Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Howling 2, 4 and 7

While I love the first Howling movie and think it is a truly terrific horror movie, the same cannot be said for the sequels.   Oh, one or two are guilty pleasures for me.  But the rest... Dear lord, even I have to have some standards.  Let's get started because we're going for parts 2, 4 and 7 in one shot (haven't seen the most recent one and really don't want to have to).

Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1986)

Didn't include this in my 1986 series mainly because I try to go for the U.S. release dates on these things and I'd already done the guilty pleasures post by the time I realized it was unleashed that year, but also for purposes of space.  Besides, a movie this amazingly bad really has to be singled out.

Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf is quite possibly my favorite bad movie of all time.  I wrote a huge article on it for The Agony Booth several years ago so I'll try to be as brief as I can.  Horror legend Christopher Lee plays Stefan, a professional occult investigator who confronts the brother of Dee Wallace's character from the first film (the only connection to the first, really and the last for the duration of the series) and ends up enlisting his aid along with that of his girlfriend to take down an ancient and powerful werewolf named Stirba, played by Sybil Danning.

Objectively, the movie is just terrible with bad f/x, inane editing (transitions are done in as cheesy a manner as possible and there are flash cuts to random imagery throughout), a worthless plot and shamefully bad acting from a disinterested Lee.  Hell, even Reb Brown and Annie McEnroe fare better as the two leads and they aren't that good either.  Sybil Danning is... Well, her character is really only interesting in that she seems to have a taste for the worst in 80's fashion with some truly butt ugly outfits and a hairstyle that inspires screams of "Get that woman a comb!" rather than terror.

In spite of all that is wrong with it, I sort of love it to death as it is bad in an utterly fascinating way.  It fails in about every way possible but it's certainly not boring.  Director Philippe Mora does what he can but his second effort in the series is a marked improvement... though not by much.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988) 

 Here's where the wheels begin to come off as the fourth entry purports to stick a little closer to the original novel by Gary Brandner.   Romy Windsor plays an author who has been having strange and disturbing visions of nuns and werewolves.  Her shrink sends her to a small California town called Drago where she, along with her husband (Michael T. Weiss) proceed to follow more or less the same path the characters in the first one went down.  The wife gets spooked by wolf howls, the husband gets bitten by a werewolf and has an affair with a wolf woman, the climax has a huge fire with lots of folks turning into werewolves.

Really, this movie plays like the first one only without any of the energy and humor Joe Dante brought to the first one.  About the only notable things in the film are the typically awesome Steve Johnson f/x (they don't really come into play until the last ten minutes or so) and introduction of Clive Turner into the series.  Turner is the film's co-writer and co-producer and would play a part in the fifth and seventh films as well but we can get to him later.  The Steve Johnson f/x work at the end is quite good and almost makes the movie worth sitting through.  Thank God for fast forward, that way you can just see the rather impressive meltdown scene that leads to the first werewolf transformation.  Not sure who came up with that but it's nicely goofy and the only small saving grace of this dull movie.

The Howling: New Moon Rising (1995)

Ladies and germs, welcome to rock bottom. Some film franchises go on and on, changing and evolving, some merely fade away and then, sometimes, a franchise will blast itself out of existence in a blaze of glory.  The Howling: New Moon Rising is maybe the most incredible case of a franchise shooting itself in the head with a high powered rifle I have ever seen.  Clive Turner's ultimate contribution to the series, he not only wrote and produced it but also directed and took a starring role in it.  Oh yes, folks, we are in the land of vanity projects and based on what we see here, Clive Turner's vanity is just frigging weird.

The plot is vague as hell as Turner plays a drifter who finds his way to a small western town (the film uses the famous Pioneertown, location for tons of old westerns and also uses some of the residents as actors), evidently looking for a werewolf (the film is sort of vague on this point) but, as tends to be the case, suspicion falls on him.  Most of the film is pointless padding: country line dancing, weird comic bits, toilet humor, in total the film has only a few seconds of actual werewolf footage in it.

Said footage consists of a really bad morphing effect and a crappy werewolf mask at the end.  The rest of the film uses stock footage from the fourth and fifth movies as a way to set up the shock reveal of the real werewolf (turns out it's a side character from the fifth movie who turned out to be the werewolf then as well).  The film is just an incoherent, bizarre, pointless string of footage cobbled together in a vain effort to make a movie.

Like I said, the franchise goes out in a blaze of glory.  Of these three, the second movie ends up being the best by sheer virtue of being absolutely insane.  The others... Well, I'm not covering them so that should tell you something.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.