Grimmfest 2015: Howl


A werewolf movie by the director of The Seasoning House turned out to be a pleasant surprise on the penultimate night of Grimmfest 2015. Paul Hyett’s sophomore effort is an old fashioned monster movie with blood, guts and some very British humour.

The story revolves around a red-eye train becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere whilst the staff and commuters on board have to defend themselves against a pack of bloodthirsty werewolves living in the surrounding area. There’s a bit of a potential love story between two of the railway staff and the usual bickering between the group as the danger escalates but overall writers Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler keep their narrative unbelievably simple. As to be expected Hyett’s professional SFX background (The Woman in Black, Attack The Block, Eden Lake to name but a few) means some great old fashioned effects and the subtle use of CGI is excellent. The werewolves and requisite transformation scenes are suitably impressive and the gore and jump scares are nicely peppered with some decidedly British humour (think Only Fools and Horses meets The Howling).

However, all this good work is marred by a cast of really cliched characters. Rail staff Joe (Ed Speleers) and Ellen (Holly Weston) fair the best with Joe being a young protagonist you can actually root for and Ellen is an equally resilient fighter whether it be against the werewolves or unwanted lecherous advances. However, the rest of the group are sadly your standard horror fodder (older couple, mouthy teenager, cocky businessman, nerd and businesswoman with an attitude) and as expected they are bumped off one by one in increasingly grisly ways. I could almost forgive this if it wasn’t for Joe’s fate which doesn’t ring true to how his character acts throughout the rest of the story and ultimately finishes the film on a sour note.

Overall Howl sits very neatly in a B-movie template, has likable leads, decent effects and some effective set-pieces plus it’s a vast improvement on Hyett’s depressing debut. Whilst, it never quite gets over it’s lacklustre ending it’s still an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes and it’s a respectable addition to the werewolf genre.


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