HOWLING: HALLOWEEN 2015
(Posted: 27 October 2015)

Werewolf movies rarely grow into series. Not only are there few of them, but the biggest werewolf series is also quite shit. Yes, we're talking about "The Howling". The series has 8 installments, with the last one released just a few years ago. As with "The Amityville Horror", only the first movie is great. There are several reasons why there is a serious lack of werewolf franchises, but the two biggest are probably that werewolf movies never did that well, and making a modern werewolf movie requires werewolf effects.

The original "The Howling" came out in the early '80s when the werewolf genre was finally beginning to grow into its final form. "The Howling" and "An American Werewolf in London" lead the way to the modern werewolves, where the designs were large, scary wolves and not wolf men. The first movie was strange enough in its execution that it allowed for sequels to change it up quite a bit, but I don't think anyone could have anticipated what the series would become with movies like "Howling III" and "Howling VI: The Freaks".

After pushing ourselves through a horrible series of movies with "The Amityville Horror" franchise, we decided that we had to cover yet another bad series. So we bring to you the Howling: Halloween 2015 list, where we yet again list the movies from best to worst!


THE HOWLING (1981)
Director: Joe Dante

Part of me thinks of "The Howling" as one of the best werewolf movies out there. But another part of me knows that it has aged worse than some other titles, and overall has a strange, hippie-like plot that doesn't pull me in quite as much as "An American Werewolf in London" did with its sympathetic lead and comedy. But in the end, as a werewolf movie I find "The Howling" to be fantastic. From its menacing society of werewolves, to its dark and foggy woods, it certainly captures my fears of a werewolf more than most do. The transformation of Eddie is up there with the best of them, and the actual look of these werewolf top them all. They're evil, hungry beasts and scare me way beyond what the werewolf in "An American Werewolf in London" ever could. "The Howling" feels like one of few modern (post-70s) werewolf movies to bring up the same atmosphere that I get from watching the original "The Wolfman", and you can probably thank Joe Dante's obvious love for the myths for that. Despite its flaws, "The Howling" is without a doubt up there with the very best werewolf movies of all time. Wish I could say the same about its sequels...

 

HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IN A WEREWOLF (1985)
Director: Philippe Mora

"Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf" (or the amazing "Howling II: Stirba - Werewolf Bitch") is the only direct sequel in the series (but still manages to screw up the most simple continuation: it claims no one saw the tape of Karen White transforming on the News cast.... but it aired live in the original!? We saw people watching it! Oh well). With the first sequel in the series, Philippe Mora created his modernized Hammer film packed with gothic settings, Christopher Lee and all! But amongst the Euro-styled horror there is also a punk-vibe flowing through it that makes it rather strange movie. But then again, this is the director who went on to make an even crazier sequel with "Howling III". There's plenty going on in this movie and it's way more eventful than some of the later sequels. That said, it is very cheesy and brings on a story that doesn't really matter. I mean, it's a fun idea to have a queen werewolf and her little werewolf army, but as a plot it's just a tad confusing and pointless. Luckily the movie has a variety of werewolves to look at (from the so called "monkey" stage, to the full-blown werewolves), eyes popping out of skulls, arms being ripped off, Reb Brown, Sybil Danning's boobs, a transformation scene mid-sex that resembles "An American Werewolf in London" and, as we said before, Christopher Lee! Yes, the movie is pretty bad, but it is one of the most entertaining sequels in this otherwise shitty series.

 

HOWLING III (1987)
Director: Philippe Mora

This is insanity. This is madness. It’s mind boggling how Philippe Mora went from the bad-but-entertaining Hammer influenced sequel of “Howling II” to the “Howling III”. A movie that is 10 shades of bat-shit insane. Forget the idea of being creeped out by atmosphere or having the white-knuckle tension of someone trying to escape from the jaws of a werewolf. What you get with “Howling III” is nothing short of an absurd comedy that’s laced with ham-fisted social commentary. There’s an interesting idea where werewolves are viewed through a sympathetic light and exist as a new species of marsupial rather than being nothing more than a monster. All of that takes a backseat to the random ideas of a director who could only be described as a madman. Ideas of werewolf nuns with laughable puppet-like effects, a self-referential subplot (a movie about making a movie), a werewolf using mystics to transform into an even bigger werewolf, a zombie werewolf...Hell, even Alfred Hitchcock shows up. Alfred Hitchock! Why? Because fuck you, that’s why. “Howling III” is a nonsensical and inconsistent mess but it’s never not entertaining simply because of how unrestrained the absurdity is. On one hand, it is a shame because there was a good story with some interesting subtext buried underneath the ridiculousness that could have resulted in an intelligent and effective movie had it been made differently. Then again, “Howling III” is so goddamn nuts that it’s hilarious.

