When it comes to horror franchises, my brother JM and I are usually on the same page as to which installments are the best. Friday the 13th? Easy. Part 6 (also known in these parts as Jason Takes The Family Channel) hands down. Halloween? Again…easy. Forget anything starring Jamie Lee Curtis. Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 is the clear winner.
But get down to the Howling series (which, let’s face it, is stretching the definition of a cohesive “franchise” as it is) and we’ve got a big problem. JM, as you can all probably guess, loves this one…and how can we blame him? Any movie that randomly builds a final credit sequence around Sybil Danning taking her top off is, by default, brilliant. But personally, I prefer the quiet elegance of Howling V: The Rebirth. And by quiet elegance, I mean a movie so cheap that the closest look we get at a werewolf comes with this silhouette, which appears to be an actor draped in my great-grandmother’s furry bathroom rug:
As you probably know, the Howling series has suffered through more re-inventions than Madonna’s career – and if Your Sister Is A Werewolf is the equivalent of Madonna going off the deep end and making that sex coffee table book, then The Rebirth is when Madonna suddenly became British and started saying words like “bullocks” and “full-stop.” You see, this movie takes a page from one of the greatest mystery books of all time, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Oh, hell, it takes more than a page…it takes the whole plot. A group of people gather together at an old house, only to die off one by one…killed at the hands of a…ahem…. “werewolf” (man in furry bathroom rug).
The victims here are so generic that you’ll spend most of the movie trying to remember which one is which. However, is it just me…or does this actress seem to show up in every werewolf movie from the 80s?
The other notable character here is the young heroine who inexplicably survives the movie (though almost none of the proceeding 100 minutes has focused on her). She does give us a nude-from-the-back scene (sorry, straight guys, that’s about all you get)…but is most memorable in that she looks/acts so much like Linnea Quigley that you wonder why filmmakers just didn’t get Linnea for the role:
In another bizarre piece of evidence that I create the world, Howling V manages to also use a little bit of the plot of the classic Parker Brothers Clue VCR Game in their script…namely a subplot involving an oddly-shaped birthmark that runs in the family (in this case a triangle in the crook of the elbow that looks more like an infected track mark). Sidenote...in case you’ve never heard of said game…I order you to go to Ebay NOW and start bidding. Clue VCR was a wonderful, short-lived 80s phenomenon in which players would view scenes from a shot-on-camcorder, live action play featuring Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, and the rest of the gang, and then play a card game based on the clues given in the video. Though it boasts the production values of a pre-school talent show and acting worthy of the most half-assed Indiana community theatre production, I was – and still am – completely obsessed with Clue VCR…thus owning 3 copies of it and watching the videos at least once a month.
Oh, and speaking of pre-school production values…did I mention that the exterior shots of the remote castle in the snow in this movie are…umm…animated?
Anyway, I love this movie. JM and I have really never given the Howling series any credit though, when you think about it, it’s really made for Tower Farm. What began as a semi-respected werewolf movie starring Dee Wallace Stone quickly crumbled into a succession of increasingly stupid straight-to-video installments featuring plots including kangaroo-werewolf hybrids, ancient Budapest-ian family curses, circus sideshows, and…of course…Stirba the Werewolf Queen. Perhaps only the Hellraiser movies rival the Howlings in the courage of taking a well-liked original and completely screwing up any hope for a respectable legacy. And just for being part of that, Howling V easily rates…