Joe Dante (Gremlins) directed this feature, and it has a really outstanding score from the great Pino Donaggio.
In its day, The Howling had heaps of praise dumped on it for its impressive practical effects, and boasted a really decent transformation brought to us by Rob Bottin, an understudy of Rick Baker, who would later astonish us with his work in John Carpenter's The Thing, among other work.
It is loosely based on a book by Gary Brandner and brings us the story of Karen White (Dee Wallace), a popular television news anchor who is on the trail of serial killer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo), who is menacing the city with unusually violent kills and now has his eye on Karen. She helps the police set up a trap for the murderer by meeting him in a seedy porno shop with a theater in the back. Eddie forces Karen to watch a video of a woman getting raped, but he won't let her see his face. He whispers that he has something to show her, and just as she turns around to look him in the eye, the police arrive and shoot him dead as she is screaming.
Suffering from PTSD, Karen is unable to recall the traumatic incident, and can't remember just what was so terrible that she was screaming. She also cannot render a mental picture of Eddie's face. What was so awful?
She tries traditional therapy at the urging of her husband Bill (Christopher Stone, who later married Wallace) but without success, prompting her therapist to suggest a getaway to The Colony, a secluded retreat north of the city.
Upon arrival, Karen and Bill are greeted by a conglomerate of unique, bordering on bizarre, resort-goers. They immediately take a special interest in the couple, trying to make them feel welcome and advising them to settle in, that they will "love it here". In particular, a sexy she-bitch Marsha Quist (Elisabeth Brooks) sets her sights on Bill, and eventually tries to seduce him outright. When he refuses her come-on, he is attacked and bitten by a huge wolf-creature on the way back to his cabin. Later in the middle of the night, Bill is seemingly 'called' to the woods, where Marsha is waiting for him. They have feral sex by a roaring fire and are soon seen shape-shifting into wolves. The next morning Karen notices the deep scratch wounds on Bill's back and realizes he has been with Marsha.
Unfortunately, Eddie isn't dead, and reappears just in time to thwart her plans to uncover the secret of the colony. Soon after, Karen and Chris (who has made his way to the Colony as well) are forced to face the truth about what is going on, and end up fighting for their lives, let alone their humanity. The scene in which Karen finally confronts Eddie and he transforms into a werewolf in front of her very eyes is one of my favorites in horror.
When I was a young teen, this flick was the bomb, I loved it. It holds a great amount of nostalgia for me, and I still find myself watching it again and again.
I can't say much for the mostly-horrible multiple sequels that followed, but I will vouch for the greatness of this '81 classic. If you've never seen it (who are you??), you need to take a trip up to The Colony. You won't be disappointed.