*. In my notes on Train to Busan I mentioned how that film showed glimmers of being something more than just another zombie movie. Mainly because it was about zombies on a train. Unfortunately, that didn’t make it different enough.
*. Howl seems like it might be a new twist on the werewolf genre because it’s about werewolves on a train. But it falls short too. They’re both good movies, but they give the sense of having left something on the table, an unrealized potential.
*. To extend the comparison between the two movies, they’re both (a) set mainly on trains, and (b) deal with a group of besieged passengers who have to work together in order to survive, but who eventually fall out and start fighting among themselves.
*. I’d also add that where they both try to be a bit different is in the changes they make to their iconic monsters. The zombies in Train to Busan aren’t really zombies (purists will argue) and the creatures in this movie aren’t conventional werewolves. But they’re close enough, so those are the labels I’m using. And the fact that the monsters are different, without being all that different, gives some idea of the limitations faced by such genre fare.
*. Howl is an easy movie to like because it has a low-key sense of humour and because the hero, Joe (Ed Speleers), is such an agreeable fellow. He’s young, good-looking, and going nowhere in what seems to be a terrible job. And that same sense of averageness characterizes the entire cast. These aren’t beautiful people with interesting lives. In fact, they seem like a bunch of losers. Who else would be riding this midnight train?
*. The decision to set the movie on a train isn’t easy to understand. The fact that the train isn’t moving kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Once it’s stopped it might as well be just another cabin in the woods.
*. I don’t think it’s really possible, by the way, for a passenger train, even on such a run as this, to stop dead on the tracks all night without someone bothering to check in. As Adrian says at one point, the nearest town is only a couple of miles away.
*. The werewolves, it has to be said, are really disappointing. They’re just people walking around in silly-looking rubber suits. I did like their crooked legs and eyes that glow in the dark, but not enough is made of this. There are also no big transformation scenes, which are sort of a werewolf-movie staple. The director, Paul Hyett, is perhaps best known for his special make-up effects on films like The Descent and Dog Soldiers (another werewolf movie), so this was a bit of a letdown.
*. I wonder if they thought of making it in black and white, just for fun. I mean, there is no colour in this movie at all. Even the blood looks black. But then photography in black-and-white is a different skill altogether from shooting in colour and maybe there aren’t a lot of people who still know how to do it.
*. The sound seemed particularly bad to me, as I had a lot of trouble making out what people were saying. But that might just be me getting older. In any event, I think I must have missed something. Why are they still so afraid of other werewolves being outside the train after they kill the first one? Had they seen more than one?
*. It’s kind of pointless calling out characters in a horror movie for doing something incredibly stupid that puts them at risk, but even so I have to register my amazement at the bookworm Matthew deciding to take a long walk in the woods when he hears someone calling for help, especially as he is supposed to be assisting Billy (the mechanic) in fixing the train. I mean, come on. That makes no sense at all, and just tells you five minutes in advance that Matthew is about to be killed.
*. Poor Billy is written off a bit casually, isn’t he? He’s almost the co-hero of the piece, often seen taking a stand alongside Joe. I was sort of surprised Joe didn’t try to help him.
*. I don’t think this is a major contribution to the genre, and it doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s a decent enough flick to pass the time. It was released direct-to-video, which I think is right. Though I’m not sure how much longer that distinction will mean anything.