It’s fantastic how effective “Howl” is considering the premise is so barebones and simplistic. If you’re a fan of survival horror like I am, “Howl” should be right up your alley, as it pits victims in an unlikely setting and puts them against impossible odds. Much like “Assault on Precinct 13,” the chances of the characters of “Howl” surviving are slim to nil, but I still rooted for them and eagerly awaited to see how they’d outwit their nemeses waiting in the darkness. Set during the middle of winter, Joe is a ticket taker and train guard who just missed out on a promotion.
Stuck with the final shift on a train arriving at midnight during a full moon, he finds himself tasked with working alongside obnoxious and train goers, all of whom are eager to make it through the ride. The train is suddenly stalled in the middle of the woods and snow when a deer is hit and caught under the wheels, and what seems like an isolated incident turns in to terror almost immediately. Soon Joe, his co-workers, and the assorted passengers find themselves fighting for survival and trying to contact the outside world as man eating werewolves lurk outside the steel beast trying to break in and engage in a hunt. Despite his initial terror, Joe takes it upon himself to band with the passengers to ensure they can survive for as long as possible before the local station realizes they’ve been gone.
This means he has to work alongside a self involved teenager, an elderly couple, an obese sports fan, and a slimy businessman whose self interests become a potential liability to everyone. With Paul Hyett’s excellent direction, “Howl” is so well paced, as well as briskly written, relying on a steady flow of tension and suspense, even before the shit hits the fan for our characters. We just know that the speeding train the characters reside in will become a hunting ground. It just becomes a matter when and how. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the monster is that’s hiding in the darkness once bodies begin piling up and begin getting torn to shreds in the snow.
But Hyett cleverly builds on the terror making every corner of the stalled train a potential death trap as the beasts roam in the snow looking for their chance. The monster effects are pretty top notch, especially considering how director Hyett is very careful about completely revealing his take on the werewolf. The beasts begin as shadows, and slowly progress in to more fleshed out beings that eventually have to come face to face with their prey as they unity poses a threat to the hunt. Director Hyett’s execution is what makes the movie worth watching.
The tone and tension, matched with the ace special effects really make this battle so terrifying and conjure up memories of classic werewolf thrillers like “Dog Soldiers,” and “An American Werewolf in London.” Hyett is very clever about tightening the noose and loosening the tension again and again, making “Howl” such a well composed horror film with immense rewatchability. It’s fun, funny, creepy, and never overstays its welcome; sometimes that’s all you want from a horror film.