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Video Review: Howling II (1985)

July 15, 2011

The video below is more of a recommendation special than a review, but I decided to expand upon my comments for Howling II.

  • Dir. Philippe Mora
  • Released by Hemdale
  • Based on the Gary Brandner novels
  • Rating *
Original Laserdicks Review:
Joe Dante showed little reverence for Gary Brandner’s 1977 novel The Howling when he adapted it into the 1981 horror-comedy film of the same name (one of several werewolf flicks from that year, including the superior John Landis film An American Werewolf in London). The book would get a more faithful adaptation via the fourth entry, whereas the second and third books would only serve as a general reference point for the seven film sequels. Brandner would contribute to the screenplay of the first of those sequels, but one must wonder how he felt about the final result.
Australian director Philippe Mora takes over for Dante in the sequel (and subsequently directs Howling III: The Marsupials), and rather than replicating his predecessor’s smarmy tone (complete with character names lifted from werewolf movie directors), he opts for something far more outlandish. Howling II touts itself as the cinematic equivalent to New Wave, a musical sibling of punk rock from the 1970s and 1980s. (Unfortunately, this movement is completely unrelated to the Nouvelle Vague of the 1950s and 1960s, so don’t be expecting Godard here.) The punkish feel carries throughout the film, assisted by the ever-present theme song by Babel (the song appears more times here than those smiley face stickers appeared in the first movie!).
This song features prominently in the end credits sequence, which recaps all of the more ridiculous scenes from the film intercut with the same shot of a woman disrobing ad infinitum. That woman is Sybil Danning, who plays Stirba, queen of the werewolves (who seems far more like a vampire in her persona, but oh well). Stirba’s revival in Transylvania conveniently arrives mere days after the conclusion of the first film, and the sequel opens with the funeral of Dee Wallace’s character (and no, neither Wallace nor anyone else returns for the follow-up). Her never-mentioned-before brother, played by actionsploitation star Reb Brown, seems unaware that she transformed into a werewolf on live television, as does the entire world. (Retroactive continuity wins again!)
Thankfully, Christopher Lee is on hand as a Van Helsing type (ironic casting there) who just happens to know about the previous movie’s denouement, and he convinces Brown to journey with him to Transylvania to stop Stirba before she gains too much power. Annie McEnroe (the realtor from Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice) tags along as a love interest. Supernatural happenings and werewolf orgies follow, both featuring rather poor special effects compared to those in Dante’s film (and I didn’t even care for Rob Bottin’s transformation effects in that movie!). Lee, Brown, and a team of werewolf slayers team up to storm Stirba’s castle and stop her centuries-long evil once and for all. (Once again, this all seems more like a take on Dracula than a werewolf tale.)
The sequel’s laughability factor actually trumps the genuine laughs provided by the first Howling, and lovers of terrible cinema should have fun riffing this awful movie. However, it is never even remotely competent, and the film subjects the audience to the Babel concert whenever padding or scene bridges are needed, giving the indication that either the script had major holes that were never filled or the director failed to film all of the necessary scenes to offer a coherent story. Either way, the movie is a piecemeal piece of garbage that threatens to strip away any lingering dignity that Lee had at this point in his career (one scene features him in some ridiculous sunglasses that were obviously considered trendy by the New Wave crowd). The other actors are quite bad, although Danning’s hokey performance (whether she’s wearing skintight leather costumes, fake werewolf fur, or nothing at all) is certainly worth a chuckle.

From → Film Criticism

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