Director: Paul Hyett
Writers: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler
Stars: Ed Speleers, Holly Weston, Shauna Macdonald
It’s not meant as an insult by any means, but Howl made me nostalgic; nostalgic for the late 2000s when low-budget meant a couple of hundred thousand pounds rather than pocket change and when just about every film that was made featured an array of familiar character actors. Ah, the good old days. What with the closure of certain tax relief schemes – including the ones of a rather dodgy variety which proved particularly appealing to footballers and other sportsmen – there’s less money floating about in the industry for British horror films, and Howl bucks the trend by boasting good production values and an extremely professional approach.
The script, by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler (who, rather bizarrely, are more actively engaged in writing children’s TV series such as Danger Mouse and Thomas the Tank Engine) is simplicity itself. A train breaks down in the middle of some woods which, it being full moon and all that, are populated by several werewolves. The assorted passengers – including a depressed guard (sorry, ‘on board supervisor’) (Ed Speelers), horrible city type (Elliot Cowan), elderly couple (Ania Marson and Duncan Preston from Acorn Antiques (!)) and tedious teen (Rosie Day) – proceed to make just about every bad decision possible with the inevitable consequence that that just about all of them are unceremoniously munched.
Although not exactly packed with subtext or depth, what can be said about Howl is that it is cracking good fun. It’s a classic B-Movie, sticking to the basics and doing them well, avoiding anything that could bog it down or push it off track and, despite the violence, it has an amiably old-school feel to it. Director Paul Hyett previously made the glum The Seasoning House (2012), which was effective but not particularly enjoyable; this takes the opposite approach, avoiding anything too dour and also calling more extensively on his experience as a special effects and prosthetics designer. The ensemble nature of the cast brings to mind the similar-but-different 2012 film Tower Block and it all ends in a suitably silly fashion. Good fun.