Critics have already dubbed director Paul Hyett’s very British creature-feature “the best werewolf horror in years”. Perhaps that says more about the genre as a whole than about Howl, but for all its faults there’s no denying that this werewolves-on-a-train flick – yes, really – is fiercely good fun.
Ticket inspector Joe – likeable, charming but a bit of a drip – is roped into an extra late night shift on the last train out of Waterloo by the guy who just beat him to a promotion. Joe, played by Ed Speleers of Downton Abbey fame, is joined by romantic interest Ellen (Holly Weston), and a straggly group of late-night travellers, who are established right away as a pretty unpleasant bunch. When the train breaks down in the middle of a remote forest and the driver inexplicably disappears, the strangers must decide together how to act. Their task quickly complicates with the discovery of the driver’s mangled body in the woods, and the group find themselves being stalked by mysterious creatures with the sound of howling filling the night air. After barricading themselves as best they can within the train, the night descends into a psychologically torturous game of cat-and-mouse. Fighting the divisive characters within their ranks, the group must try to band together to survive; but each time the wolf comes a-knocking, another little piggy gets the chop.
Whist not exactly a bastion of great film-making – some of the dialogue is cut from a particularly poor, made-for-television-movie kind of cloth – there is much in Howl to be praised. Hyett manages to strike the right balance between silliness and horror, not compromising on human interest in favour of shock and gore, and avoiding overloading on CGI. Whilst the attempted characterisation of each passenger is laudable, some are of fairly stock origins, in particular the slick city hotshot Adrian (Eliot Cowan), all charm and chivalry in early scenes, but whose real narcissism and total disregard for others can be seen a mile off.
With a background in movie make-up and special effects, it’s no surprise that the greatest success in Howl is Hyett’s reimagining of the iconic werewolf. His creatures are of a less furry, slimier nature, uniquely monstrous and distinct from those that have come before – think more Peter Jackson’s orcs than the typical wolf-man. All in all, this a strong entry into the genre: horror fans should find plenty to sink their teeth into.
Howl is released nationwide on 16th October 2015.
Watch the trailer for Howl here: