Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1986) (part 1 of 9)
Damn, has it really been three years since the last Halloween recap? We’ve had mind numbingly dull ghosts, sleazy exploitation, and the most bizarre Dracula movie ever. So now it’s time for the most hilariously awful werewolf movie you’ll ever see! A movie so convoluted, even its year of release is up for debate! A film so bad, Reb Brown manages to pull off a miracle and give an almost good performance!
Yes, it’s time at last to delve into the wonder that is Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf. Forget that shitty werewolf movie MST3k took on (though, that episode is funny as hell); if you want a truly hilariously awful werewolf movie, Howling II is your lord and savior.
In 1981, Joe Dante gave us one of the best werewolf movies ever with The Howling. It was a highly entertaining scare-fest, with great Rob Bottin werewolf effects, and Dante’s usual fun mix of horror with low key humor, and references to other classic horror/sci-fi movies. It was a fairly successful film, so naturally, a sequel was in order.
However, looking to make a little easy cash, the makers of this film and the subsequent sequels severely cut the budget, and dear sweet lord, does it ever show. Howling II was helmed by Philippe Mora, an Australian director who also went on to do the just plain weird third entry in the series, and the equally weird but pretty adequate Communion with Christopher Walken, as well as The Return of Captain Invincible with Christopher Lee and Alan Arkin… which is also rather weird. See a pattern with this guy’s career?
Chances are Mora got the job based on his work on The Beast Within, a rather slick horror film from 1982 in which a young man turns into a giant cicada. Yeah. Pretty much the only thing going for that one is the f/x work. But to be fair, it is one hell of a showstopper in that regard.
As for Howling II, it is, in its own way, far worse than its sequel Howling: New Moon Rising, AKA Howling VII: Mystery Woman. In the case of the seventh (and final) Howling film, you can at least make the argument that the cast and crew were a pack of amateurs who knew they were making a low budget DTV piece of garbage that would be forgotten in the ether of time and space for all eternity. Sure, it’s a bullshit excuse that no filmmaker should ever be allowed to get away with, but it’s the only one that makes sense.
Here, though, we have a film that actually got a decent theatrical release, and has real actors in it, some of whom have actual quality films to their credit! Well, okay, Christopher Lee is the only one here who actually has good credentials, and really, Reb Brown is only unintentionally entertaining, but you get my point.
And yet, as terrible as this movie is, you can at least sit through this one without being forcibly tied to a chair, unlike part 7. It’s easily the most entertaining of the Howling sequels, though for none of the right reasons.
The Hemdale logo takes us to a really crappy star field that looks so bad, even Roger Corman would take one look at it and say, “Christ, throw a few more dollars into that!” Christopher Lee’s voice is heard, and he’s seen in a really bad superimposed shot over the star field, reading a passage from what I would guess is the Bible. A skeleton fades partially into view during this, just in case the title alone didn’t clue us into the fact that this is a horror movie.
Actually, I’m being a little too charitable, as it’s painfully obvious that the image of the skeleton has been layered quite badly over the image of Lee. It’s really impressive, in a hilariously incompetent way.
Um, okay. Not really sure what the point of this is, unless it’s supposed to be a reference to our main villainess, who we won’t see for a while. I’m thinking the idea was simply to have Christopher Lee up front saying something that sounded rather menacing, though with that voice, you could have him read his grocery list and get about the same effect. Either way, the end result is that one minute into the movie, I’m already lost.
Thunder sounds, and the movie cuts to a montage of a typical Transylvanian (I’m guessing) village for the opening credits, including spooky-looking images of ugly statues, skeletons, and creepy murals. Well, in theory they’re spooky. To me, the skeletons look like the sort of thing you get for Halloween out of the bargain bin because all the good decorations are gone.
As for the murals, I’d just like to say that wherever this place is, I think I’ll pass on vacationing there. Seems like the folks there are a bit too “glass is half empty” for my tastes. At the very least, their artisans could use some Prozac.
The music also has to be mentioned. I’ll get into it more later on, but for now let’s just say that New Wave beats and Old World Eastern European settings don’t really mesh very well. We hear a driving beat with “howl” repeated over and over, while we get more cheesy props, including a rather large number of neatly organized skulls.
As the credits end, a bad optical wipe (I swear to God, it looks like someone took a still and used it to push the still currently in front of the camera to the right) takes us to Los Angeles, which a caption helpfully informs us is indeed both in “California”, as well as the “U.S.A.” And thank god, really, because if I had a dollar for every time I got the U.S. California mixed up with the Uzbekistan California, I’d never have to work again.
Another caption comes up that reads “City of the Angels”, and I really have to wonder if the filmmakers thought they were making this film specifically for folks with phenomenally low IQs. Great, guys, you read the tour guide when you landed at LAX. Congratulations.
Actually, it’s more than likely these captions were added in a desperate attempt to cover up the fact that the film was shot in some part of Europe which looks in no way like Southern California. But given some of the other things we’ll see, I’m inclined to think my theory about this film being made for people with low IQs might have some merit.