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IFI Horrorthon 2015 Review - HOWL

The staff and passengers of a late night train find themselves the prey of werewolves.


Review by Emily Craig (@emillycraig)

Directed by: Paul Hyett

Starring: Ed Speleers, Holly Weston, Elliot Cowan, Amit Shah, Rosie Day, Shauna Macdonald, Sean Pertwee




"Howl might not break any horror conventions, but what it does have is a good simple story with well written characters and smooth direction. Everything is coherent and makes for an enjoyable film."




Horror and special effects makeup artist turned director Paul Hyett brings us Howl, a horror film about a group of passengers on a train who get attacked by Werewolves.
Howl starts as train guard Joe (Ed Speleers) begins his mundane night shift. As the camera cleverly moves up the train, the audience gets to meet all the passengers who will soon be sticking together in order to survive. The train breaks down and the driver goes outside to see what he can do, only he doesn’t return; from here on is a fight for survival and gore. There is a great cameo from Sean Pertwee who plays the train driver; Pertwee also played the main character in Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers (2002), also a werewolf film. Pertwee isn’t the only actor from a Neil Marshall film – we have Shauna MacDonald from The Descent (in which Paul Hyett worked in the makeup department) who plays business woman Kate.
The story isn’t the most original in terms of horror films, Thomas and Friends writers Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler have ditched children’s TV shows and opted for horror instead; of course they have stuck to their train roots but this time it’s a much more adult Thomas and Friends. We have stereotypical character opposites and it is similar to a lot of other survival horror films out there – but it works. For two people who have never written horror before, it’s a good attempt; yes they’ve played it safe in terms of plot, but everything is coherent and makes for an enjoyable film.
Paul Hyett really stands out as a director, the great acting and camera shots make this otherwise predictable film come alive. Hyett is clearly someone who knows horror inside out, having worked on numerous film sets. As expected, the overall aesthetic of the monsters is executed extremely well. For a low budget film, Hyett has made these werewolves look extremely realistic and not tacky at all; I like how the werewolves have human characteristics to them, instead of the typical enlarged wolf. Like I said, acting is a strong part of the film; Speleers is terrific as Joe, the overly nice but invisible train guard trying to make a life for himself. Elliot Cowan is also convincing as the stereotypical arrogant alpha male.
Howl might not break any horror conventions, but what it does have is a good simple story with well written characters and smooth direction. It kept me on edge for most of the film and had me caring about the characters I had gotten to know for the past 89 minutes, but it also had me cheering when the ones I didn’t like got their comeuppance.





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