As a long-time fan of The Howling series… wait, that came out wrong…
As a long-time fan of 1981’s original and a lover of werewolf films in general (bah, who am I kidding, I really like Howling V as well), I was pretty interested when they announced a new Howling sequel, over 15 years after the previous disaster, and 30 years after the original.
Will Kidman (Landon Liboiron) a film-stereotype high-school underdog, is about the graduate from some strange mixture of a Canadian high school and a maximum security facility (you wait until they lock up the school at night!), when strange events begin to occur around him. He finally manages to connect with the girl of his dreams, the beautiful and enigmatic Eliana Wynter (Lindsey Shaw), but he may have trouble keeping his hitherto unseen wild side in check…
Directed by Joe Nimziki, The Howling: Reborn has very little in common with the previous Howling films, in fact, it’s teenage protagonist and romantic plot-line differentiates it greatly from the rest of the series. While the screenplay for this film was apparently registered before Twilight was published, I imagine the success of that juggernaut franchise is the only thing that managed to get this teenagers/romance/supernatural horror produced.
To lump The Howling: Reborn into this tween-friendly category might be a bit of a disservice to it. While not particularly graphic, it still has a bit of gore and violence and the relationship of the main characters actually works, given the extreme situation they find themselves in. But The Howling: Reborn is certainly coming from a different place and time than the previous films.
This film features better acting than most of the previous sequels (no Oscars will be handed to it, but it isn’t wince-inducing like some previous instalments) with most of the heavy-lifting done by its two leads, Landon Liboiron and Lindsey Shaw.
As Will, Liboiron narrates the film and provides it’s centre. Given the wildly improbable events and often frankly baffling character motivations, having a relatively unremarkable central performance isn’t a terrible thing.
probably the best thing in the film, Shaw is strong as the mysterious Eliana Wynter, a character who veers from suspicious and possibly crazed to very likeable over the course of the film, and this seems very much to come from Shaw’s performance.
Ivana Milicevic lends good support and looks like she’s having a whole lot of fun in her role, while Jesse Rath gets all the best lines as wannabe horror film-maker Sachin, who is lumbered with dropping exposition about the nature of werewolves. He’s not as great at exposition as Dick Miller in the original or Christopher Lee in Howling 2, but he gets the facts out in a fun manner.
As for the special effects, they’re not great… I’m not sure they’re even good, but there is hope – allow me to explain. Early on Sachin explains about alpha werewolves (or “uber-wolf” as Sachin explains it) and ‘garden variety’ werewolves, so of course we are later introduced to both types.
The ˜garden variety’ werewolves are a dark makeup/odd forehead type with huge pointy ears and REALLY HAIRY legs. The makeup is fine but the pointy ears and hairy legs really make me think they look like goat-men, not very wolf-like. The alpha is much more akin to the werewolves in previous Howling films, tall, wolf-like head with long snout etc. it’s a decent suit and allows for some good action scenes, but it has the fatal flaw of a long floppy tail, literally a dangling bit of furry fabric attached to it’s ass which is pretty laughable.
Man-to-beast transformations, once the special effects standout of werewolf films, are barely dealt with in this, using very crude CG morphing. But in this instance I think less is more, if you can’t do them well, you might as well not dwell on them. Maybe that should have been applied to the tails…
This doesn’t have the feel of the low budget mediocrity of many of the previous films, but it certainly hasn’t had a great deal sent on it. Overall I think that it succeeds on the central characters, who are likeable, pretty well-acted and have some fun dialogue. Oh, and the during-the-credits scenes are COMPLETELY BONKERS and I really want to see the film about what happens after that!