Full Moon Features: The Howl of the Devil (1988)

This month’s Flower Moon is also a Super Blood Moon, so I’ve chosen a film that is appropriately bloody for this month’s Full Moon Feature. While Paul Naschy’s El aullido del diablo, a.k.a. The Howl of the Devil, isn’t strictly a werewolf film, it does include a brief appearance by his signature character, Waldemar Daninsky, one of many monsters he appears as over the course of what turns out to be a particularly perverted psycho-sexual odyssey. Naschy’s most monstrous character, though, is the decidedly human Hector Doriani, a failed stage actor living in the shadow of his dead brother Alex, a horror star of the ’70s who killed himself in 1981 — coincidentally the same year the last successful Waldemar Daninsky film, The Night of the Werewolf, was released.

Holed up in his spacious country house, the pitiful Hector propositions his comely maid Carmen (Caroline Munro), who repeatedly resists his advances. Frustrated, he gets his kicks by sending his chauffeur Eric (Jesús Franco regular Horward Vernon) out to pick up young women so he can play twisted sex games with them while dressed up as such villains as Rasputin, Bluebeard, and Fu Manchu. After each has been paid off by Eric and sent packing, though, they’re knifed to death by a figure in black wearing a creepy mask and leather gloves. Meanwhile, Hector’s nephew Adrian (played by Naschy’s son Sergio) has an active imaginary life in which he interacts with various classic movie monsters. This gives Naschy the chance to not only dust off Waldemar’s fangs and fur, but also get made up as Frankenstein’s Monster (which Adrian calls “Frankie”), Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera, and Quasimodo, who says of Waldemar, “He’s dealing with destiny, like all of us.”

There’s a note of resignation in that, as Naschy knew his days of making horror films at a rapid clip were behind him. (In the mid-’70s, he was writing and starring in as many as seven a year.) It’s not surprising, then, that he went out of his way to make sure he could play as many monsters as possible in this, which he deemed “a modest homage to Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Jack Pierce” and the Universal horrors he fell in love with as a child. A film like The Howl of the Devil can’t get by on nostalgia alone, though, hence the gory slasher-type murders and the moments where Eric is seen performing black magic in an attempt to summon Alex and compel him to cross the barrier of death and rejoin him and Adrian. That Eric doesn’t consider what he would look like after spending seven years in the grave proves how shortsighted he is.

As for Adrian, while he reveres his dead father and watches his films at every opportunity, the walls of his bedroom are not only festooned with photographs of Alex in his various monstrous disguises, but also posters for Rambo: First Blood Part II and An American Werewolf in London. Considering it was the latter’s innovative makeup effects that left Naschy’s own efforts in the dust, it’s not for nothing that Adrian tells Waldemar to his furry face that he’s “the best and most tragic of them all.”