Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Howling II (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Your Blu-ray is a Werewolf, Stirba Blu-ray Bitch

Call it what you want. Your Sister is a Werewolf!, Stirba – Werewolf Bitch. Howling II. This is one gonzo picture that really features everything you’d love to see in a werewolf movie just done horribly wrong. The best part about that is that it all works… sort of. The Howling II may have some comedic moments, but it wasn’t intended to be a horror comedy. Philippe Mora certainly made a lasting impression on the werewolf genre when he took one of the best wolf flicks ever made and followed it up with a movie that doesn’t rival American Werewolf in London. Doesn’t rival Dog Soldiers or the Wolfman or Werewolf of London or Curse of the Werewolf. It doesn’t truly even rival Teenwolf… maybe the Teenwolf sequel. You’d do better to categorize a movie like The Howling II alongside exploitation efforts of the 70’s; movies like Werewolf Woman, but even that doesn’t offer a fair comparison since Werewolf Woman is at least filled with naked bodies and Euro atmosphere. All that aside and in full view of the obvious, The Howling II has been treated to an absolutely splendid release from Scream Factory. It may be a better release than it deserves, but it’s a release fitting of a label that understands that the heart can’t help what the heart wants. Sybil Danning. Naked. 

I remember my father forbidding me to watch The Howling II. I can't tell if this was because he felt that the acts of werewolf carnality were too much for my young, hormone ridden brain or whether he was trying to save me from the sequel. We watched the original together often. Of course it was cut for TV and it wouldn't be until I watched it on 35mm at the Exhumed Horrorthon that I realized I was naive to enjoy it for so long so cut. The original holds a place in my heart as a my favorite werewolf movie. The Howling, Silver Bullet, American Werewolf in London, The Wolfman and Monster Squad (if you want to include that) in that order. That may be a lot to live up to, and more or less it seems like Mora just decided he wouldn't even try. He went his own way, but it's important to remember that a studio put this out and that movies are group efforts. 

Perhaps it's easier to cite what's wrong with The Howling II more than what works. I feel that under normal circumstances that would make this review pessimistic, but I assure you that the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crowd will appreciate The Howling II more than most horror fans. It's ripe for riffing. So what's wrong then? Put Christopher Lee in cheap, sytlish 80's sunglasses and then take away every ounce of scary from his being. Give us hairy werewolves naked... normally not a problem, but when you encase them in dollar store hair weave and then throw them in a threesome you may as well pull out the wolfman schlong and go for the porn parody. The casting is all over the place from appropriate B actors to A listers who are completely under utilized. We talked about poor Christopher Lee who tries to make the best of things. We've talked about Sybil Danning... her attributes are purely sexual in this picture which is not her fault; it really is the story's fault. How about casting Judd Owen? Who's that? He's the escaped convict from Pee Wee's Big Adventure! He does comedy well. He does wolf porn.... like a wolf porn star who got his dick caught in a hairball. None of the costuming works. It's either werewolves that look like apes or werewolves that look like they belong on Planet of the Apes. But the best reason that The Howling fails completely... the strange use of transitions. We're talking strange slide transitions to black and back, swirl transitions and folding scene transitions. These are the things you'd expect to see on TV, Saved by the Bell or maybe even Gilligan's Island not in a major motion picture. This screams that the intent of The Howling II was really to make a horror comedy because every transition complete pulls the audience out of the suspension of disbelief (as if the strange S and M attire didn't already). 

What works for The Howling II? It's ability to be completely ridiculous. Perhaps you'd like to think of this movie as The Monkees TV show if it were turned into a movie and if our fab four had to face off against strange ape wolves from the planet Zirgon. The Howling II is a comic attraction with side shows and games and lights. The great part about the Scream Factory disc is that it takes the time to treat this feature as a special movie and gives plenty of supporting extras to give The Howling II a place in the genre and in the franchise. The interview with Sybil Danning is a must and maybe the commentary with Philippe Mora will better help you appreciate this movie (rather than rag on it). You want to see a great Mora picture? The Beast Within is where it's at (also released by Scream Factory).

I suppose you think that I dislike The Howling II; that I'd tell you to avoid it at all cost. That's simply not the case. It's too humorous not to recommend. It captures a special period in horror when even horror didn't know what horror should do. Luckily for you the audience, you can always explore the other Howling sequels for even more gonzo films that rival this in terms of pure mess, and the caveat there is that I would also recommend you watch those. Especially the marsupial werewolves... must be seen to be believed. 

Bonus Features

Audio Commentary With Director Philippe Mora
Audio Commentary With Composer Steve Parsons And Editor Charles Bornstein
Leading Man - An Interview With Actor Reb Brown
Queen Of The Werewolves - An Interview With Actress Sybil Danning
A Monkey Phase - Interviews With Special Make-Up Effects Artists Steve Johnson And Scott Wheeler
Behind The Scenes Footage (In HD - From Philippe Mora's Archive)
Alternate Opening And Alternate Ending (In HD – From Philippe Mora's Archive)
Theatrical Trailer
Still Gallery

I’m not sure that I would say that buying The Howling II is a tribute to the memory of Christopher Lee’s memory, but it will definitely give you a hearty life in spite of some the sadness we feel at his loss. Those sunglasses really let you know that he could take a joke… I hope. Because if he didn’t and any of the vamp lore that dominated his early acting career is true, we’ll have more to worry about than a sibling who might be a werewolf. Order this delightful trash now.

From Scream Factory:

Your Sister Is A Werewolf!

After countless millennia of watching, waiting and stalking, the unholy creatures known as werewolves are poised to inherit the earth. Legendary horror icon Christopher Lee faces off against sexy cult favorite Sybil Danning (Battle Beyond the Stars, Chained Heat, Grindhouse) in this terrifying descent into a world of nightmares that turns out to be all too real!

After newscaster Karen White's shocking on-screen transformation and violent death (in the original The Howling), her brother Ben (Reb Brown, Yor, the Hunter of the Future) is approached by Stefan Crosscoe (Lee), a mysterious man who claims that Karen has, in fact, become a werewolf. But this is the least of their worries... to save mankind, Stefan and Ben must travel to Transylvania to battle and destroy Stirba (Danning), the immortal queen of all werewolves, before she is restored to her full powers!

Also starring Annie McEnroe (The Hand) and Marsha A. Hunt (Dracula A.D. 1972), directed by Philippe Mora (The Marsupials: The Howling III, Communion, The Beast Within), and driven by a pulsing punk-y soundtrack, this film is a no-holds-barred horror-fest that'll rip your heart out… and you'll like it.

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