Directed by Paul Hyett
Starring Ed Speleers, Holly Weston, Elliot Cowan, Amit Shah, Sam Gittins, Shauna Macdonald, Duncan Preston, Ania Marson, Rosie Day, Calvin Dean and Sean Pertwee
When passengers on a train are attacked by a creature, they must band together in order to survive until morning.
Forget Snakes on a Plane, this is Werewolves on a Train in Paul Hyett’s brilliant slice of British horror that packs gore, shocks and plenty of scares.
Train guard Joe has been forced to work on a very-late running service across the countryside from London Waterloo by his newly-promoted idiot supervisor. Being that it’s a late train, its passengers consist of an elderly couple going home, a couple of “youths”, a drunken football fan complete with kebab (and the runs), and a couple of hard-working business folk who can’t seem to leave the office behind them. These misfits will need to work together however when their train comes to a stop and they start to get attacked by something bizarre. At first they think it could be a bear, but bears don’t howl.
What makes Howl work so well is Hyett (based off a brilliant script by Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby) sustains the level of horror throughout. Not going for the likes of Deep Blue Sea, Sharknado or the majority of moronic monster movies of the last decade, Howl keeps its monsters in the shadows. It teases its audience with glimpses of the creature, but never fully reveals them until totally necessary. And when they are finally revealed, it’s all the more impactful. This seems like a easy-to-attain goal when it comes to making a monster flick, but it is amazing how often it can be done wrong. And even when done right, looking at something like Gareth Edward’s Godzilla, a lack of monster-on-show can be a detriment to some viewer’s eyes.
But it’s all about balance, and Howl achieves this. With a motley crew of wacky (but easily recognisable) characters, Howl can let us watch the horror through their eyes and let is wash over us. There’s subtle moments of brilliance like the elderly couple sitting opposite a teenager who doesn’t understand the concept of headphones, but are too British and polite to ask her to stop or move. Or the overly-worked business lady who, despite being out of the office, has to answer her emails. We’ve all been on trains like this one, which intensifies the horror when it comes to light. Furthermore, not all of the characters are horrible bastards, so you want to see many of them survive.
Hyett is an old-school horror director, and it’s incredibly refreshing to see. Coming from a background of make-up and special effects on big name movies like The Descent and The Woman in Black, Hyett understands what it takes to scare your audience, but not just rely on fancy effects. The make-up and effects – both practical and visual – are stunning and incredibly life-like, and he merges the two together so well that neither clash. He keeps the movie so contained and claustrophobic that even when the passengers leave the train, they’re still isolated and in one place.
This is all helped along by a brilliant cast of actors, who each bring their own unique flair to the proceedings. Even the most clichéd and under-written of characters (of which there aren’t many) are played expertly well. Ed Speelers is incredibly likeable and Amit Shah is a bloody marvellous revelation as the nerdy Matthew. Rosie Day is equally as brilliant (but isn’t given nearly enough to do) while Emmerdale and Coronation Street‘s Duncan Preston is brilliantly sweet as the old man who wants to look after his wife. But despite being arguably the leading lady, Holly Preston just isn’t given enough to work with and sadly falls a little flat – especially when compared to someone like Shauna Macdonald. And if you’ve come to the show to see Sean Pertwee, don’t expect to see much.
Howl is a brilliant example of how to get a monster movie right. Werewolf movies have been done a million times before, but Howl brings something slightly new to the table. Hardcore werewolf lovers might be upset by Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby flagrant disregard of the rules set up by other stories, but Howl is the best werewolf horror in years.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.