First Class Scares
by Brody Rossiter
The daily commute strikes fear into the hearts of countless individuals as they haphazardly attempt to navigate the chaotic mass of humanity striving to either get to work or escape home. Public transport can be viewed a microcosm of the society that rests outside of its claustrophobic metal confines. Passengers of all different shapes, sizes, creeds and cultures temporarily cohabit with often highly “unique” results, and the very best and worst of the human condition is exhibited upon a stage on which the sun rises and sets. Howl takes the mundane rigours of daily travel and invites a ferocious entity along for the ride.
When a late-night train is halted by an obstruction on the tracks, its diverse group of passengers is jolted into a primal fight for survival against a snarling beast wielding vicious fangs and claws – and it’s not that fella sat behind you who likes to play pocket hockey. You guessed it; it’s a ruddy big werewolf.
Despite the obvious temptation to immediately unleash hell and watch the great hairy creature rip open the hurtling carriages before plucking out the tasty humans inside like a tin of sweaty, over-packed sardines. Director Paul Hyett spends much of the film’s opening carefully cultivating a grim and atmospheric scenario populated with engaging and purposefully grating characters; the kind that you often meet on the train and would gladly rip the still beating heart from their bodies had you the freakish lupine attributes to do so. Nevertheless, Ed Speleers’ down on his luck conductor, Joe, is an immediately likeable and endearing everyman and a solid choice to lead the narrative.
In spite of clear budgetary limitations, Howl is after all a direct to video release (the distribution method is no longer a mark of unwatchable trashy B-movies), the midnight blue aesthetic is immersive, while the foggy woodland landscape is a fitting backdrop for the eventual mayhem that ensues. Dutch angles coax out a classic monster movie vibe, while rabid editing and copious amounts of fleshy gore will satisfy viewers ravenous for the hyperactive bloodshed of contemporary horror.
A gratifying British horror movie that plays with stereotypes of both its genre and the class divided characters on-board, Howl may not have a wealth of effects or scope, but it does tell an engaging and insular story through a cast of talented actors -before offering them up as extra-large doggy treats. Next time you’re elbow-to-elbow with fellow rail users just pray there’s not a full moon out.