I mention Reb Brown in my Sssssss review, and a few days later, he’s on the Chiller guest list. I should mention Kathleen Kinmont and Joe Dante… wait, I’m about to do just that! The first piece of proof that it’s impossible to make a good sequel to THE HOWLING.
THE HOWLING is an underrated minor classic. Joe Dante’s flick has wit, a sharp, satirical script by John Sayles and some fantastic effects scares from Rob Bottin. It’s also the only HOWLING flick worth watching. HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF is its very first sequel, a telling sign that there is no way to make a good HOWLING sequel. It manages to be so far off the mark that iconic Hammer star Christopher Lee and the frequently exposed chest of Sybil Danning cannot even save it. Because there is no coming back once a franchise employs holy earplugs. Yes, holy ear plugs.
This mess begins at the funeral of Karen White, played by the lovely Dee Wallace Stone in the original, but not here. Several forces show up at the funeral: Karen’s brother, a female reporter, Christopher Lee as a master of the occult, and a number of werewolves. How this leads to Sybil Danning topless in Transylvania is a sloppy disaster. Karen’s brother and his new girlfriend/reporter have to go to Romania to put the stop to Stirba (Danning), queen of the werewolves, from bringing about some sort of ill-defined wolfman apocalypse. Yes, Transylvania and queen of the werewolves. Apparently the filmmakers were going the Dracula path, but these aren’t vampires. This is muddled scripting at best, that treads into downright incompetence at times.
As for the acting, Lee is slumming and Danning is vamping. Reb Brown was good in UNCOMMON VALOR, but his portrayal here is closer to what he generated in Sssssss, proof he could have benefited from an acting coach. The rest of the cast is uniformally awful. Even with a good plot, they would have dragged down this film.
The special makeup effects expertly match the atrocious plot and acting. The original sported Bottin’s masterful work, but he’s absent here, and it shows. The effects are laughable, including the goofy werewolf makeup and gore gags that look as if they were done at a cheapjack Halloween house of horror in a kid’s backyard. MGM still owned the rights to THE HOWLING title at the time and this is the only sequel that relates back to the original. So there’s a recreation of Dee Wallace’s transformation. As with the rest of the gags, it’s appallingly bad.
I blame director Philippe Mora, an Ozploitationist who took a great first film and pissed all over it. Any director who lets a werewolf threesome into his film, and then manages to turn it into the unsexiest thing possible, should never be allowed to direct again… which is probably exactly why he directed the next HOWLING sequel, a film that manages to defy the odds and be worse than this one. And let’s not forget, this is the man who allowed his film to include holy earplugs.
I leave you with this anecdote, which Joe Dante tells on the GREMLINS 2 soundtrack. Christopher Lee played a geneticist in that film, and on his first day of shooting, he pulled Dante aside and apologized for his appearance in the HOWLING II. He should have said sorry to the 57 people who saw this flick. But hey, sometimes an apology just isn’t enough, Chris.