Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Howling: Reborn

When I started The Howling Series Retrospective Review project back in 2013 I didn't imagine
a). that it would take this long to complete
b). that there was an 8th and more recent Howling film.  I thought the series died with the dreadful part 7, New Moon Rising, but turns out that was not the case (and wishful thinking).

This has not been a good series of movies (only part of the reason why this project has taken so long to complete) but in the very least I can say that all of the films either contain some memorable moments or something strange/weird/interesting.  However this modern Howling movie is. . . .something else entirely.

Read on, but first, links to previous installments:
The Howling
Howling II...your sister is a werewolf!
Marsupials: Howling III
Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
Howling V: The Rebirth
Howling VI: The Freaks
The Howling: New Moon Rising

I'm not actually sure what to say about The Howling: Reborn (2011).  The movie is kind of a blank.  It happened, I heard and saw something, but it had no effect.  I wasn't appalled by it, or interested.  It's the kind of bad and bland that is common with modern DTV low budget horror movies:  Visually uninteresting, the camera moves around too much, zero atmosphere, sterile lighting, terrible voiceover narration, weak characterization, crummy CGI, etc.  I watched it less than a week ago and I can barely recall what the movie is even about.

Let's see....

There's a pregnant artist lady who is killed by something, some sort of unseen attacker, but the baby survives and 18 years later grows into this sullen dork who meets the rebellious love of his life and also his mom (who never actually died) comes back to make him a badass werewolf, just like she is, and if not she'll kill him.  Or something.  Like I said, I barely recall.

It's real basic, generic stuff.  The real question is, how are the werewolves?

Well, they kind of look okay, they're these tall bipedal creatures but it seems as if they come in two styles.  One has the regular werewolf snout face and is furrier:
This is how mom-wolf and eventually (spoiler?) her son and his girlfriend look, and it looks fine!  It looks like a werewolf.  Mom-wolf also has these minion wolves and these dudes, for some reason, look quite a bit different.  I'd say they resemble an orc wearing furry chaps:

That darker first image is actually the first full werewolf you see in the movie, which is both hilarious and alarming, as he's all slick up top and kinda hairy on his legs and arms.  It was a small relief later when mom turns into a regular looking werewolf.  Makes me wonder why they didn't just stick with a snout-face similar to mom-wolf?  Weird design choice guys.

You get a real good look at the better werewolf design late in the movie, after a big shaky cam werewolf battle between mom and son, (spoiler) girlfriend-wolf shows up and she looks like this:
Not too shabby of a monster suit (could be hairier); there's definitely worse in the Howling franchise itself.

Unfortunately, there's very little blood and not really any gore or cool special effects, although there is one funny kill scene where a kid is thrown/falls down a stairwell shaft. (obvious dummy)
Jeez, other than that let's see...what else to say about this movie?

-At one point one of the bro-wolf minions serves our protagonist a finger hot dog.  I guess it's in an effort to get him to open up to his werewolf lineage, or whatever.  It qualifies as a weird moment but only as a moment that feels like it belongs in a different movie.
-The music and soundtrack is pretty lame, full of bro-rock songs, but they do manage to squeeze "Killing Moon" by Echo & The Bunnymen in there, so good job there I guess (even if it is a cost-saving non-album version of the track).

-In the opening, after mom is "killed," the unborn baby's hand bursts through her stomach.  That sounds a lot cooler than it actually is in the movie.

-Mom-wolf Ivana Milicevic puts in the best performance here, vamping it up and, seemingly, having some fun.  She can also be seen in Casino Royale (2006), Running Scared (2006) and Vanilla Sky (2001) and is also familiar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans as Riley Finn's wife, Sam, who showed up in that one episode.

-In the opening credits the film is said to be based on The Howling II written by Gary Brandner, but the finished movie has no resemblance to his novel.

-The girlfriend character is enigmatic and intense for no other reason than to cast suspicion on her for potentially being a werewolf early in the movie (which she's not, at least until the finale).  As written, I find her to be equally unbelievable as a wild girl as she is a dream girl.

-There's a best friend character who knows a lot about werewolves because of movies.  That really sums up what kind of movie this is.  It goes for the obvious every time.

Let's be real:  this is the kind of lazy movie designed to fill space on a video store shelf or to fulfill some sort of contractual obligation or maybe retain the rights to the material or something.  It was obviously made to try to cash in with the Twilight crowd, which, whatever, good for them, but I'm not sure why they had to drag the good(?) name of The Howling series into all of this... hmmpf, let's end this and just go to the wrap-up.

First check out the trailer if you want:

-------------The Howling Series Retrospective Review Wrap-Up-------------

Well okay, here we are at the end and it seems like I should have learned a lesson or come to a conclusion or something.  Well, if I did, it is that the Howling movies are not very good.  They have to be, overall, on the lower end of quality when it comes to horror franchises, somewhere above stuff like Puppet Master and Witchcraft but below, say, the Hellraiser films (which manages at least two great movies).  This is not to say that some of the individual movies don't have their merits and/or interesting moments.  Some of them offer gore and neat werewolf effects, while others have weird half-baked ideas and odd quirks.

This is how I would personally rank the films, from most to least watchable:

-The Howling
-Howling II
-Howling III
-Howling VI
-Howling IV
-Howling New Moon Rising
-Howling V
-Howling Reborn

So yeah, I find NMR to be more watchable than two other Howling films, even though I think it is quite possibly one of the worst movies ever made.  I guess that's why I find it watchable, the uniqueness of such a train wreck.

While I wouldn't recommend this series of movies to most horror fans, I guess I might say the first two sequels are maybe worth checking out, if just for the weirdness factor of both.  Full Disclosure: I actually kinda like part II, I think it's a fun bad movie.  In general though, you can just watch the original Howling and leave it at that.  I'm still not a big fan of the OG Howling, but I can appreciate it more now, if only because Joe Dante was able to pull off a halfway decent werewolf movie, which seems to be a rarity for the subgenre.

You can get The Howling and Howling II on Blu-ray from the fine folks at Scream Factory and you can find the rest of the movies on DVD in dollar bins and resale shops nationwide.

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