Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Howl Is It Done?

Then she heard it.
The howling.
I've been having fun with those lines. Yes, it is a quote from the book The Howling. I've shared it with just about everyone I've come into contact with since reading it. It gets at least a chuckle every time.

To be fair, I'm taking it out of context. Hence, the comedy aspect. Immersed in the actual scene, it is indeed creepy. I mean, hey, if you were in bed with your honey in a cabin in the middle of a woodsy nowhere and you heard a preternatural howling you'd be unnerved, too.

So... did I like this book? I'm sorry, but I have to give a wishy-washy answer: Yes and no.

First off, I'll say it's nicely done. It's very straightforward writing, with just the right amount of details and a good pace. I admired the chapter structure. Each one is quite short, while still creating a setting and mood, but as compact as it needs to be to deliver the punch of its events. Also, the novel is peppered just right with hints as to the identity of the werewolf so as to keep you guessing the entire time and switches your mental gears for second guesses. Of course, I knew the answer to this question having seen the movie. (And yes, the "answer" is the same in the book.)

But that's partially why it didn't fully grab me ― I knew what would come next. My fault, I know. However, shouldn't the book deliver the same thrill and terror? Well, possibly, but that brings me to another reason it fell slightly flat. It's one thing to read about hands becoming paws and another to see them do it. Truth is, I'm not much of horror reader. The same "revelation" came with Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart which became the movie Hellraiser. I immediately understood why they made the film. No matter how well an author will craft the words and set the mood, there's always just that much more in visual form for such things as transformations and guys with no skin. I'm not belittling anyone's skills. As I said, Gary Brandner does a good job of bringing the horror to mind. But for me... well, I don't want to read about werewolves, I want to see them.

There'd been way too much explicit sex in the novel for me. (And no, that doesn't count as a I'd rather watch than read ― not a bit!) I'm not saying the sex scenes had been gratuitous either. Certainly they worked alongside and with the plot. But one whole chapter is, essentially, wild (literally wild) sex. Just not my cup of tea. Upon hearing this remark, Bart pointed out that the book had been written in 1977. Kind of goes with the era.

I also, to be honest, liked the movie a bit better. Not for the visual aspect. There are quite a few differences in the film from the novel. The basic story is just the same, however. But the elements brought to this tale on the screen really enhance it. Instead of being just a regular person tormented in an isolated town, we get a popular news anchorwoman. (And yes, that becomes purposeful in the film.) In the book she is sexually assaulted (again, a little too much description for me) whereas in the movie she meets a guy (a mysterious informant) in a sex booth and has an encounter with him turning into a werewolf. (Sorry to spoil that for you, but I think you would have seen it coming.) The trauma of not knowing how to deal with seeing someone become a wolf before your very eyes and then being attacked by it is, to me, much more engaging than dealing with a rape only. (I'm speaking dramatically and for the purposes of story only. I am certainly not disavowing the terrible ordeal of such a heinous crime.) The two incidents work together in the movie, whereas the attack and the character's "get away and rest" in the book don't click as puzzle pieces quite as well.

Then again, some parts of the book had it over the movie, too. One of the characters (missing in the film) I quite liked. But she also had a touch of the "standard" about her. And the climax (when the secret is revealed) is handled ever so much creepier in the novel. However, it also immediatley goes to "Gee, I'd rather see it."

Did I find it scary? Well... no. But then, I don't find the movie scary either. Werewolves don't frigthen me. You'll probably find me rooting for them instead of their victims. (Yes, coming across one in real life would terrify me as much as the next person.)

I want to watch the movie again now. Fortunately Bart said he'd like to see it again as well. I'm itching to remember/see how the film characters manage a particular situation, one that does not show up in the book. (Well, it does, but not in quite the same way.) Just in general I'd like to a do a compare/contrast.

All told, it's a good story. Both the novel and book follow roughly the same path, though not without horror cliches. But cliches, if crafted well, can work beautifully.

I wonder how the next transformation will go... will the Hollywood remake be a hybrid and create the ultimate tale of werewolves? We'll have to wait and see... and one night the woods not far away, the howling.

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