1981 saw the release of two werewolf movies that are now considered classics of the genre - An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. The former is a fun little horror flick, full of self-referential in-jokes and genuinely scary sequences. The Howling attempts a similar tack but to much less effective results, though it's hard not to appreciate Rob Bottin's astounding special effects work. Part of the problem is the oddball storyline, which takes far too long to get going and eventually places all the action within a bizarre woodland retreat. The script, by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless (and based on a novel by Gary Brandner), is packed with instances of off-kilter humor and surprisingly violent kill sequences - though everything in between such moments doesn't fare nearly as well. That the film ultimately doesn't work is made all-the-more baffling by the presence of director Joe Dante, who's no stranger to this sort of thing (ie Gremlins). One thing that the movie does right is holding off on the werewolf reveal - we don't get a good look at one until about an hour into the movie - a risky choice given how dicey such special effects can be, but Bottin certainly delivers. His creature is far more animated and interesting than some of the performers, particularly star Dee Wallace. Though she's since proven that she's a decent actress, Wallace is completely out of her league here - particularly in the few sequences that require her to come face-to-face with a werewolf. Rather than all-out fright, Wallace's reaction is somewhere in between curiosity and ambivalence (the rest of her performance is equally underwhelming). Yet The Howling has its followers, and the film has since spawned several sequels. But with its slow pace and lack of compelling characters, it's hard not to wonder just what it is about the movie that fans have latched onto - though there's no denying that Bottin's work is as impressive as one might expect.
Howling II... Your Sister is a Werewolf (October 24/11)
As awful and needless a sequel as one could possibly envision, Howling II... Your Sister is a Werewolf picks up shortly after the events of its predecessor and follows Ben White (Reb Brown), brother to Dee Wallace's Karen White, as he begins investigating the mysterious death of his sister. Along with a plucky reporter (Annie McEnroe's Jenny) and a grizzled werewolf hunter (Christopher Lee's Stefan), Ben embarks on a journey straight into the heart of Transylvania's supernatural underbelly - with the trio's efforts eventually bringing them face-to-face with a legendary werewolf known only as Stirba (Sybil Danning). It's clear right from the outset that filmmaker Philippe Mora isn't looking to replicate the original film's comparatively somber atmosphere, as Howling II... Your Sister is a Werewolf has been infused with a broad and downright campy feel that's reflected in its myriad of incompetent attributes - including its amateurish performances, clunky instances of dialogue, and laughable special effects. There is, as a result, virtually nothing here that works, and it does become increasingly difficult to sustain any interest in the protagonists' tedious exploits (eg they seem to spend much of the film's midsection wandering around the same town square over and over again). By the time the interminable climax rolls around, Howling II... Your Sister is a Werewolf has cemented its place as a hopelessly pointless horror effort that's sure to leave even Howling fans questioning its existence.
Howling III: The Marsupials
Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
Howling V: The Rebirth
Howling VI: The Freaks
Howling: New Moon Rising
The Howling: Reborn
About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment has gone all-out with this package, including supplemental features that even a non-fan can enjoy. First up is a commentary track that was actually recorded for the laserdisc edition, and features Wallace, Dante, Stone, and co-star Robert Picardo. Far more impressive is the 45-minute documentary on the making of the film, which is far more interesting and engaging than the actual movie. The disc also includes 10 minutes of deleted scenes, an eight minute production featurette, outtakes, still galleries, and two trailers.