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  Howl Wolf Them Down
Year: 2015
Director: Paul Hyett
Stars: Ed Speelers, Holly Weston, Shauna MacDonald, Elliot Cowan, Amit Shah, Sam Gittins, Rosie Day, Duncan Preston, Ania Marson, Calvin Dean, Brett Goldstein, Sean Pertwee, Ryan Oliva, Robert Nairne, Ross Mullan, Malcolm Trussler, Joel Phillimore
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joe (Ed Speelers) is a guard on a train who is just coming off his shift. It's been a long day, and he’s looking forward to getting back, especially when he looks in his locker to see his application for a promotion he's been after has been turned down. As if things couldn’t get any worse, his boss (Brett Goldstein) appears and accuses him of not doing his job properly since he hasn't fined anyone on the spot for a while, then breaks it to him that he will be standing in for another guard who has called in sick – right away. Joe thinks about protesting, but it simply isn't worth the trouble, and soon is travelling on a night train, negotiating the passengers as he checks the tickets, and unaware of danger up ahead…

Not to be confused with the Allen Ginsberg movie of around the same time, this Howl was a werewolf movie, a low budget British effort that in a market glutted with cheap variants on the old Lon Chaney Jr theme turned out to be a cut above the rest of the pack. It might have been no classic, but as it hitched its wagon to the long and respected tradition of British railway movies, it worked up a neat enough atmosphere of isolation as the train abruptly stops just as Joe has dropped off in a lull in his duties. Is there something on the line? Given the driver was played by Sean Pertwee, when he gets out of his cab to investigate it was little surprise as to what happened next.

That’s right, he gets devoured by a werewolf, had he learned nothing from Dog Soldiers? Howl wasn't quite as accomplished as that minor benchmark in the United Kingdom’s horror revival of the turn of the millennium, but it was identifiably in the same vein, and used both computer graphics and physical makeup to create its effects. Though refreshingly, the graphics were implemented in the shots of the train set in the moonlit landscape and the werewolf makeup was good old rubber, a pleasing throwback to how things used to be done, even as then-recently as Dog Soldiers. That said, the cash available didn't stretch to a full-on transformation sequence, though technically there was one.

But the person who gets bitten turns into a ravening beast gradually, a clever way of avoiding expense on elaborate effects and making do with what they had. Although when you saw the villains, they were not furry freaks, more long haired, fanged and burly, which at least was something different for what could have been overfamiliar in a Horror Express kind of way. There was no rapport as between Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as there had been in that cult favourite, however, indeed the passengers and staff are a bad-tempered bunch to underline the drudgery of poor old Joe's daily grind, or nightly grind as it was now. We appeared to be invited to despise many of them to make it all the more satisfying when they were munched.

However, once the old lady gets her leg chomped when it became clear there was a great, big monster about, maybe more than one, everyone responded to the crisis of being trapped in the train with far more decency than they had when they believed it was a typical British railway service breaking down for the umpteenth time. This, too, was refreshing, as if they all recognised events had taken such a bad turn that getting antagonistic wasn’t going to help in any way, though naturally there's always someone who is going to buck that trend, and it wasn’t much of a secret the overconfident, blatantly wealthy businessman (Elliot Cowan) was that someone. Also on the train were a few TV faces such as Holly Weston, Duncan Preston and Amit Shah, with makeup artist turned director Paul Hyett re-recruiting Shauna MacDonald and Rosie Day from his previous projects, and they each provided precisely what was asked of them to a very decent degree, even up to a conclusion that was half downbeat, half a curious triumph. In the main, Howl took a basic concept and spun a diversion out of it, modest maybe, but nothing to be embarrassed about (aside from a touch of stupidity to keep the plot going). Music by Paul E. Francis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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