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“People stop me all over the world about The Howling. It has a huge following,” said Dee Wallace. “I think it’s a really good horror film with really good special effects.
The 1981 thriller The Howling tackled the werewolf legend with a contemporary jab at the self-help psychology at the time. How would humans act if they weren’t repressed was a key theme for the cult classic.
1. The writer has a part.
Screenwriter John Sayles wrote the last draft of the screenplay. He had previously worked with director Joe Dante on Piranha (1978). The Howling had a similar mix of humor and horror to their previous collaboration. Sayles was also cast as a morgue attendant so he’d be there during the production. Dante said, “I like to put the writer in the movie if possible. It’s nice to have the writer on the set, and if you’re on a location, chances are they’re not going to want to fly them there.”
2. The couple was a couple in real life.
Dee Wallace said, “They couldn’t find anybody to play the husband, and Chris and I were engaged at the time.” Wallace didn’t think that they would test Chris Stone if they knew he was her fiancé, so it was kept a secret. His audition went well, and when they called to inform him that he got the part, Dee answered and blew their cover.
3. Dee Wallace was method.
Wallace said, “I really haven’t figured out quite yet how to be the character and then not be the character when they say, ‘Cut!’” She preferred not to rehearse scenes or prepare in advance so she could be in the moment when cameras filmed. The director and crew felt that her approach brought an authenticity to the scenes but recognized it was hard for her to transition to the comedic scenes after the heavier ones. Wallace is considered a “scream queen” today for her appearances in other scary movies such as The Hills Have Eyes, Cujo, and Critters.
4. There’s a nod to another horror film.
Dick Miller plays Walter Paisley. That’s also the name of his character in A Bucket of Blood (1959), directed by Roger Corman (who has a cameo in the film and a special thanks credit). According to director Joe Dante, Miller appeared in all of his films, except one because his scenes were cut. While Miller’s part in The Howling was only a day’s work, it had an impact on the actor. “It’s still my favorite part with 150 pictures behind me,” Miller said.