Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Howling III (1987)

... aka: Aullidos: El regreso (Howling: The Return)
... aka: Grito de Horror 3: A Nova Raça (Horror Scream 3: The New Breed)
... aka: Howling III: Os Lobisomens (Howling III: The Werewolves)
... aka: Howling III: The Marsupials
... aka: Marsupials: Howling III, The
... aka: Wolfmen

Directed by:
Philippe Mora

Having no relation whatsoever to The Howling (1981) or HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985), this is pretty much a standalone film... and what a strange film it is! Director Philippe Mora had previously made the critically-panned second entry and supposedly wasn't very happy with the finished film. Since he'd purchased the rights to the "Howling" brand name from the original author, he decided to take a second stab at making a comic werewolf flick. Though the opening credits claim this is based on Gary Brandner's third book in the series, it in fact has nothing at all to do with the book and is based on an original idea by the director himself. Aside from the abysmal Howling: New Moon Rising (1995), it's currently the lowest-rated "Howling" title on IMDb, which I find utterly perplexing. While this one's extremely bizarre and sometimes off-putting in its weirdness, it's also frequently hilarious, often very clever, more sophisticated and intelligent than one would expect and filled with interesting ideas. Instead of being the 2nd lowest rated film in this series, I actually think it deserves to be the 2nd highest rated, behind only the original.







Silent film footage from 1905 depicting Australian natives tying a werewolf to a tree and killing it as well as current reports of werewolf killings in the village of Leovich in Siberia send anthropology professor Dr. Harry Beckmeyer (Barry Otto) - later joined by colleague Professor Sharp (Ralph Cotterill) - on a quest to prove the creatures actually do exist. Meanwhile, in the small village of Flow, Australia, Jerboa (beautiful Imogen Annesley) is getting fed up dealing with her abusive stepfather Thylo (Max Fairchild) and flees her tribe. After a bus ride, she ends up in Sydney and is immediately discovered by Donny Martin (Lee Biolos), assistant director on a horror movie called "Shape Shifters Part 8." He takes her to meet director Jack Citron (Frank Thring, doing his best Hitchcock impersonation), who immediately casts her in his film. Well, if she doesn't mind "being gang-raped by four monsters." And she doesn't. After he takes her to the theater to see "It Came from Uranus," Donny and Jerboa end up falling in love, but what he doesn't realize is that she's actually a werewolf... and a marsupial one at that! Things really take off into the realm of the odd once the scientists get hold of a pregnant Jerboa and her tribe sends three female tribeswomen decked out as nuns to get her back.






Howling III is literally all over the place with its tone. It begins as a campy horror-comedy with a quirky sense of humor and then, in the second half, begins aiming more for poignancy. It doesn't always work, but it's a unique and consistently interesting film and one of the most original werewolf films ever conceived. Mora deserves more credit than he has gotten for trying something completely different here. The plot makes room for an odd werewolf birthing scene (it's a cute little thing that lives in the protagonist's belly pouch), a posse of hunters sent to eradicate the werewolves with machine guns and bazookas (!) and a Russian werewolf ballerina (Dagmar Bláhová) who flees her homeland to meet up with the Aussie tribe and ends up transforming mid-performance. Hell, even the President of the United States (played by Michael Pate) gets involved at one point!






The werewolves themselves are handled completely differently than in any other film of this type. These are not monsters who kill for pleasure or even food, and they are not cursed humans, they are depicted as a misunderstood separate species who resort to violence only when they have to as a means of survival. The film draws a fascinating parallel between the werewolves and the thylacine, which were striped marsupials commonly called "Tasmanian Tigers" that lived in Australia and Tasmania until the mid-1930s are were driven to extinction by man. Like the werewolves here, the thylacine had patterned stripes along their backs and were misunderstood and feared by humans, who wrongfully blamed them for killing their sheep and livestock when that wasn't actually the case. The few surviving thylacine in zoos were apparently mishandled and poorly treated until they existed no more. The film includes rare film footage of the now-extinct animal taken at a London zoo.





R.I.P. Thylacinus cynocephalus, dog-headed pouched one.



The expected lycanthrope mythology is also refreshingly thrown right out of the window. Full moons and silver bullets don't factor in at all and the transformations of man to wolf can be willed by the werewolves or caused by fear, stress or flashing lights. Mora also includes both nods to his previous films (a poster for The Beast Within [1982] hangs above a bed) and some amusing references to the first "Howling" film, including a mock Oscar ceremony with a cameo appearance by Dame Edna (Barry Humphries) that directly references the the original film's ending.



