Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

RECENT WATCHES: Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

“The Howling” does not really strike me as a story that needed a sequel. Joe Dante's original film tells a fairly complete story. Yes, there are open plot points that a continuation could have followed up on but it certainly wasn't necessary. Original author Gary Brandner disagreed, as he wrote two sequels to his novel. Whoever owned the rights to the series, of course, also disagreed. The cinematic “Howling” would spawn seven sequels. The first of these was “Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf.” (Sometimes, the film's subtitle is listed as the equally colorful “Stirba – Werewolf Bitch.”) The largely-disconnected sequel would be derisively received by critics and fans of the original, setting up a less-than-sterling reputation of quality for all the future “Howling” spin-offs to follow.

The film is, at the very least, connected to the original “The Howling,” albeit loosely. Karen White, the protagonist of the original film, apparently had a brother named Ben the whole time. The story begins after her transformation into a werewolf, and subsequent death, which was broadcast on television but covered up. Ben doesn't believe in werewolves. He's annoyed and confused when a werewolf hunter named Stefan informs him of his plan to drive a titanium stake through the heart of his sister's corpse. (These werewolves have evolved past their weakness to silver, by the way.) Ben changes his mind when, attempting to prevent the desecration of his sister's grave, he's attacked by a pack of werewolves. He then flies with Stefan and Jenny, a cute colleague of his late sisters, to Transylvania. There, they will battle Stirba, the queen of the werewolves, and try to end this curse forever.

“The Howling” was a thoughtful, funny, and fairly classy examination of a classic werewolf premise. “Your Sister is a Werewolf” flees from concepts like thoughtfulness, good taste, or even coherence as hard as it can. This is a staggeringly dumb movie, with a plot barely connected with the original. Characters act unreasonably, like Ben's motivations changing quickly. There's not much in the way of internal consistency. In the time it takes Stirba and two of her cohorts to have a werewolf threesome, our trio of heroes have traveled to Transylvania and settled in. Stirba's powers – few of which have anything to do with lycanthropy – change from scene to scene. Important plot points are hastily explained in voiceover. The gore effects are cheesy and the werewolf designs largely seem to be furry, vague suits. There's a lot of random sex and nudity. The shot of Sybil Danning tearing off her top – which is, admittedly, a very nice moment – is repeated about twenty times during the end credits.

Uniting “Howling II's” complete disregard for narrative logic is its truly baffling direction and editing. The film is full of cheesy scene transitions, screen wipes being abused gratuitously. Attack scenes or chase scenes will randomly cut away to the faces of people and werewolves. This makes many of the movie's action scenes or attempts to generate horror very difficult to follow. A designation of time appears on-screen for no reason midway through the film. The film's admittedly pretty catchy theme song, performed by Babel, is repeated about six times throughout the film. A lot of really odd decisions where made during the writing, production, and editing of “Howling II” is what I'm trying to say. Coherence was not a big priority here.

This lackadaisical approach can also be seen in the film's acting. The performances range from totally blank to hilariously over-the-top. Reb Brown, Yor himself, stars as Ben. Per usual, Reb is incapable of not screaming while firing a gun. Otherwise, he mumbles and chuckles his way through his dialogue. At least he's better than Annie McEnroe as Jenny, who adopts a totally flat vocal affectation throughout the entire movie. Christopher Lee was always a professional and does his job, giving a stately performance as Stefan, even if he can barely disguise his contempt for the entire project. Sybil Danning, meanwhile, is gloriously over-the-top as Stirba. When not naked – which isn't often – she wears this ridiculous bathing suit/armor platting outfit that must be seen to be believed. Most of the werewolves are played by actors that shrieks, sweat, and overact in the most egregious ways.

In other words, “Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf” is a bad movie. It is, in fact, a very fun bad movie. Director Philippe Mora made good films before this, such as “Mad Dog Morgan” and “The Beast Within,” so I'm betting that the film's incompetence wasn't totally his fault. The film's insanity, which includes random giant bat attack and a dwarf's head exploding, is nonsensically creative. You certainly have a good time wondering what dumb, horny, or poorly acted thing the movie will do next. As a sequel to Dante's “The Howling,” it is a complete and utter disgrace. When Christopher Lee later worked with Joe, he apologized for starring in such a wretched sequel. Yet this super dumb, utterly nuts, New Wave, softcore werewolf action movie is entertaining in its own baffling ways. [6/10] 

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