Film & TV

Film Review – Howl (Mayhem 2015)

British fantasy horror film Howl was shown in Nottingham as part of the Mayhem Film Festival. Director Paul Hyett also came along to answer some questions about the making of the film in a ‘Making Monsters Masterclass’.

Werewolves on a train. It sounds like a supernatural Snakes on a Plane, but it’s so much better. A brilliant script, with great special effects and a talented cast make for an excellent new take on the standard werewolf film.

According to the director, Paul Hyett, the story of Howl is based on the journey of a late-night train from London that broke down. The script-writers on board asked the question “What’s the worst thing that could happen now?” – their answer was werewolves, and the result is fantastic.

“It sounds like a supernatural Snakes on a Plane, but it’s so much better”

Although based on the supernatural, like many British films Howl has a strong sense of realism; there are no miraculous or ridiculous escapes from the clutches of the creatures, the writers instead letting them get devoured or allowing them to fight back. This feeds in to several important themes: the human will to survive and the violence associated with panic, along with the rifts that occur within the group as they attempt to get out alive.

One of the great things about the script is the variety of the characters. The people on the train come from all walks of life, as cleverly revealed through their back stories, which are delivered without negative effects on pace and tension. The film is grounded, using familiar prejudices present within British society to help shape the character interactions. This often contributes to some of the film’s unexpectedly funny moments.

The werewolves in Howl are a far cry from the stereotypical ‘fur and long snout’ creatures of most films. As director, Hyett made a conscious decision to move away from the traditional mythology surrounding them, including the full moon and silver bullets. Instead, he worked on creating a gradual change from human to animal, the stages of which are vividly displayed on screen. This is extremely effective and gives the sense of something new, creating tension founded on the idea that we don’t know where the film will go next.

After a question from the audience, Hyett said he found it easier to step back from his background in effects than in his previous film, partly due to the pressures of directing Howl. He talked about the challenges of working with cameras and lighting in such a small space, as well as set props and the thick, heavy prosthetic suits necessary for the werewolves.

“The werewolves in Howl are a far cry from the stereotypical ‘fur and long snout’ creatures of most films”

The CG used in Howl is highly effective, blending backgrounds and creatures seamlessly into the shots, producing vivid monsters and creating the illusion that the filming used a real train beside a forest. In reality, Hyett revealed that due to the impracticality of filming in and around a real train, a full 50-foot replica was built in the studio. Despite only a very short section of the film being shot on-location, there is no indication of this to the audience. It is exceptionally well-made, and this adds to the sense that the film is grounded in reality, giving the impression that these events could potentially happen in the situation presented.

This is definitely one of the best werewolf films in a long time, and any fan of the genre should make an effort to see it.


Isobel Sheene

Click here for more Film Reviews

Get in touch with us via Facebook and Twitter, or leave a comment below

Film & TVFilm Reviews

Leave a Reply