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After a bizarre and near-fatal encounter with serial killer Eddie "The Mangler" Quist, television anchorwoman Karen White is left traumatized and in dire need of a rest. Her psychiatrist sends her and her husband to The Colony, a rural retreat where select patients go to relax and participate in group therapy. However, Karen notices that The Colony appears to be populated by a number of odd characters, which together with the remote location and the strange howling she hears at night soon lead Karen to believe that something is very wrong here. When she starts looking into The Colony's affairs, the apparent resurrection of Eddie Quist soon proves to be the least of her problems...
The Howling was followed by six sequels:
- Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) a.k.a. Howling II: Stirba - Werewolf Bitch (a direct sequel).
- Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)
- Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988)
- Howling V: The Rebirth (1989)
- Howling VI: The Freaks (1991)
- Howling VII: New Moon Rising a.k.a. Howling VII: Mystery Woman (1995)
Over 16 years since the past sequel, the series was rebooted with The Howling: Reborn.
The Howling contains examples of:
- Animal Motifs: As if all the werewolves weren't enough, there's lots of wolf motifs present.
- Body Horror: Transformations courtesy of Rob Bottin, the effects guy from The Thing.
- Meaningful Name: Nearly all the characters in the first film are named after werewolf film directors.
- The vampire character in Part 6 is named "Harker".
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Popularized the "man-wolf" style of werewolf.
- Also, The Howling III. Subversion of most common movie werewolf "rules", which the therianthropes find humorously inaccurate. Moreover, they're were-thylacines - making them thylanthropes, instead of lycanthropes.
- Transformation Sequence.
- Weaksauce Weakness: To silver. And, oddly enough, also to titanium in the second movie.
- Actually, the younger werewolves have a Weaksauce Weakness to both silver and titanium. The elders, like Stirba, have 'outgrown' the weakness to silver, so titanium must be used.
- All There in the Manual: Apparently, Marsha was intended to be Eddie's sister. You'd never know.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: While trying to escape, Karen gets bitten by her werewolf husband. As her last plight, she decides to go on live-television to warn the people about the werewolves and then transforms into one to prove her point.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Colony.
- Dead Line News: In order to prove to the world that werewolves exist, Karen transforms into one on live-television and is shot dead by her friend. Her sacrifice may or may not have been in vain.
- Dueling Movies: Set against An American Werewolf in London.
- The End - or Is It?: While people in a bar watch Karen last broadcast, Marsha Quist is shown alive and well ordering a rare burger.
- Famous Last Words:
- "Don't you know anything?" Eddie Quist
- "Thank God.." Dr. Waggner
- "Tonight... I'm going to show you something... to make you believe..." Karen White
- Heroic BSOD: Karen suffers one of these her first time back on TV after being attacked by Eddie.
- Took a Level In Badass: Chris
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Karen is a famous anchorwoman, and she would be missed.
- Oh Crap: The Werewolf mob's reaction when the hero shoots one of their own dead with silver ammunition and they realize that they are all easy targets out in the open for a human with the means to kill them easily.
- One-Winged Angel: Eddie Quist's transformation into a werewolf at the end of the movie.
- Painful Transformation: averted in the first film with Eddie as he seems to be enjoying it.
- Transformation Is a Free Action: Somewhat justified as he had her pinned, and she was probably too busy shitting herself to act.
- Weirdness Censor: Many Apathetic Citizens see a live werewolf transformation on the evening news and pass it off as "special effects" for little reason.
Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf
- The Artifact: There's some strong evidence that the movie was originally going to be a vampire movie due to all the traditional vampire-killing methods being applied to werewolves, their leader being a woman who stays alive by sucking the youth out of people, it taking place in Transylvania and so on.
- Eye Scream: Stirba has a spell that causes its victims' eyeballs to explode in a fountain of blood. Fortunately, the heroes are able to neutralize the spell with their holy earplugs (yes, you read that correctly)... until Stefan's dwarf friend trips over and loses his earplugs.
- Fan Service: Virtually every moment that Sybil Danning spends on-screen in the film.
- Flashback with the Other Darrin: They don't even make Karen's on-air transformation remotely look like the scene from the first movie.
- Liquid Assets: Stirba's rejuvenating technique requires a young victim, from whom Stirba magically steals her youth.
- Money, Dear Boy: During the filming of Gremlins 2, Christopher Lee apologized to Joe Dante for appearing in The Howling II.
- Monster Progenitor: Stirba.
- Rule of Sean Connery: Christopher Lee makes this movie at least tolerable in virtue of owning every single scene he's in.
- Shout-Out: A murderous dwarf with a knife? Sounds suspiciously like Don't Look Now.
- Time Abyss: Unlike other werewolves, Stirba can restore her youth. She is very nearly ten thousand years old.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Stirba is so old that she somehow became immune to silver. Luckily for the heroes, it appears that werewolves, including Stirba, also can be harmed by titanium weapons. For some odd reason Karen is also immune to silver, despite only having been a werewolf for a couple of weeks at most.
Howling III: Marsupials
- Mood Dissonance: It's sometimes not clear if this is supposed to be a comedy, a horror, a Green Aesop about not hunting animals to extinction, or what.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: Features were-thylacines. Thylacines are an extinct marsupial predator more commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger.
- Sdrawkcab Name: The town of Flow.
Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
- Body Horror: Especially prominent in this film. The first transformation is quite horrific - it consists of the body disintegrating into a puddle of goo and then rebuilding itself into a wolfman shape.
- Hong Kong Dub: A lot of the film was shot without any on-set sound recording due to budget problems. As a result, we get a mixture of this trope and the characters constantly having their backs facing the camera when speaking their dialogue.
Howling V: The Rebirth
- Locked In A Castle
- Magic Pants: The werewolf is clearly a quick-change artist, due to how rapidly it appears and yet how fully clothed everyone is (including the werewolf's human form).
- Ten Little Murder Victims: There's exactly one werewolf among the castle guests - well, presumably, anyway. And the guests are killed one by one...
Howling VI: The Freaks
- Fur Against Fang: Pits a werewolf protagonist against a vampire villain.
Howling VII: New Moon Rising
- Arc Welding: Clive Turner does a fairly admirable job at assembling the plots from the previous sequels into one narrative... unfortunately, these are delivered mainly in massive Info Dumps.
- Franchise Killer: Effectively killed the franchise for sixteen years until 2011 when the series was rebooted.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Features a bunch of Australians who just happen to be living in the California Desert for no apparent reason. Since most of the film's cast were the real-life inhabitants of a Californian town, odds are that these random Australians are friends of the film's Aussie director, Clive Turner.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Subverted: two very minor characters in 4 and 5 are revealed to be the same person... who is also the hero of 7.
- Played straight in the same film -- the heroine of the 4 turns out to have survived the events of that film... only to be Killed Off for Real after an appearance lasting about ten minutes.
The Howling: Reborn
- Darker and Edgier: Compared to the previous sequels.
- Follow the Leader: Obviously trying to cash in on the Twilight craze.