 

HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH (1989)
Director: Neal Sundstrom

Is it strange that what could be the most well liked sequel in “The Howling” series is the one that is the least like a werewolf movie? “The Rebirth” is a little bit of an oddity in that while it is a werewolf movie, you never actually get a werewolf. At best you get a fuzzy glove with claws. Instead the movie is actually a pretty decent murder-mystery, even with the few laughable moments where characters deliver dialogue where they sound like they’re playing a rousing game of “Clue”. The location and set designs in the movie are incredible and effectively used in an ever twisting whodunit story that’ll keep most viewers guessing. And even though there are some great moments of a werewolf hiding in the shadows down in the catacombs where our cast wanders aimlessly, it is that werewolf element that is the worst aspect of the movie. If anything, simply because it serves no greater purpose to the story. It could be replaced with anything — person or monster. As a sequel to the original “The Howling”, “The Rebirth” is an awful followup. Again, because it’s not a werewolf movie, and it ultimately has nothing to do with any of the other films. However, if you look at it as a stand alone movie with these unusual story element to it, then it’s not so bad and has some respectable qualities to it.

 

HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS (1991)
Director: Hope Perello

The sequels in the “The Howling” series might not be great but you have to give the movies credit for the fact that they at least tried to do something different (well, maybe not “The Howling: Reborn”) in comparison to other horror series. “Howling VI: The Freaks” is one of those sequels. There is an interesting plot with it being about a man who transforms into a werewolf becoming a sideshow attraction. You don’t even mind that there’s a step-down in effects and creature design where we’re given a classic “Wolf-Man” look, as opposed to the nightmarish monsters we’ve had for the last five movies, because of the neat little concept that “The Freaks” has. Where the movie fails is that it does nothing with its concept. Instead of spending time with characters that are interesting and helping to create an emotional element for the movie, it’s wasted on extraneous dialogue exchanges. Instead of exploring the conflict between Ian and R.B. Harker, the movie’s runtime is wasted on the pointless characters of the small town that the carnival ends up at (I mean really, who gives a shit about the guy running for mayor). The film downgrades even further into cheap schlock as the big twist is revealed about R.B. and it turns into one of the most boring monster battles ever captured on film. “Howling VI” isn’t bad and there was a good concept with some good characters, but it’s all squandered on a movie that meanders around until it clumsily stumbles into its failed attempt at a memorable ending.

 

HOWLING IV: THE ORIGINAL NIGHTMARE (1988)
Director: John Hough

"Howling IV: The Original Nightmare" is the only sequel to actually feel like it belongs in the same series. It's probably because this is a remake in that it went back to the book and retold the story. The movie is incredibly boring, filled with horrible acting, and don't get me started with the sound design. It sounds like they recorded everything through a can before dubbing it. The worst part about this movie is that it could have been the best sequel if it just dared to show its werewolf and killings more. The effects are actually perfect '80s cheese. The weird transformation scene brings out its best "The Incredible Melting Man" imitation, and the final werewolf is the most fucked up and vicious looking werewolf I have ever seen. But all of this happens in the last 10-or-so minutes of the movie, and by then we are already so fucking bored that it only annoys us that they kept it hidden for so long. The werewolf doesn't even get a chance to do anything, as it's just standing there in a burning clock tower. The scary woods atmosphere of the original is somewhat present here, but because they failed to entertain us from the start and we truly hate everyone on screen, there is nothing to be scared of. This is a bad movie and there is no other way to describe it. Still, the last 10 minutes keeps this from being the worst sequel of the series.

