The Howling: Studies in the Horror Film book review

1981 was a landmark year for horror fans with the arrival on the bigscreen of two films that would revolutionise the werewolf movie: John Landis' An American Werewolf in London and Joe Dante's The Howling. While the former film remains as popular as ever, it often feels like The Howling has never really been given its due – a situation that film historian Lee Gambin sets out to remedy with this latest instalment in the 'Studies in the Horror Film' series of books from US publisher Centipede Press .

If the author's name seems familiar, it's probably due to his Blu-ray commentaries for such films as Carrie, Berserk and Homicidal. Those of you who have heard any of Gambin's chat-tracks will be pleased to learn that he brings the exact same enthusiasm, knowledge and passion to his writing.

The book breaks the film down scene-by-scene, with Gambin recapping onscreen events and offering analysis of the themes at play, from the reoccurring topic of duality to satirical critiques of the media and Esalen-style 'healing' communities. The effusive praise for actors Dee Wallace and Belinda Balaski gets a little repetitive, but it hammers home how enthusiastic Gambin is about the film. And he's right: they really do give superb performances.

Interspersed with all of this are brand-new interview extracts from pretty much everybody you'd hope to hear from about making The Howling. This includes director Joe Dante, co-writers John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless, composer Pino Donaggio, cinematographer John Hora and most of the cast – including the late, great Dick Miller, who sadly passed away on the day this review was being written. Together these interviews offer a fascinating, funny, comprehensive and only occasionally contradictory account of the film's production. The book is also illustrated with a wonderful collection of stills, rare behind-the-scenes photos and production art.

All told, it's enough to make you want to watch The Howling again – which is surely the point.

The Howling: Studies in the Horror Film, Lee Gambin, Centipede Press, $35