Howling 2 on DVD

Sunday, 31 January 2010 11:50

 “The Howling 2” begins soon after the closing events of the original movie; Ben White (Reb Brown – CHiPs, Fantasy Island) is attending the funeral of his sister Karen, the reporter killed on live TV as she transformed into a werewolf (a fact he is not yet aware of). At the ceremony he bumps into Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe – “Beetle Juice”), also a reporter and friend of Karen’s, and also Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee – “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and everything Hammer!), an enigmatic paranormal investigator.

Stefan offers up ominous warnings about Karen being a lycanthrope, and vows to end her life more permanently when he claims she will reawaken later that day. Ben is naturally sceptical but Jenny is more open minded; both become utterly convinced, however, when they witness Karen rising from the dead, and encounter a pack of werewolves bent on rescuing her.

The Howling 2 comes to DVDThe trio then embark on a deadly adventure in Transylvania, hoping to track down and kill Stirba (a resplendent Sybil Danning – “Grindhouse”, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake), the fearsome and silver-proof werewolf queen behind the furry outbreak.

The first “Howling” (released in 1981) was principally an atmospheric horror movie; the second outing tries to inject some whacky comedy and craziness into the mix, not to mention much more raunchiness. Present and correct are the flashing glimpses of werewolf transformations (elongated fingers and nails, stretched muzzles, arched spines and rapid hair growth). Present also are some great gory moments including lopped-off limbs, exploding eye sockets and melting faces.

What you will not find here are many moments of actual horror or jump-out-of-your-seat shocks. The whole thing proceeds with such a sense of knowing daftness that it singularly fails to scare. The direction by Phillipe Mora (who also shot the bizarrely monikered “Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hill”) is sometimes frustratingly quick-fire, probably to cover over the fact that the budget for special effects was very limited. Do not expect creature morphing close to the quality of “An American Werewolf in London”.

What “Howling 2” does do fairly well, though, is entertain in a cheesy way only 1980s schlock films could. Driven on by the oft-repeated but very catchy synch-rock theme tune, sung by Steve Parsons and Babel (seen performing several times during the movie), all of the baddies appear to be having a really good time, and it is quite infectious. Much of the acting is atrociously wooden or way over the top, but it just about works in this context. The two stand-outs are Lee and Danning. Although he apparently regretted accepting the part, Lee still effortlessly plays up to his usual stereotype of a smartly dressed man with a booming voice and oodles of gravitas.

Danning and the costume designer make the most of her stunning “assets”, cladding her in highly revealing dresses that she cannot resist ripping off whenever the need arises. Later on she sports an outrageous outfit that would appear to have been pinched from the set of Gil Gerard’s Buck Rogers. Danning and her fellow lycanthropes engage in frequent soft porn acts and sexually-charged satanic ceremonies, maintaining the impression that gothic, Hammer-style horror has to include fair amount of sex and nudity. It can be quite kinky if you like that sort of thing!

Although this is not a scary horror film, Mora does manage to generate some atmosphere thanks to some reasonable location work. Early on there is a frenetic chase through a decaying, disused factory with giant concrete inner columns, a darkly lit set reminiscent of an ancient temple. When the action moves to Transylvania (at the time shot in what was then Czechoslovakia), we witness a vivacious street festival and night-time woodland chases. The former is intended to be creepy thanks to some grotesque wooden puppets, spookily anonymous facemasks and cackling locals, but has since become much more sinister thanks to the legacy of films like “Hostel”, tainting drab Eastern European towns with an air of foreboding.

Ultimately, “The Howling 2” is entertainingly naff. If you like the Hammer Horror movies of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, you will probably enjoy this 1980s B-movie riff along the same lines. Just one word of warning, though. You will not be able to get Parson’s theme tune out of your head, especially if you sit through the amusingly edited closing credits sequence...

“The Howling 2” (certificate '18') is out now (a UK DVD premiere, apparently), courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment, priced £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Disappointingly, it features no special features of any kind.

 

 

Movie Review: “The Howling 2” (1985)

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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