Notes: Avco Embassy Pictures Corp. 91 minutes. MPAA rating: R.
Directed: Joe Dante
Produced: Daniel H. Blatt
Based on the novel by Gary Brandeur

Karen White: Dee Wallace
George Waggner: Patrick McNee
Chris: Dennis Dugan
Terry Fisher: Belinda Balaski
R. William Neill (Bill): Christopher Stone
Marsha: Elisabeth Brooks
T.C.: Don McLeod
Eddie: Robert Picardo
Sam Newfield: Slim Pickens
Eric Kenton: John Carradine
Fred Francis: Kevin McCarthy

Karen, our intrepid television news lady, goes to a phone booth, which has a yellow smiley face sticker on it, in a seedy part of town to await a phone call from Eddie, from whom she has been receiving "mysterious phone calls." They have been trying to link him to some grisly murders in the downtown area. She is miked, but the people back at the television station lose contact with her and when Eddie calls, they don't hear where he tells her to meet him. Her husband Bill flips out because now the cops can't follow her.

Karen goes into a booth with a yellow smiley face sticker on it at the back of a porn shop. She sits down. It's dark, and Eddie starts a rape film for her to watch. He tells her, "She didn't feel a thing, Karen. None of them do. They're not real people her, they're dead. They could, they could never be like me. But you're different, Karen. I've watched you on T.V., and I know how good I could make you feel. I'm going to light up your whole body, Karen." Eddie does some heavy breathing (panting?) and in a strange, slightly garbled voice tells her, "Turn around now, Karen, I want to give you something." Two officers are looking for her in the shop as Eddie jumps her. They run back and one starts shooting through the door, killing the unarmed Eddie. The porn shop guy says, "I knew I shouldn't 'a' let that broad back here."

Afterwards, Karen doesn't remember what happened. At home she has a nightmare while napping on her couch, and husband Bill comforts her.

Terry and Chris, the cute unmarried couple who seem to be researchers at the station, follow a lead on Eddie's identity, and the landlord lets them into his apartment. The walls are covered with news clippings of the murders and weird drawings, one of which is a seascape. Eddie has signed all his work, with his full name. They take their findings to Dr. George Waggner for his professional opinion; they've had him on a local show touting his book, The Gift, about man's animal urges.

Karen isn't feeling any better. Bill puts the move on her and she pushes him away. Then her boss Fred Francis puts her on the news because "everyone wants to see the lady who fought Eddie the Mangler" and she flakes out on air. Francis says, "Who knows, maybe she's pregnant."

Karen talks to Dr. Waggner about her problems, but still can't remember anything. Waggner recommends that she come out to the Colony, some communal living group he's founded on the coast, to rest and relax. "I hope these people aren't too weird," Karen tells Bill on the drive up. The next shot is a close-up of Old Guy hollering. Everyone is on a beach at night for a barbecue. There is the obligatory giant-carcass-on-a-spit roasting over a fire. Most of the people are rednecks and loonies. Later in the evening Old Guy starts muttering about how he "can't go on like this. Damn teeth are shot." Bill meets Marsha, a creepy (in a beautiful way) lady who acts like she's going to jump him at any moment. Meanwhile her creepy (in a backwoods way) brother, T.C., is giving Karen the eye. Marsha gets mad at Waggner, telling him to keep his book away from her brother. "You've done enough damage already," she says, then whips her head around to give Karen a meaningful glare. Later she's still eyeing Bill when Old Guy freaks out and starts saying, "I gotta end it, I gotta burn, I want to end it, it just goes on and on," etc.

That night Karen hears howling in the woods. She wakes up Bill and it stops; he tells her it was the wind. She can't sleep and sits in front of the fire and hears something outside. She wanders out there with a flashlight to shine around. We get to watch her from the bushes. Then there's a weird noise and she runs back inside.

The next day, Terry and Chris want to check out Eddie's wolfman tattoo, so they go to the morgue. Eddie's cubbyhole is empty and the interior of the door is pretty battered.

