Here’s some real movie marketing genius at work: take the lamest three of the seven Howling movies (OK, Howling VII: New Moon Rising, while not included, was the all-time worst), package ’em in a “trilogy” DVD box set (on two discs!), and wait for a full moon to come out and grant the movie studio their sales wishes. If I was a legitimate werewolf instead of pretending to be one (it’s how I explain what I’m doing in my neighbor’s garbage cans at night), I’d be royally pissed. Still, even untouched by lycanthropy (for now), I’m the extreme opposite of happy.
As stated there are SEVEN Howling movies. After the first groundbreaking film in 1981, this franchise has been circling the drain with no one standing by with a plunger. Cash-in packaging like the above (just released) is but one of many problems plaguing a once-promising series of contemplative films about stinky werewolves. By the time they got to Howling III: The Marsupials (kangaroo werewolves), fans the world over were howling at the moon – and not in a socially acceptable way, either.
Here, then, is a rundown of the Howling franchise. You can actually see the Bell Curve at work here…
THE HOWLING, 1981
The first and the best. A news anchor woman, looking to crack the big story of a serial killer, meets the criminal in a porn theater where he does the wolf-up thing. Soiling her designer skirt so bad, she has to buy a new one. That, and go to a Rehabilitation Center way out in the woods to emotionally deal with what she saw in that adult movie emporium. The place is run by a self-help guru whose patients are all werewolves. Kick ass.
HOWLING II: STIRBA – WEREWOLF BITCH (aka, Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf), 1985
A dude whose sister was turned into people lasagna by a werewolf is convinced by a hunter of such mythical creatures to track those flea bags down throughout Transylvania, Dracula’s neck (heh) ’o the woods. Their main target: Stirba, Queen of Werewolves. (They’re in for rough ride; for starters she doesn’t shave her legs.) Howling II became cult notorius for the looped scene at the end where Queen Werewolf/Sybil Danning rips her top of seventeen times, exposing her full moons. That part was good and possibly integral to the plot. Everything else, not so much.
HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS, 1987
Weirdo half-human/half-kangaroo people are turning up all over Australia. Seems like just another day Down Under. But a sociologist, there to investigate such nonsense, falls for a chick who is “one of them.” And she’s got a built-in fanny-pack to prove it. Of course, these aren’t ordinary human/kangaroo hybrids – they’re werewolf kangaroos, or “were’roos.”
HOWLING IV: THE ORIGINAL NIGHTMARE, 1988
A chick author is having a nervous breakdown after watching the last two Howling movies. So her publishers send her to a scenic little town called Drakho to take her mind off all those fever dreams of demons and werewolves. Of all the places to visit, she goes to the one loaded with demon werewolves. What are the odds?
HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH, 1989
That Romanian castle was sealed over 500 years ago for a reason. But that doesn’t stop a bunch of people from all over the world visiting the place and buying souvenir coffee mugs and over-priced sweatshirts with “I Heart Romania” printed on ’em. Good thing they brought along a werewolf as a tour guide. One movie reviewer called this “The Howling ala Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. I didn’t see that movie as it didn’t have any werewolf reference in the title. I’m sorry, but I have standards.
HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS, 1991
Here’s a clue as to how great this one was: HVI was direct-to-video. That means the “filmmaker” got all his friends together to star in it. And half the time you can’t tell who is human or a homeless version of a werewolf. A greasy circus owner collects freaks and catches a young werewolf to add to his staff. In an effort to turn this into something other than crap salad, the circus guy is actually a vampire. Oh, dang – I just spoiled it for you. Now you’ll probably never watch it.
HOWLING VII: NEW MOON RISING (aka, Howling VII: Mystery Woman), 1995
Just when you think they couldn’t slide any further down the Sewage Pipeline, they go back to Australia and make us watch a red-headed Crocodile Dundee type drink beer, tell jokes and hang out in bars. The locals are getting turned into biltong by some mysterious creature around the same time Red-Head Ted shows up. Right about now, Scooby Doo is crapping on a rug. The local priest, defying his belief system, is convinced the slayings are the work of a werewolf. You’d think so, too, until you see the wolf man. His face resembles that of a plastic Planet Halloween™ werewolf mask. Last one renting this movie, please jiggle the handle.
There’s supposed to be yet another Howling sequel, this one tentatively called The Howling: Reborn (due out in 2011). If they had any dignity at all, they’d put this hound out of our misery, Old Yeller style. That said, the next Howling sequel should be Travis: Werewolf Stopper.