Worst to First: Howling Series

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2016-10-08 20:37
The Howling is no doubt one of the more inexplicable horror franchises. Spawned from a terrific original and a charmingly campy sequel, it then somehow lurched on for five more movies, none of which had much in common (besides sucking out loud) until we finally got to The Howling VII (which I think might make it the Fast Five of werewolf movies). And while weíre used to sequels declining in quality for even the big boys of the genre, the depths to which this series sank is somewhat unbelievable because not one of them can really be considered decent. Putrid, rank, and infernal are more apt descriptors. It thankfully went into hibernation for 16 years until it returned with The Howling Reborn; as the series really has nowhere to go but ďup,Ē it seemed quite possible the lastest one could be a terrible movie by most standards, yet still manage to be an upper echelon Howling flick. Letís see where it lands as I count down the series from worst to first.

8. The Howling: Reborn (2011)

    Well, that faint optimism didnít last long. Honestly, I thought there was no way Reborn would land first (er, last?) on this list; it had some actual funding and some semblance of real talent behind it compared to the previous couple of films. It might technically be a better made movie than those films, but itís an empty soulless conglomerate cash-in of Twilight and Harry Potter, and it canít even muster enough bad movie charm to make it watchable. Instead, itís a wretched, moronic movie that feels like it could have been the pilot to MTVís Teen Wolf. After this, Iím convinced that The Howling franchise should go on hiatus forever.

7. Howling VII: New Moon Rising (1995)

    I almost canít believe this movie was made by real human beings. Part sequel, part clip show, all crap, itís no surprise this was finally the entry that put the series down for a while. Starring Clive Turner (whose rancid screenplays kept this series on life support starting with Part IV) and the actual local populace of the small desert town where it was shot, it plays out like a very special episode of Walker: Texas Ranger with werewolves. Actually, there are barely any werewolves; instead, you get infrared werewolf vision and some lame off screen kills. Occasionally, a priest and a cop have discussion (which takes the entire runtime because the cop keeps wanting to take a break) that connects the events of this film to those of the previous three films. Otherwise, the film just seems like a normal Friday night in my hometown, as itís full of country music, line dancing, bad jokes, beer-drinking, and farting.

6. Howling V: Rebirth (1989)

    I love the optimism presented by this title, as if part freaking five of the Howling series was going to represent a fresh start where the series would quit sucking. It obviously failed to do that, as it lands almost dead last. This is the one where a bunch of people (most of whom are wearing bad sweaters) gather in a castle (which I believe is actually sourced from the original Howling novel), where a werewolf is hanging out, once again killing people off screen. Like a really stupid game of Clue, The Howling V is a whodunnit, but, really, the only question youíll have is ďwho cares.Ē Actually, the most pressing question is why anyone would gather in a creepy, foreboding castle at the behest of a mysterious count in the first place. My favorite moment comes when the film is nearly over as one of the characters realizes that, hey, maybe this nefarious count is up to no good.

5. Howling VI: The Freaks (1991)

    Honestly, Howling VI isnít a whole lot better than part five, but I kind of like the carnival setting and the fact that it introduces other supernatural creatures into the mix. In this one, we already know who the werewolf is: some guy (who doesnít resemble a werewolf as much as a hairy Ozzy Osbourne) named Ian who drifts into town, helps to repair a roof, and wins the heart of a small town (and a girl). Obviously a bit inspired by Tod Browningís Freaks, this sixth movie tries to present a sympathetic portrait of lycanthropy, which would be fine if there were really any compelling reason to watch the movie. In an already weird series, this one somehow feels like the odd one out of the bunch. Well, except for the fact that it isnít very good; it still fits in that regards.

4. Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988)

    Not so much a sequel as it is another adaptation of Gary Brandnerís original novel, the forth film is like a bad dťjŗ vu experience. Basically, imagine the first movie, only thereís no Dee Wallace Stone or Joe Dante. Instead, you get a lame cast reenacting the events as if it was a community theater reproduction. With the exception of one really awesome, gooey werewolf transformation (which returns as stock footage in Part VII, making it the best part of 2 Howling movies), I canít really think of much this movie has to offer besides being a cure for insomnia.

3. Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

    For whatever reason, the setting shifts Down Under for Part III, which is where things appropriately start going south in a hurry. Barely clinging to still being somewhat entertaining, this is the last time the series would really see that sort of demented humor that Dante infused into the first one. While itís not quite as genuinely funny as that film, this one certainly embraces the campy, B-movie status. It might also have one of the wackier plots, as it involves a werewolf girl falling in love with a dude, having his furry love child, and developing a marsupial pouch (which is a weird, sick deformity that feels like it came from a Cronenberg movie). It ends up being just as stupid as you expect, but I guess it is the only Howling film to feature Imogen Annesley.

2. Howling II: Stirba--Werewolf Bitch (1985)

    Itís all downhill from here, as Howling II is probably the last of the truly enjoyable movies in this series. That it was the second one and came out 25 years ago speaks to the amount of torture that hardcore Howling aficionados (all 9 of them!) have endured. Maybe itís just comparatively speaking, but I like this one enough; well, as much as you can like a movie thatís totally absurd and (I think) realizes its absurdity. Itís kind of hard not to enjoy a movie starring Christopher Lee as a werewolf hunter who has to dutifully inform a guy that his sister is a werewolf (call me crazy, but I think Iíd believe him). Though he only took the role because heíd never starred in a werewolf flick before, Lee is a pretty delightful center of a bonkers movie that also features Sybil Danning as the titular bitchy Stirba, who is like the queen wolf-woman who might usher in the apocalypse (or something like that). Dwarf tossing, Canadian tuxedoes, and the best New Wave theme song for a werewolf movie ever abound; if only they were smart enough to quit while they were somewhat ahead.

1. The Howling (1981)

    Iíve never read the original novel, but Iíve always heard the first film is a poor adaptation of it; given that the novel has given birth to nearly half a dozen really bad movies, Iím inclined to think that maybe Joe Dante just managed to make a pretty good movie out of a decent idea. A signature Dante film, The Howling is a treat for horror fans, as itís loaded with in jokes and references to horrorís past (just check out the character names). Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine, and Forrest Ackerman, Roger Corman all pop up, which is appropriate since The Howling is really just a silly werewolf movie done a decent budget. Though Rob Bottinís transformation effects will always remain the shadows of Rick Bakerís from American Werewolf in London, theyíre pretty slick in their own right. So is The Howling as a whole, as itís a funny, violent, and altogether demented little werewolf movie. Donít hold its terrible sequels against it (actually, just skip most of them altogether, obviously).

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