It's night again at the Colony. Karen and her new friend Donna are sitting outside. There's another weird noise, different from the weird noises of the previous evening. Donna suggests it's a cow, but Karen says it doesn't sound like any cow she ever heard. They take a shotgun and a flashlight into the woods and find a cow who has met a rather messy and violent end. The flashlight goes out. The sheriff and some other guy show up and say there's no way a coyote could have killed that cow.

The next day, the men go wolf hunting and take Bill, who isn't experienced in this sort of thing. One guy says, "Who needs dogs? We got T.C.," who happens to be running ahead of all of them and looks like he's going to drop to all fours at any moment. Meanwhile, Karen has a therapy session. Bill manages to shoot a rabbit.

Back in the city, Terry and Chris are looking for stuff at an old bookstore. The bookstore guy gives them some useful information. "Your classic werewolf can change shape anytime it wants, day or night, whatever it takes a notion to. That's why they're called shapeshifters. They're worse than cockroaches. They come back from the dead if you don't kill 'em right. Plus they regenerate . . . They may look dead, but bam! three days later they're good as new." He shows them some silver bullets someone ordered and then never picked up.

Bill doesn't know what to do with the rabbit because he doesn't eat meat. T.C. tells Bill that if he kills something he doesn't eat, it's a sin, and suggests that he get Marsha to cook it. He watches her hack the fluffy bunny with a meat cleaver. She kisses him and eventually he pushes her away. Walking back to his bungalow, he's attacked by something. He staggers the rest of the way. Waggner gives him a rabies shot and advises Karen and Bill they shouldn't travel so soon after the shot, so they have to remain at the Colony.

Terry and Chris are watching The Wolf Man when they get a phone call from Karen, who is flaking out again because Bill was attacked by a wolf. Terry heads up to the Colony. Karen tells her that she thinks Marsha's moving in on Bill. Later Terry, who brought the food, has forgotten that Bill doesn't eat meat. Bill, who is scarfing down a leg of something that had a face, says, "I get hungry enough, I'll eat anything." That night Karen puts the moves on Bill and he rejects her, blaming the rabies shot. Karen has more weird dreams while weird noises come in from outside. She wakes up and Bill is gone. Meanwhile, Bill is out in the woods and finds Marsha beside a large bonfire. They get naked amid much howling from the woods. Terry has a hard time sleeping with all the weird howls, and she gets out her cassette recorder to tape them. Marsha and Bill get truly bestial. Bill slathers some rather vile saliva. Marsha's noises of ecstasy sound like a car driving through a tunnel. Waggner is in his office looking distressed at all the wild animal noises in the woods. Marsha gives Bill some love gouges on his back.

The next day Terry sits on the beach and listens to the tape. Bill wanders back to his own bungalow. Terry gets the right perspective and recognizes the seascape from Eddie's drawing. She heads back through the dark forest and sees a cabin. Watching her from behind, we get a glimpse of a furry ear as something raises its head. She approaches the cabin, hears weird noises from the woods and enters. We get a ground level shot of large, furry feet in the woods. Terry explores the cabin and takes pictures of the strange things on the walls. She sees a yellow smiley face sticker on a door and goes through. As she's taking photos of this room, the back wall starts to shudder and shake. She closes the door and gets the front window open just as something breaks through the door. She rolls out, grabs an axe that's sitting nearby, and crawls up under the cabin. She's pursued by the beast and chops off its lower arm, which pulses and writhes. She's long gone by the time it turns into a human hand. Terry runs all the way back to Waggner's office (he has the only phone at the Colony) to call Chris. A clawed hand starts her tape recorder while she's on the phone.

Karen wakes up from a nightmare. "Jesus, Bill, where'd you get those scratches on your back?" She compares Marsha to a bitch in heat and Bill hits her. Karen runs away.

Terry tells Chris what happened to her and says Waggner must be in on it. He tells her to look in his files for Eddie's. She finds it and finally notices the werewolf sitting on top of the file cabinet when he grabs the file from her hand. It chases her around the office for awhile, then picks her up and looks at her for awhile, then takes a rather large bite out of her neck. Chris hears the commotion on the line and hangs up to call the sheriff, and then goes to the bookstore to buy the silver bullets.

