Howl review
Howl review

Director: Paul Hyett
Cast: Ed Speelers, Holly Weston, Sean Pertwee, Shauna Macdonald
Running Time: 95 minutes
Certificate: TBC

Synopsis: A late night train full of passengers breaks down en-route to it’s final destination during a full moon. The group of strangers must band together when they find themselves stalked by an unseen presence. 

Paul Hyett made his career in the business working on special effects and make-up before branching out into directing. His work in the field of effects saw him work with Neil Marshall on both Doomsday and The Descent, two truly brilliant British action / horror movies. It seems Hyett has learned a thing or two from Marshall as his third directorial offering Howl is a great British horror.

The film may be called Howl and set at the full moon, yet the monsters aren’t so much the expected werewolves, but rather wendigo-like creatures. Whatever the classification, this pack means business and are intent on making the passengers their next meal. The visual effects for the creatures are interesting, Hyett taking a less traditional spin on the shape-shifting beast. There are no Twilight-esque massive CG wolves here oh no, instead we have a lot of painstakingly crafted practical effects which of course help lend authenticity and depth to the story.

Howl review
Howl review

London dwellers will really feel for the plight of the poor commuters trapped on the train. Imagine the worst bout of signal delay that you’ve experienced and times it by ten. The only thing that they have on their side is that it isn’t at rush hour and therefore the passengers aren’t crammed into each other’s arm pits – ah tube travel.

Ed Speelers is our hero, a train guard called Joe who, after finishing his shift for the day, finds that he’s got to cover the late night train to Eastborough. At the same time he finds out that he hasn’t gotten the supervisor promotion that he applied for meaning his future is full of more late night travels cross country with a train full of rude and ungrateful customers. Anyone that has worked in the retail or leisure industry will see familiar customers – the arrogant bitch, the rich prick, and the girl that won’t get off her phone. With that in mind it’s a little hard to warm to some of them so that Paul and maybe Ellen are the only ones that we even consider liking.

The most outlandish part of Howl has nothing to do with the sticky situation, but rather the instances where Joe’s passengers one-by-one apologise for their earlier behaviour. I’ve met these customer types and I can’t believe they’d ever apologise as they wouldn’t realise that what they had done was wrong in any way.

Yes the cast also features an ex-Hollyoaks actress, but she’s one of the better ones (i.e. she didn’t feel the need to take her clothes off at the change of the scene). Calvin Dean again plays the overweight slob who sleeps through most of the events; he did a similar thing in short film Don’t Move – if you’ve not seen it really is worth a watch.

Sean Pertwee turns up as the driver of the ill-fated train though given his survival rate is about as good as that other well-known English Sean, he doesn’t last too long.

Howl review
Howl review

Howl starts strong but loses some steam by the finale. Some characters fall by the wayside and the death of a pivotal player disappointedly plays out off-screen. Other aspects get a little confusing as the film suddenly switches gears and rushes to its climax. Without warning characters suddenly flee to the woods, a plan that has previously been quashed, believing themselves to be safer inside their metal cage.

A tense game of hunter and prey that chugs along nicely, Howl may have a disappointing terminus but the rest of the journey is well worth the fare.

Howl review by Kat Hughes, August 2015.

Howl screens at Frightfest on Monday 31st August ahead of it’s Blu-Ray and DVD release on 26th October.