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Friday, August 22, 2014

Bad Movie Month cries wolf for The Howling II

With this look at Sorry Sequels during Bad Movie Month, you would think that there's not much to be surprised about with these halfhearted attempts to recapture the success of a cinematic feature. Well, after sitting through The Howling II, all I can say is "Surprise,bitch!"

This low budget 1985 follow-up(which has two subtitles-"Your sister is a werewolf" or " Stirba, Werewolf Bitch", take your pick!) to the 1981 big studio film that lead to director Joe Dante getting to make Gremlins is a straight to bargain basement affair, which puzzles me greatly.

 Why such a drastic fall in both content and budget? You can't blame the time gap between films because when Hollywood did finally make a sequel to American Werewolf in London(which came out around the same year as the first Howling), that one was well over ten years and change from the original and didn't look like it cost a buck fifty there.

Anyway, on deck as one of the major stars of this show is Christopher Lee as Stefan, a werewolf hunter who attends the funeral of Karen(Dee Wallace in the first film who fortunately did not have to turn up here) and informs her brother that his sis needs to be put down properly.

According to the wacky mythos unveiled over the course of this increasingly confusing story, if silver bullets are removed from a dead werewolf's body, they can rise from the grave unless staked,leading to the greatly awful line "No one's putting a stake in my dead sister!". Also, there are werewolves who are immune to silver and can only be killed by titanium. I know this was allegedly based on a book(Gary Brandner, who wrote a whole series of Howling novels) but you do get the feeling that they were making this up as they went along.

To be fair, the movie does sort of warn you about how off the wall it is before the opening credits. It's safe to say that any film that begins with Christopher Lee reading from the Book of Revelation in an outer space background is not going to be Shakespeare unless it's that version of Hamlet that MST3K covered:

Speaking of Mystery Science Theater, Reb Brown from "Space Mutiny"  plays the brother who winds up tagging along after Stefan to Transylvania(with a plucky gal reporter at his side).

His performance is not that much of a stretch from being "Big McLarge Huge" in that stinker but perhaps a bit more dignity. He teams up with Stefan to stop a big world wide attack of werewolves due to their witch queen coming into her full power during the full moon(my best guess at the threat at hand). Yes, we have werewolves who can do magic, folks.

 As a horror fan, I don't mind a little mixing and matching in my supernatural story lines but even The Vampire Diaries draws the line at who can and can't do magic, okay?

Also, for a werewolf story, there's an awful lot of vampire tropes hanging around the joint. Stakes, saint's medals, the main villain wearing a cape with a bat's head staff in her hand, not to mention being set in Transylvania!

 At one point, Plucky Reporter Gal pulls out a strand of garlic cloves for "protection from evil spirits"-give me a break, that is so vampire, it's not funny! All I'm saying is if you're going to serve up a brew of werewolves and witches, vampires shouldn't be left out of the stew pot. Otherwise, people are going to crave it like a good hit of salt there. Alright, rant over.

Back to the movie, Big McDoofus pairs up with a dwarf ally that gets blasted by a werewitch spell, thanks to losing his set of earplugs made from blessed church candle wax (a nice touch, I admit) and has to throw the poor guy out of a window when he becomes evil. Yeah, this does sound a lot like the "deep hurting"  they used to talk about on MST, doesn't it?:

The werewitch by the way is Stirba(Sybil Danning, who is the main reason many people watch this movie) who happens to be Stefan's sister-what a coincidence there!

Stirba does have some kind of master plan but for the most part spends her time either wandering through cobwebby rooms in a Gwar meets Party City outfit or arranging werewolf threesomes.

Settle down,Beavis;those werewolf sex parties are basically Sybil and two other actors lying in bed wearing stringy fur attachments and Lee press on nail claws, with plenty of growling and whining. Not too sexy, even by Skinemax standards. Of course, we do get the big intro to her character by having a bored looking old lady show up in animal skins to suck the life force out of a random young woman before turning into the red hot werewitch mamma we've all been waiting for:

Towards the end of the movie, which is only an hour and a half but feels oh so longer than that, Stefan and Stirba have a showdown where their thoughts are spoken aloud as crazy special effects go off all around them and there's a hint of Lannister style love(if you know what I mean and even if you don't watch Game of Thrones, I bet you do).

If you're looking for any type of story line continuity, abandon any hope of that before you get more than ten minutes into this thing. Granted, this may not be the weirdest movie in the Howling series(the third one is titled "The Marsupials"-yep, kangaroo werewolves!) but it certainly is the most surreal pick of this particularly strange litter.

I did see this movie a long time ago but upon re-watching it for this post, the bizarreness so overwhelmed me that I had a hell of a headache by the end there. The things I do for Bad Movie Month.....

Well, tune in next time for the last of this Sorry Sequels spectacular with Scream 3 getting ready to howl. In the mean time, enjoy the insistent theme song of Howling II, provided over and over again by Babel(and no, the infamous Sybil Danning repeated disrobing bit is not included here but it's still probably not safe for work):

1 comment:

Thaddeus said...

Great review of a terrible film. It's amazing, as the 80s and estoy 90s produced a nice string of low-budget horror that still showed good use of tone, interesting characters, or nice effects.

Which leaves us with the questions of (a) why did the first movie do so well and (probably American Werewolf synergy?) And (b) why make such a lousy sequel?

Love the mst3k clips!