Karen goes to Waggner's office to use the phone. Terry's neck is still bubbling when she arrives. She heads for phone and Eddie appears, in human form. He pulls the bullet which "killed" him out of his head and begins a very slow metamorphosis. It sounds like rain hitting a tarpaulin or microwaving popcorn. It certainly looks painful; there's lots of quivering, heaving, popping, stretching, and lumps rolling under the skin. When he finishes, Karen throws some sort of corrosive substance at him and escapes.

Chris gets delayed at the gas station.

The sheriff and Donna's husband grab Karen when she gets to her car and drag her to a big barn, the Ritual Center where the Colony has gathered. Terry's gory body is laid out. Karen runs to Waggner, who gently pushes her away.

Chris races through traffic.

Karen asks where Bill is, and she's told, "He's one of us now." Old Guy says, "We should've stuck with the old ways. Raising cattle for our feed, where's the life in that?" Some other members of the Colony say, "Humans are our cattle," and "Humans are our prey!" Waggner is essentially deposed as their leader. T.C. is bitter because Terry chopped off his arm and it hasn't grown back yet. Old Guy tells Waggner, "You can't tame what's meant to be wild, Doc. It ain't natural."

Chris makes it to Waggner's office. The recorder is playing, covered in blood. He goes to the file cabinet, and the tape becomes the recording of his conversation with Terry and her subsequent demise. Eddie, looking a bit worse than before, surprises him and gets his gun, but then tosses it back to him, offering his chest for Chris to shoot. "Don't you know anything?!" Eddie says, assuming the bullets can't kill him. Chris shoots Eddie, and he dies.

Chris runs to the Ritual Center and is approached by T.C. Chris shoots him, and he doesn't get up again. Everyone else moves closer. One guy says, "Silver bullets my ass," and Chris shoots him. Waggner closes in on Chris because he wants to be shot, and Chris obliges. Karen and Chris lock the rest in the barn and set fire to it. They stand to watch and reload the gun, then head for the car. The werewolves break out of the barn and there's a quick shot of Waggner's face looking towards the heavens. They howl a lot, then attack the car. Karen shoots and Chris drives. The sheriff has blockaded the road and shoots out Chris' tires. Chris shoots him and they run for the cop car. It won't start and and werewolves paw at the windows. One breaks through the rear window and climbs into the car as they drive off; it chomps Karen's shoulder and she shoots it over her shoulder. She looks back and it's Bill. Karen says, "We have to warn people, Chris. We have to make them believe."

Now Karen is on the news again for an exclusive, eyewitness report on that fire at the Colony. "Good evening. From the day we're born, there is a battle we must fight, a struggle between what is kind and peaceful in our natures, and what is cruel and violent. That choice is our birthright as human beings and the real gift that differentiates us from the animals. It is as natural to us as the air we breathe, all of us take it for granted. But now for some of us that choice has been taken away. A secret society exists and is living among all of us. [Here she starts rolling her head.] They're neither people nor animal, but something in between. They're monstrous mutations with violent natures that must be satisfied. I know what you're thinking because I've been [more twitching] wh-where you are. And [I can't figure out this line], but I have proof, and tonight I'm going to show you something [her eyes look freaky] to make you believe." She screams, which turns into a howl; her co-anchor runs away. She looks like the product of a union between Chewbacca and a Yorkie. Chris shoots her. The producer regains control and switches to a dog food commercial.

Most of the viewers think it was special effects. In a bar where there is some dispute over whether it was real, Marsha orders her burger rare. We watch the burger fry for the entire credits (if we have the patience), and then end with another scene from The Wolf Man.

This is pretty standard fare, with the good doctor trying to convince his Colony that they can still retain their humanity, but apparently he's the only one strong enough to do it. All the others regress and take to munching humans again. The emphasis is on the inevitability of the reversion to their violent natures, and the way that savagery reinforces itself, making the slip irreversible. The special effects of the change are mostly convincing, but the finished product is just strange. Their ears are huge, pointy things that look like furry party favors, well over a foot long. That is scary.

Stating the Obvious: Terry must be terribly near-sighted.

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