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Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf
There are good sequels, there are bad sequels, and then there is The Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf, which is a sequel that more or less exists on its own planet. When the movie, directed by Philippe Mora in 1985, begins we see what happened to Karen White (played by someone who is not Dee Wallace, the actress who played the part in the original film) after she was killed while morphing into a lycanthrope. From here, we visit her funeral where her brother Ben (Reb Brown) is warned by a mysterious older man named Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee) that Karen isn't dead. Nope, she's still around and she's definitely a werewolf and the only way to really send her off to the great beyond is to stake her.
Understandably, Reb, thinks this older guy is a nut but his girlfriend, Jenny (Annie McEnroe), who used to work with Karen? She's not so sure… she thinks Stefan might be onto something. Of course, Stefan is right, Reb learns this first hand when Karen rises from the grave in full on furry bitch mode. Thankfully Stefan is still around to deal with it. Now realizing that this guy is speaking the truth, Ben and Jenny accompany Stefan on a voyage to Transylvania where the werewolf queen, Stirba (Sybil Danning), and her male companion Vlad (Judd Omen), are planning to host a huge carnally themed gathering of werewolves. Stefan figures if they can get in there and stop Stirba from becoming uber-powerful and launching into action a plan that will see werewolves take over the world!
A weird, hyper-sexualized mish-mash of a film, The Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf is very definitely an odd duck of a film. While on one hand it's cool to see genre stalwarts like Christopher Lee, Sybil Danning and Reb Brown in large roles, on the other hand the story is ridiculous and the werewolf effects work that was such a huge part of the original's success is… wrong. It's interesting, it's funny to look at, but it's wrong. The werewolves in the original were scary, but here? No. The werewolves in this movie, as horny and promiscuous and prone to group sessions as they are, are not scary.
The movie, as bad as it is, is definitely watchable though. The site of Lee zipping around in eighties era ‘new wave' glasses while a ‘punk band' plays a set is reason enough to want to see it just because it is such an odd thing to imagine someone as noble and refined as Lee doing in the first place. Lee's performance here is also about as good as it realistically can be given what he had to work with and while it's hardly a highpoint in his filmography, he's fun in the part. Reb Brown sort of barges through the film with an amazing lack of subtlety while Sybil Danning as the werewolf queen is definitely a site to behold. You'd wager, after watching the movie, that a sizeable part of the film's budget went to her wardrobe, which seems to include only the finest in tacky eighties fetish garb.
As a horror film this one crashes and burns but fans of trash cinema should at least appreciate how the sleaze factor, already significant in the original movie, has been cranked up here. There's also plenty of practical effects work on display, some of it pretty impressive in how gory it gets, so for all its flaws the movie is never dull. The Eastern European locations don't do such a good job doubling for California in some scenes but once the action heads to Transylvania (where the story quite obviously borrows from the Dracula mythos) the locations work quite well. There's some great architecture on display in some scenes and even a little bit of genuine atmosphere here and there. So yeah, this is goofy, silly, trashy stuff but it's nothing if not entertaining.The Blu-ray:
The Howling II arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Generally speaking, the transfer here looks pretty good. Black levels are strong and shadow detail is actually pretty decent. There aren't any obvious compression artifacts and the picture stays clean and free of any major print damage though there are some scenes that use optical effects that, as you'd expect, show a drop in detail (that'd be the way that the movie was made and it isn't necessarily a flaw). Grain is present, as it should be, but never overpowering and skin tones look good. Detail and texture easily surpass the previous MGM DVD release and there are no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement.Sound:
Audio options are provided in English language DTS-HD Mono with removable subtitles provided in English only. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Dialogue stays easy to understand and the score has a bit of depth to it. Some of the effects seem a tiny bit loud in the mix compared to the quieter scenes but this adds to these impact of those scenes.Extras:
Although this isn't being touted as a Scream Factory special edition, it is nevertheless a pretty stacked release in terms of supplements. Things start off with a commentary track from director Philippe Mora moderated by Michael Felsher. This is an interesting talk as Mora discusses what it was like shooting in Czechoslovakia while it was under communist rule and what parts of the movie were shot there as opposed to in the United States. He also talks about working with the different cast and crew members on the film, Christopher Lee specifically, and he discusses some of the effects work, the script itself and quite a bit more. It's a fun and interesting track, one worth listening to. There's also a second commentary on here put together from interviews conducted with composer Steve Parsons and editor Charles Bornstein. This is also pretty interesting as Bornstein has no qualms whatsoever about trashing the movie while Parsons talks about how he came on board to create the score for the film and what he was going for with some of the musical choices here. Between the two tracks these commentaries do a good job of filling some of the blanks on the history of this much maligned sequel.
We also get a few featurettes, starting with a fourteen minute piece called Leading Man in which actor Reb Brown discusses his experiences working on the film. He actually looks back on it pretty fondly and seems to appreciate that it's got a cult audience all its own. He also talks about doing some of his own stunts on the movie, what it was like working on the shoot and his relationship with some of his fellow performers in the movie. The seventeen minute Queen Of The Werewolves is an interview with Sybil Danning who discusses her work in the picture. She talks about how she wound up being cast in the film, her fondness for the late, great Christopher Lee and about how much she enjoyed working for Mora. She also talks about the makeup work she had to undergo during the infamous group scene in the later part of the movie and about some of the wardrobe choices that were made for her character in the movie. A Monkey Phase is a fifteen minute interview with Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler, the guys who handled a lot of the makeup effects on the film. They talk about why some of the werewolves look more like monkeys, how they landed the work on this film, what it was like on the shoot and what they like/don't like about how some of the final makeup effects work turned out. They also share some fun stories about working with the cast members and having to do some of the more intensive makeup work on them.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is an interesting alternate opening sequence that runs just over ten minutes, an alternate ending that runs just under ten minutes, four minutes of random behind the scenes footage, a fairly massive still gallery and a theatrical trailer. Menus and chapter stops are also included.Final Thoughts:
The Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf isn't a particularly good horror movie. It's never scary and it's only occasionally atmospheric. There's little in the way of tension or suspense and the whole thing is just too over the top and silly to really grip us the way a good horror movie should. It is, however, a ridiculously entertaining film for a myriad of reasons and it's weird enough to hold your attention. Shout! Factory have given the movie a surprisingly lavish Blu-ray release offering it up in a nice high definition transfer and with more extras than most would likely have ever expected. Not a movie for horror purists so much, but recommended to anyone who can appreciate just how flat out nuts this movie really is.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.