails on all these levels and many others. For a film set in a claustrophobic environment like a train, it’s surprisingly airy: you never feel anyone is locked in, not even the bloke who gets eaten in the toilet. The characters struggle to make any impact, and the comedy is so weak as to be non-existent. Which means the film is just about guessing the werewolf-fodder-order. And that brings us to the werewolves. They’re not scary, either in design or realisation. One of them’s quite sweet.

    If you’re going to make a spoof, make a spoof. If you’re going to make a horror, do that. The horror-comedy is a difficult genre which requires the situation and characters to feel real enough, provides laughter which doesn’t dilute the horror, and has a horror element which is scary, probably gory, and which feels like a present danger. HOWL fails across the board. I can’t think of a single scene, a single line or exchange of dialogue, a single shot which made me think, ‘ah, this is what the film’s about, this is why they made it’. It feels like it was made simply because they had to make something. In that respect, Speleers’ performance mirrors the film itself. There’s nothing wrong with it, but why did he bother? But he does fail the great acting test: he does not make a dull character interesting. He only seems really at home in his final shot or two. Most of the others give the performances you’d expect of them, so at least you know where you are without being particularly surprised at Shah’s bookishness, Cowan’s oiliness, Macdonald’s sourness and so on. But all of this underlines the problem. HOWL is drearily efficient. It’s like those Christmas gifts Boots include in their ‘3 for 2’ offers: something which is perfectly adequately made, which fulfils a purpose, but which no-one in their right mind would ever desperately want, need or be grateful for.

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