1981 was the year of the werewolf, with two major releases - An American Werewolf In London directed by Jon Landis and Joe Dante’s The Howling. While Werewolf seems to get all the accolades, for my money The Howling is a hell of a lot more entertaining and fun, for several reasons.
A sly and subversive sense of humor - characters eat Wolf brand chili and watch a 3 Little Pigs cartoon on TV.
A great cast - Dee Stone! Patric Macnee! John Carradine! Slim Fucking Pickins (as a werewolf sheriff, no less)!
Even greater cameos. Dante got his start with Roger Corman, and he turned to the repertory company for talent. Kevin McCarthy produces the news. Corman himself can be seen in a phone booth, but the best by far is the late, great Dick Miller running an occult book shop (special guest appearance by Forrest J. Ackerman).
Much has been made of the transformation scenes in the Landis film, but Dante’s are just as good, imo (Pre-CGI practical effects ftw).
But beyond anything else, the ending of The Howling is just so much more satisfying.
I watched it for the first time (The first time all the way through, that is. I thought I had never seen any of it, but eventually I realized I had zapped past that sex scene and werewolf effects when I was a wee zitty teen) last year as part of an October horror movie binge, and while I think Werewolf is the overall stronger movie, I enjoyed it a lot. My main problem was that the commune stuff drags a bit, even if it has a lot of funny touches. And since you brought up Corman alumni, I suspect a lot of credit for the sly and subversive stuff has to be shared with John Sayles.
The ending is great though, and it suggests a wider world in ways that Werewolf doesn’t, so it’s no wonder this one is what spawned endless sequels,
I’m not in the dating pool anymore but it was mostly smooth sailing on this side of the pond, as things lie. Almost as if any body hair has become frowned upon unless you’re rocking a lumberjack beard.