On a dark and stormy night the last train out of London comes to a sudden halt deep in the middle of a forest. After the driver ventures out to investigate and never returns, the passengers are in a state of panic - particularly after seeing the driver's mutilated body outside the carriage. Realizing there's something dangerous lurking in the forest, a ticket-collector, Joe (Ed Speleers), tells the passengers to make barricades to secure themselves in the carriage, but soon the deadly creature is stalking the besieged train and smashing through their defenses, picking them off one-by-one. Joe rallies his 'pack' of passengers to fight back. During a vicious battle they manage to kill the creature, revealing it to be a hideous mutated fusion of human and wild animal - a werewolf. However, celebrations are cut short when they hear more howls coming from the forest…
You know the movie 'Snakes on a Plane'? Well, this horror movie called 'Howl' should have been called 'Werewolves on a Train'. The only downside really is that there is no Samuel L. Jackson to yell at people or get things done. This movie is one of those cases where a successful visual effects artist got a big chance at directing a feature film of their own.
In this case, it is Paul Hyett, who did all the visual effects work on all of Neil Marshall's films, including the werewolf movie 'Dog Soldiers', 'The Descent' and 'Doomsday'. Even the main characters of 'The Descent' and 'Dog Soldiers' show up in 'Howl'. This film does not change the horror genre, nor does it really change the werewolf genre, let alone do anything new or original. Still, this is a highly entertaining and fun film to watch, and its clear that Hyett knows how to lens a movie and film his creatures at work, even if the storyline is typical of this sort of fare.
The film follows Joe (Ed Speelers), who is a train guard and ticket taker in London. He doesn't get the ladies nor does he get the promotions at work. On top of that, he is asked to work a double late shift overnight on the train with a small group of random passengers. The train breaks down and werewolves attack everybody one by bloody one, where Joe must step into leadership mode to survive. All of the usual genre tropes are here, including the old couple, the annoying muscle head, and the teenage girl who thinks she's above it all. They are all distinguishable, but are rather one-note, but that doesn't really matter here.
The main event are the werewolves, which Hyett never flinches from showing on screen. When the werewolves come to attack, you see them full on, and they are truly horrifying and unrelenting in their carnage. They are a mix of a werewolf and muscular and veiny human. and one of the scarier werewolves you will ever see on film. There are buckets upon buckets of blood and guts that spill out from the start of the film to the very end, so gorehounds will be satisfied.
The screenplay isn't anything to write home about, but it gets the job done from point A to point B, and never goes off on silly side stories or tangents to kill time. From when the werewolves show up, it's pretty much non-stop, and that's all you can ask for in this type of film. And with that criteria, I'd say 'Howl' wins.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Howl' comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc from Alchemy and is Region A locked. The disc is housed in hard blue plastic case with zero inserts.
'Howl' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This is a fairly dark movie, both in tone and visually speaking. Don't expect a ton of bold or bright primary colors here. In fact, the entire movie is layered over in a grayish blue tint, and of course, set at night time in the middle of the woods in a broken down train. Light is not this movie's friend, which somewhat hinders some of the detail.
The detail is sharp and vivid in close-ups when certain train lights turn on bright or when a werewolf appears, showcasing every hair and gooey wound nicely. Other than that, there is a softness to the image, even in the wider shots too. Colors again never pop off screen, with the exception of a few bright reds here and there, but this aspect actually intensifies the film. Black levels are deep and inky with very little crush, and the flesh tones are a mix between pale and natural, in keeping with the film's dark bleak tone.
There are some issues with banding throughout, which I imagine has to do with some CG and how lowly lit the film is, but other than that issue, all other problems are not existent, leaving this video presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with a very good lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 MA mix and does a good job in keeping you on the edge of your seat in the big horror moments. Sound effects are robust and loud, specifically during the werewolf scenes. Every growl, howl, screech, stab, swing, and chop sounds on cue and well balanced. That being said, some of the fully immersive sound effects and ambient noises are on the lighter side of things, such as moving around the narrow corridors of the train and all the noises that come with it.
Sure, you'll hear them, but they're faint and never really immerses you in the thick of the moment. All that changes when the werewolves come on screen. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow with the British accents, and is always free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and high shrills. The score always adds to the suspense without drowning out any dialogue or the more impressive sound effects. Directionality is good and the bass rumbles when it needs to. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this audio presentation with great marks.
The Werewolves (HD, 7 Mins.) - The cast and crew discuss the look of the werewolves, working with the stunt people in costume, and the differences between the practical and CG effects. We even get to see some of the practical makeup effects being used and applied.
The Humans (HD, 7 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about working on the film, their characters, and working with the director.
The Train (HD, 6 Mins.) - The crew discusses the origins of the story here as well as working and building a set to look like a long train.
The Sound (HD, Mins.) - The crew talks about the score and sound effects and how they played an important role in the movie.
The Grade (HD, 5 Mins.) - The crew discusses how and why they color graded the film in this bleak grayish and blue tone.
Trailers (HD, 9 Mins.) - A trailer for 'Howl' and three other trailers for other movies.
'Howl' is definitely a fun and entertaining werewolf film, despite it not being anything new or different in the genre. The werewolf effects and makeup are top notch and there are enough scares and gore to satisfy the horror and gore fans alike. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras are all worth watching. Make 'Howl' an addition to your werewolf collection. Recommended!