I love movies and, just like I’m sure some of you do, I often despair that Hollywood has run out of original ideas since they seem to remaking every movie that was ever successful, regardless of how little anyone wants to see it remade. On the other hand, have you ever found yourself watching a great older movie and thinking: “Damn, if they took this same story and remade it with today’s special effects, it would kick ass!”
I have and one of my oft-considered such movies is the classic The Howling.
The original, written by John Sayles (based on a novel by Gary Brandner) and directed by Joe Dante, told the story of a reporter named Karen (Dee Walace Stone) who is traumatized during a meeting with a serial killer named Eddie Quint (Robert Picardo). On the advice of a renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Wagner (Patrick MacNee), she and her husband Bill (Dee’s real-life husband Christopher Stone) go up to a mountain retreat filled with odd-balls and New Agers who all seem very friendly. Naturally, everyone in the colony turns out to be a werewolf and worse, Eddie is too. Hilarity ensues as Karen’s husband gets turned and embraces the werewolf lifestyle while her other friend is killed for discovering the colony’s secret.
Now, The Howling is one of the greatest werewolf movies out there and remains a classic. The performances are still great, the dialogue snaps with wit, and the direction and pacing are great. The only area where the movie has not aged so gracefully is in the special effects department; though on the cutting edge of makeup effects technology at the time it was made, many younger viewers who are used to today’s effects will find the transformations laughable. To me, this is a golden opportunity to take a film that was fantastically effective in its day and bring that same vibe back to a new generation.
The basic plot and characters of the film are still perfectly workable in a modern setting. Really, other than modernizing the setting and references, I doubt that I would change the plot of the movie. Everything about it works. I might give Eddie a little more screen time, because I do think that the original missed an opportunity by not letting Karen face off against her serial-killer-stalker and defeat him. Perhaps drop the dim-wit feral Quint brother in favor of letting Eddie hunt and kill Karen’s friend Terry while his sister Marsha brings Bill over to the dark side.
One of the other aspects of the film that I loved was the scene at the end where the doctor tries to defend his “modernization” of the werewolves to the rest of the pack. This is an aspect that I would also like to see get a little more screen time. Sacrifice the “surprise” of discovering that the entire colony is filled with werewolves in favor of exploring that idea. Let’s see some of their interactions. When Marsha brings Bill into the “pack”, let’s follow his initiation into their society. Give Marsha some time to make her case against Dr. Wagner’s repressive strategy and let her have a plan of her own.
The casting possibilities for a film like this are literally limitless, but there are lots of possibilities for cameos from beloved genre actors as well as plenty of roles for warm fluffy actors or comedians who want to do something different.
Taking such a well-written story and simply updating it with the kind of realistic and affordable werewolf effects that movies like the Underworld series have given us, I really think that a Howling remake could really bring our generation a quality werewolf thriller. Let’s bring back “The Original Nightmare!”