From the very first scene, The Howling plays around with the notion of vulnerability as a role-playing exercise, a pseudo-sex game.
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
The ironic use of every seventies psychological cliche in an unapologetic, unabashed B-movie elevates The Howling to irresistible silliness. Written and directed by Joe Dante, who comes to us straight from the horror-movie forge of Roger Corman, The Howling pays enthusiastic scenic homage to B-movies while remaining faithful to the exploitation formula of the genre. [15 May 1981]
Yes, Rick Baker won the Oscar a year down the line for his American Werewolf In London FX. And, yes, they are staggering. But it is Rob Bottin's work here (with inflatable air bags under a latex "skin" and a pioneering "hydraulic snout") that is — and ever shall be — the pinnacle of mutation effects. Amen.
Succeeds best as a witty, knowing commentary on the genre itself. References to lycanthropic lore, literature and cinema abound; gags are plentiful; and the whole thing casts a pleasingly skeptical glance at various social fashions and fads of the times.
Despite its excesses, "The Howling" has some tricks and jokes worth howling about. The sexual undercurrents in the werewolf myth have been made playfully explicit, especially in the sultry, voluptuous form of Elisabeth Brooks, cast as a nympho werewolf named Marsha. When she ambushes a victim in the woods, they change forms in the course of coupling strategically obscured by a blazing campfire in the foreground -- a deliberate howl of a sex scene. [13 March 1981, p.C1]