Howling IV: The Original Nightmare represents the first involvement in the Howling franchise of Clive Turner, as the co-writer and producer of this film, he also has a small cameo in this film. Remember the name, he’ll come up in other Howling films. The film is a reasonably faithful adaptation of Gary Brandner’s original Howling novel, which means it shares more than a few elements with the original film.
Romy Winsor plays Marie, a novelist whose overactive imagination, essential for her novels, causes terrifying visions resulting in her suffering a near-nervous breakdown. Her doctor recommends some time away from the city and her husband Richard (Michael T. Weiss) finds a cottage in the small, remote village of Drago. But before long she begins seeing troubling visions there too, and hearing howling at night.
Of course, Richard believes this is more stress-related visions and encourages her to ignore it, but Janice (Susanne Severeid), an ex-nun fan of Marie’s book who is staying in a nearby town and had to meet her favourite author, tells her about the death of Janice’s friend Sister Ruth whose parents were staying in the house Marie is now renting. Marie and Janice play ‘Nancy Drew’ looking for Sister Ruth’s parents and any sign of foul play, while a frustrated Richard begins an affair with a local shopkeeper, Eleanor (Lamya Derval), and is then attacked and bitten by a mysterious animal.
Overall, Howling IV embraces mediocrity in all aspects, nothing really stands out at all. The acting ranges from mediocre to terrible, the direction and photography workmanlike, the special effects really aren’t that special. The lowest point is probably Michael T. Weiss, for an actor who later starred in The Pretender where he portrayed a super-actor type (and won a Saturn Award for Best Actor), this is a most dismal performance. He pretty much sleepwalks through every scene he’s in.
The filming location in South Africa (doubling for somewhere-near-L.A., USA) is a bleak and dusty desert, perhaps to further distance this film visually from the original howling with it’s northern California greenery, but for me, it doesn’t really fit with werewolves. Admittedly, that’s personal bias, but what the heck.
Howling IV uses its big special effects scene on the first transformation of a character who has been bitten by a werewolf, this involves his skin melting into a puddle of pink goo, around which other werewolves gather, with excessive facial hair and fangs, and begin chanting to Satan. The unfortunate changee’s skeleton then sinks into the skin-goo, and emerges as a wolf skeleton upon which the flesh and skin reform, revealing the transformed werewolf.
Speaking of transformed werewolves, this film uses the cheap method of portraying multiple werewolves, by having them portrayed by dogs. Yes, pack of dogs with glowing red eyes charging through the town is the big werewolf sequence. There is one werewolf that looks more like The Howling‘s classic man-wolf, but it isn’t a particularly good suit and is terribly photographed and performed.
Wait, there is one noteworthy thing here, the actress who appears as Sister Ruth in a couple scenes is a pretty creepy-looking nun. That’s it. Sorry.