OR...I Blame Christopher Lee
THE HOWLING II: Your sister is a werewolf
I could give you a quick plot synopsis, but there are really only three things you need to know about this movie.:
ONE: It has its very own theme-song! (“The Howling by the band Babel. It is played several times throughout the film.)
TWO: It is incredibly, raucously, gleefully horny. Ridiculously horny. Werewolf ménage a troís and full on orgy horny.
THREE: It is not a good movie by any means, but if you’re in the mood for some early 80s horror cheese, this isn’t a bad choice.
After this, I shrugged and said what the heck and went on to
THE HOWLING III: The Marsupials
I had to check several times that this movie was even considered a part of the same franchise and didn't just coincidentally share the name, because it has just no connection whatsoever to the previous movie. But it’s its own weird little thing. I was worried that things weren’t making sense to me because I was multi-tasking and working while I was watching it, but…I’m pretty sure it’s just as nonsensical as it seemed. It’s set in Australia. For once the werewolves aren’t evil demons, but are marsupials as legend has it due to uh…interbreeding with the now extinct Thylacine. (As I said, it’s a weird one.) It has the most uncomfortable werewolf birth scene. I mean, I can handle quite a bit of gore and mayhem and not flinch (as long as it’s not eyeballs) but this had me cringing and looking away in discomfort. It is a pretty terrible movie, but it does have one actor hamming it up doing his best Hitchcock impersonation and a ballerina werewolf transformation - so it has that going for it.
This was becoming a mission now. Would any other movie in the franchise live up to the horniness of 2? (Spoiler: NO!) Would they all seem as completely unrelated to each other as 2 and 3? (Kind of, but later on at least An Attempt Was Made to connect some threads between movies.) At this point, I had decided I was going to watch every single one of these, so it was on to:
THE HOWLING IV: The Original Nightmare
As the title kind of indicates, this one could serve as the beginning of a franchise. According to IMDB, it more closely follows the novels by Gary Brandner than the original movie. This one is pretty forgettable and frankly a little boring, it feels like something we would have picked up in the horror section at Blockbuster and watched at a slumber party. It does have one of the grossest werewolf transformation scenes I've watched. So much goo.
Now on to:
THE HOWLING V: The Rebirth
This one could also be titled: "Hey, Let's all split up!" A group of people visit a Hungarian castle that has been mysteriously closed up for 500 years. What could go wrong, eh? This one hews along typical slasher movie lines with the group, you guessed it, splitting up (constantly splitting up!) and getting picked off one by one. Except in this case, the killer is a werewolf. It was no accident that these precise people (all with a wolf shaped birthmark on their arm!) were invited to the castle. We have ever shifting loyalties and suspicions, accidental killings of people who are mistaken for the werewolf, and I won't spoil it, but I will say that I was hoping for exactly the twist that we got.
THE HOWLING VI: The Freaks
A secretive drifter rolls into town. He does not receive a warm welcome. He is taken in by the local minister and his daughter. There is a construction montage as they fix up the church! Gotta love a good construction montage! The carnival comes to town. The leader of the carnival is obviously slimy! (And delightfully chewing the scenery. I do love me a good scenery chewer.) He has kidnapped a young man with a skin condition to be his alligator boy! The other people who work in the show are mean! The drifter and the minister's daughter go to the carnival, which is (unsurprisingly) not a bastion of political correctness. The drifter has a secret to keep! (Yes, the secret is that he is indeed a werewolf) The minister now thinks he is evil! The minister's daughter is sure that he is not! The alligator boy has befriended a kitten, and here is were we come to the most important part of the entire movie. The kitten does not die! And that's all you really need to know, right? Also the leader of the carnival also has a secret to keep (but no, he's not a werewolf, so I wonder what creature of the night he could be, hmmmmm...) But also, The kitten does not die! Despite the townspeople being (eventually) pretty decent about werewolf dude, for some reason at the end the alligator boy (Winston) and the werewolf walk off into the sunset and we can only hope they are on their way to a buddy comedy or something. With Winston the II (the kitty) as a sidekick.
THE HOWLING VII: New Moon Rising
A secretive drifter rolls into town. (Wait, where have I heard that before?) He does receive a warm welcome. This one is just so so so so so so so bad. But entertainingly so. Obviously the very lowest budget of the entire series. It feels like they rolled into Pioneertown, California (where the movie is set) and just asked the locals, "Hey, ya wanna make a movie?" (And judging by the wikipedia and IMDB pages about the movie, that's kind of what they did.) We throw in some footage from previous movies, and twist the plot into pretzels to connect them. I'm pretty sure the actress from way back in movie 4 just showed up and filmed for a day or two to pick up a paycheck (Hey, you get that money, honey! We all gotta pay the bills.) We have line dancing. We have random country music numbers (the best part of the movie, to be honest.) Nobody is a good actor, but it's kind of charming because nobody's really trying to be a good actor. Want a "So bad it's good" MST3K worthy movie? Yup, this one right here. I gotta admit a weird affection for this installment.
After that one, I took a few days off and started an AMC+ trial subscription so I could circle back and watch:
The original, the beginning! I do kind of wish I had been able to start with this one, not because it was at all necessary to follow the sequels, but just because I might have appreciated this one for what it was a little more. (i.e. not getting real close to just werewolf movied out.) Dee Wallace is pretty great as Karen in this. She's an intrepid news anchor in the gritty big city. The werewolf transformation is top-notch in this one, and one of my favorites that I've seen. (And although I know that "freeze" lives right alongside those "fight or flight" survival responses, I did want to yell "Why aren't you running!?" at the character watching the transformation in horror, because it did last quite a long time.) There were some funny little touches like "Wolf" brand chilli cans in scenes, and "Howl" by Alan Ginsberg on someone's desk. This was directed by Joe Dante, who later went on to direct "Gremlins" and you could see the first flickers of that mix of horror and humor in this movie. I will also confess that there's often a part of me that's thinking "do it!" when a character is invited into a community of monsters, and this movie was no exception. (Too much Clive Barker maybe? I dunno. I mean, they had their own island and her husband was already a werewolf!) It ends with our intrepid news anchor Karen transforming live on air after becoming a werewolf in order to warn the public about the impending lycanthrope threat! And this is back to where I started this journey, because The Howling II begins with her brother attending her funeral after she has been shot with a silver bullet.
And with a sigh of relief I was done...
There was a 2011 reboot, and I was committed, so I forked out the 3 bucks to rent:
THE HOWLING REBORN
Because all this series needed was some teenage angst and paranormal insta-romance! This was in the midst of the Twilight era, so why not, right? Throw in some pseudo-philosophizing, a downright terrible CGI morph transformation*, a fight scene in which you have no clue which furry beast you should be rooting for, and a plot twist that requires some mighty suspension of disbelief - and you've got this movie. (*Seriously, I laughed it was so terrible, and I have now watched a lot of really terrible transformation and werewolf effects. This one is terrible in that very specific CGI way.) It also did that thing where we fight and sacrifice and defeat evil, and...make that completely pointless during the end credits. Barf.
But on the upside, MY QUEST IS COMPLETE!
Unless the rumored Netflix remake happens...
Or I decide to read the novels...
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