Easy to find on a multitude of labels on both DVD and VHS, this is worth watching even if you end up hating it (many apparently do) simply because you'll see things here that you won't see anywhere else. With the possible exception of Howling VI: The Freaks (1991), none of the other sequels - Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988), Howling V: The Rebirth (1989), Howling: New Moon Rising or The Howling: Reborn (2011) - did anything remotely interesting or out of the ordinary with the werewolf theme.

★★

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988)

... aka: Grito de Horror 4: Um Arrepio na Noite (Horror Scream 4: A Shiver in the Night)
... aka: Howling 4
... aka: Pueblo Maldito (Damned Town)

Directed by:
John Hough

Joe Dante's The Howling (1981) was one of the great cult horror hits of the early 80s and a lot of that had to do with the director's ability to work a good sense of humor into the proceedings without sacrificing the scares in the process. However, it also took major liberties with the source novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, which displeased some fans. This third sequel attempts to right that wrong by presenting a more faithful version of the first book in Brandner's series. The basic plots of Howling I and Howling IV are nearly identical, but the approach to the material is not. Gone from this one are the slick production values, the sense of humor, the scares, the trend-setting special effects and the great cast. This much-lower-budgeted film simply comes off as by-the-numbers, humorless, dull and surprisingly amateurish considering the fact the director is very experienced in the horror genre and has such competent genre films as Twins of Evil (1971) and The Legend of Hell House (1973) already on his resume. While there was potential in the concept of approaching the book in a completely serious fashion, this wasn't the way to go about it.








Bestselling author Marie Adams (the very cute Romy Windsor) is haunted by visions of a nun and wolf faces and ends up spending time in an asylum as a result. After she's released, her husband Richard (Michael T. Weiss) takes her to a remote cabin located deep in the woods so she can have some quiet, peaceful time to recuperate. It isn't long before our troubled heroine begins doubting her sanity once again. Every night she hears wolves howling in the woods, despite the fact the sheriff (Norman Anstey) keeps insisting there are no large animals in the area. She's haunted by more visions of the nun as well as the home's former occupants, her poodle Pierre disappears and is later found with its head cut off and a pair of hikers vanish without a trace. To make matters even more stressful and sinister, all of the people living in the small neighboring town of Drago behave strangely and secretively.








Loose ends start to finally come together once Marie meets Janice Hatch (Susanne Severeid). A former nun herself, Janice is there looking for answers as to why another nun from her convent, Sister Ruth (Megan Kruskal), went crazy and died after spending some time in the area. It's rather personal for Janice because Ruth was her lover and it also becomes personal for Marie seeing how her hubby has been spending a little too much time making special trips into town to visit an exotic, seductive shop owner named Eleanor (Lamya Derval). It should come as no surprise to anyone reading that the entire town is actually a haven for werewolves.








There are three major problems that sink this film early on. The first is atrocious monotone acting from nearly everyone in the cast. It seems like many have been dubbed over and the audio recording is terrible to start with, so that may play some part is the thoroughly inept performances seen from nearly everyone in this film. That's especially unfortunate because, physically, all of the actors seem to be well-cast in their respective parts and their facial expressions hint at more acting competence than what's usually coming out of their mouths. The second major issue is the location. This is supposed to be taking place in Northern California but it was filmed in dusty, dry South Africa, which looks absolutely nothing like Northern California. The final major problem with this one is the pacing. It plays out like a boring made-for-TV "thriller" with endlessly talky scenes that don't contribute a thing of interest to an already utterly predictable plot. Even worse, this film wastes so much time on nothing for the first hour that it must then quickly rush through a choppily-edited finale in just a few minutes.





The only positives in this one happen at the very end and those are some gory Steve Johnson special effects, including a human meltdown and a guy ripping his face apart. Still, this is far from Johnson's best work. Aside from a few brief flashes of an actual werewolf (which seem to have been taken from another film altogether), the beasts are shown only as hairy-faced people and then as dogs in their full "transformation" stage later on. Very lame. The only other point of interest is that the opening 80s cheese-rock song ("Something Evil, Something Dangerous") was sung by Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. Hunky blonde Antony Hamilton, previously seen in the disco vampire comedy failure Nocturna (1979), and Clive Turner (also the script writer) co-star. Harry Alan Towers was the producer.

1/2
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...