.Howell at the Moon: ‘Werewolf Serenade’ at The Rafael

With four months until camp lovers can go to their local showing of Rocky Horror, the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael will be filling that hole with an 85-minute, campy, indie film on June 21. 

After the film screening, members of the cast and crew will hold a panel for Q&A. The film, Werewolf Serenade, serves as entertainment for the locavores of the Bay Area and wine valleys.

Like its title, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the audience isn’t expected to either. Director, actor and writer Daedalus Howell—editor of this very paper—wrote the script as a course project he was assigned while finishing his degree at San Francisco State in the late half of the pandemic. 

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Deciding to take it further, his wife, Kary Hess, joined him to make a husband-wife team making a film about a husband-and-wife team who elude evil and vastly improve their sex life.

Howell hopes that the film will fill the theater with laughter and excitement, as it had at the cast and crew screening in Petaluma. Hess and Howell (both artists, writers, filmmakers and journalists) chose their own town for the film’s setting. It’s an homage to the horror classics and to Petaluma, itself a movie town—think American Graffiti, Peggy Sue Got Married, Inventing the Abbotts and more. 

When the main character (played by Howell) runs through the town, growling and snarling, it’s the restaurant patrons at The Shuckery who turn with raised eyebrows. Easter eggs like that made the 280 attendees at the screening enjoy the film. 

The Kafkaesque narrative of the natural changes life brings is represented by the main character’s animal transformation. It’s this metaphor of lycanthropy that made the story so easy to write. “When you get to my age, at 51,” said Howell, “at this point, change is not just inevitable. You literally wake up with hair growing out of places you thought would’ve been impossible the night before.” 

Is that how the sideburns happened, Howell?

Peter MacTire, an on-the-nose tribute to the story Peter and the Wolf, is a college professor who notably hasn’t read Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse—which, of course, has everything to do with the plot. His faculty peer, Stu, is a professor in the leading parapsychology department in the nation, according to the dean (Alia Beeton). Stu is running a secret research project for a wealthy donor and winds up dying under suspicious circumstances.

As every mad scientist is doomed to be, Stu ends up as his own guinea pig. Now desperate for a new researcher so she can keep the donor’s funding, the dean recruits someone who has absolutely no expertise on the subject, Peter.

With Howell’s natural sideburns to cut monster prosthetic costs, Hess’ wolf saint portrait that was needed to cover a mirror on the wall and a character whose t-shirt is a blaring statement on his current predicament, the film is entertaining and easy to watch. 

Sitting in a theater, out of the summer heat, knowing one doesn’t have to look very far for the jokes or the Easter eggs may just make one want to howl at the night’s full moon. And do it because it’s not only recommended, but there’s a prize for the best one—yes, there’s a pre-show howling competition.

‘Werewolf Serenade’ full moon screening, conversation and howling contest, 9pm Fri, June 19 at Smith Rafael Film Center; rafaelfilm.cafilm.org/werewolf-serenade.

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