‘The Howling’ (*very* quick review)

I watched The Howling (1981) tonight. This is one of a handful of enduring werewolf films that came out in the early 1980s.

Here’s the setup: After a television newswoman (Dee Wallace) has a harrowing experience with a serial killer, she goes to a mountain resort to recover. The problem? The locals are all werewolves. Predictable hijinks ensue. 

This movie is almost 40 years old, and well…it shows. The soundtrack sounds like elevator music. The choreography is dated. When blood splatters (as it often does in werewolf movies), it looks like something from a can marked Sherwin-Williams. 

Nevertheless, there are some genuinely creepy scenes in this movie. One of the strengths of The Howling (noted even at the time) was the makeup artistry of Rob Bottin. The werewolves in this movie do look real, even if the blood doesn’t.

Strong performances in this film by Dee Wallace, as well as the late Christopher Stone and the late Elisabeth Brooks. 

This movie does, nevertheless, contain a few clichés that would be best avoided by a savvy filmmaker approaching this subject in the modern era. For example: two metamorphosing werewolves having explicit sex. This would be hard to do convincingly even with today’s CGI technology. It was really hard in 1981, and should not have been attempted, in this viewer’s opinion. 

This is not a bad movie, but it isn’t a particularly memorable one, either. Among werewolf films of that era, I much prefer An American Werewolf in London, which was released the same year.

Happy birthday, Weird Al

Today is the birthday of Weird Al Yankovic.

This is one of the acts from the 1980s that I very much enjoyed. Weird Al got his start in the MTV era (early 1980s) with parodies of mega-hits by Madonna and Michael Jackson. (This song, “Fat” is a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Bad”.)

Weird Al in “Fat”

Weird Al is still around, but his heyday has passed. Satire is one of the many casualties of political correctness.

Consider “Fat”. If the song/video were released today, it would immediately draw fire for fat-shaming. And some of the song’s lines (“I’ve got more Chins than Chinatown”) would never pass muster among the Internet’s many self-appointed Committees of Public Safety. 

Also, there’s the fact that “Fat” involves a white guy parodying a black guy. What a microaggression! Systemic bigotry! (For the record: Weird Al always obtained the consent of the musical acts he parodied.)

“Fat” is still tolerated today as a relic of 1980s kitsch. Most of the social justice warriors are either too young to know of its existence, or they’ve since forgotten about it. 

There was a time when comedy, and other forms of artistic expression, could simply be fun, without everyone getting riled up about them, and contriving trivial pretexts for offense. Weird Al Yankovic is a champion of that better, vanished time. 

YouTube’s guitar heroes

I know: It seems I never say anything positive about social media, because…mostly I don’t. I wouldn’t mind if most social media platforms (especially Twitter) disappeared tomorrow.

But even social media has a few upsides. One of these upsides is the abundance of very talented young musicians on YouTube. 

Sophie Lloyd, the guitarist in the video posted above, does a virtuoso job on the guitar. I took guitar lessons myself for a while in the very early 1980s. I couldn’t begin to do what she does, but I do have an insider’s understanding of how much practice it takes to play like that.  

I also love the rock bands of the 1980s–Van Halen, Boston, Rush, AC/DC, Def Leppard. A solid cover of any of their old songs is sure to get my attention. Continue reading “YouTube’s guitar heroes”

Remembering ‘Red Dawn’

80sThen80s now is one of the few accounts I follow on Twitter, because, well…I’m nostalgic for the 1980s.

Today the account tweeted this post about the movie Red Dawn (1984). In response to the poll, I gave the movie a 9. 

Red Dawn wouldn’t necessarily be a 9 if it were released today, mind you. But you have to evaluate a movie by the filmmaking standards of its era. A lot of movies in the early 1980s were pretty rough, compared to the slick, CGI-enhanced productions of today. And so it is with Red Dawn. Continue reading “Remembering ‘Red Dawn’”