Thursday, August 25, 2005

HOWLING 2: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF

Back in the Eighties, there were a lot of horror franchises, but few started out as strongly and plunged into pure shit as quickly as the HOWLING series. The first film, directed by Joe Dante, is a minor werewolf classic, with a smart, knowing script, sharp humor, and great performances by a solid genre cast. It also featured the then-groundbreaking special effects work of a young Rob Bottin, which changed the way make-up effects were done for the next two decades.

The first sequel to that film, however, HOWLING 2: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985), is another beast entirely.

Phillipe Mora (THE BEAST WITHIN) directed this train wreck of a movie, which stars Christopher Lee (the classic horror star of the Fifties and Sixties, best known today as Count Dooku in the STAR WARS prequels and as Saruman in the LORD OF THE RINGS), making his return to the horror genre after a several-year absence – something I'm sure he soon regretted – and busty B-movie queen Sybil Danning (L.A. BOUNTY, WARRIOR QUEEN).

The film opens in a rather European-looking "Los Angeles" churchyard, where monster hunter Stephan Crosscoe (Lee) approaches Ben White (stalwart Reb Brown, YOR – THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE), to inform him that – as the title states – his sister (portrayed by Dee Wallace in the first film, and replaced by another actress here) is a werewolf. The silver bullets that killed her were removed during her autopsy, so she isn't really dead. Sure enough, she rises from the grave to be staked (!) and Ben – along with one of his late sister's cuter co-workers – is convinced to follow Stephan to Transylvania to put an end to the werewolf cult and its leader, the wolf queen Stirba (Danning).

Shot on location in Czechoslovakia (including the L.A. scenes) the movie's got some decent Gothic scenery, but that's about it. The script, which liberally mixes vampire and werewolf lore together and includes copious werewolf orgies, is a muddled mess. The acting – except for Lee – is atrocious, the make-up effects are cut-rate, the editing is confusing, and an 80's pseudo-new wave song that truly sucks dominates the soundtrack.

However, there's a fair amount of camp value in Danning's dominatrix gear and new wave sunglasses, Lee never loses his dignity, and there's a dwarf with exploding eyeballs. Despite – or perhaps because of its awfulness – HOWLING 2 does have its fans.

Sony/MGM's DVD has a beautiful cover that plays very nicely off the first film's famous poster image. It can also claim a gorgeous, 1.85:1 letterboxed transfer (a full-frame version is also included on the flip side, but I didn't even look at that), and crystal clear Dolby mono tracks in English and Spanish. They've also included the original theatrical trailer. No other extras, but I wouldn't expect any.

Overall, it's a fine presentation of a poor movie. If you're one of the fans from its endless Eighties cable showings, you'll want to pick it up for the great transfer. (Yeah, I'm keeping this one, myself. Sue me.)

BUY: Howling II - Your Sister Is a Werewolf