 

THE HOWLING: REBORN (2011)
Director: Joe Nimziki

"The Howling" series has done a lot of strange things through the years, but who the hell thought that what the series needed was a "Twilight" tribute? "The Howling: Reborn" is competently made by all means, but the plot and characters are just a pain. The movie tried to make cash on two things at the same time, and it just doesn't work. This is a sappy movie about a teen werewolf, his teenage angst, and his human girlfriend. You quickly realize that "The Howling" had more dignity when it was about weirdos in a freak show, or an absurd comedy about marsupial werewolves, than it does as a "Twilight" rip-off. Towards the end of the movie we actually get some decent werewolf costumes, which is an important aspect of any werewolf movie, but it is wasted on a battle between two werewolves who constantly keep pushing each other through paper thin walls. I don't really enjoy watching two werewolves fighting each other. It was fun in the pilot episode of "Werewolf", but other than that I'll rather watch a werewolf hunt a human (or, by all means, the other way around!). "The Howling: Reborn" might be a decent movie if it is watched by its demographic, but that demographic is not fans of "The Howling" or its sequels.

 

HOWLING: NEW MOON RISING (1995)
Director: Clive Turner

As bad as the other “Howling” sequels are, at the end of the day, at least they can still be considered movies. Which is more than what can be said for “Howling: New Moon Rising” — a perfect example of people putting in the least amount of effort into making a movie that leaves you wondering why they even bothered. There are two movies here: the first is a priest talking to a detective about evil werewolf spirits where clips from past “Howling” films are shown, and the other is an insanely boring character piece that’s set at a bar where nothing but horrible attempts at comedy happen. These two polarizing elements are shoved together to produce one unbearable and unwatchable movie. So much of the film is about nothing — it is spent with a random assortment of characters in a western bar. Most of these scenes are intended to be played for laughs but the comedy is nauseatingly bad. It’s impossible not to get extraordinarily angry at the movie just for the comedy alone. The priest and the cop are the ones who are giving us, and this movie, its werewolf element but it has nothing to do with the other part of the movie and it’s all told through clips. It’s the cheapest and laziest way you can make a movie. It’s so lazy that it could be admirable if it wasn’t so goddamn infuriating. The two sides of the story eventually converge at the end where we get to see the werewolf for “New Moon Rising” and it’s even cheaper and shittier than the movie itself. In general, “Howling: New Moon Rising” is so effortless and piss poor that it can’t even qualify as a movie.

 

There you have it! A rather poor horror franchise with 8 movies in it. But hey, at least we didn't have to sit through all the "Amityville" movies! Oh...wait...

This was a harder list to rank than "The Amityville Horror" because that series was all over the place, thus having more obvious titles with low, mid and high ratings. With "The Howling", there were several titles we had to spend time discussing the placements of because they were equally bad but in different ways. But this is a placement of all the titles that we're happy with. We hope you you try to avoid the majority of them, but at least there are some fun moments for werewolf fans if you decide to watch some on the days leading up to Halloween night.





 

Like us on Facebook



"City of Rott: Streets of Rott" Press Release
Best of 2016
Best of 2015
Underrated Horror Movies That Aren't Underrated: A Halloween List
Howling: Halloween 2015
Amityville: Halloween 2015
A Stephen King Halloween for 2015
"Tales of the Dim" Press Release
Best of 2014
Full Moon Favorites
A '90s Halloween
Best of 2013
A Profane Preview
A Netflix Halloween for 2013
"German Angst" on Kickstarter
The Sexploitation/Erotica List
Ronny's Arthouse Films List #2
Best of 2012
Worst of 2012
Halloween list: Mockumentaries

Special Feature Archives



 
 
TOP 10 OF LAST YEAR:
1. Fires on the Plain
2. What We Do in the Shadows
3. We Are Still Here
4. Spring
5. Makeup Room
6. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
7. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
8. Shadow Zombie
9. Honeymoon
10. Nina Forever
Taken from Best of 2015



CURRENT FAVORITE
DISTRIBUTORS:
- Mondo Vision
BFI
- Second Run DVD