HOWLING II:..YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985)
(Directed by Philippe Mora)
(Written by Robert Sarno and Gary Brandner)
(Starring Reb Brown, Christopher Lee and Sybil Dannings’ breasts)
Plot: Occult specialist Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee) informs Ben White (Reb Brown) that his recently deceased sister (from “The Howling“) is a werewolf and that her Queen, Stirba (Sybil Danning), is plotting to take over the world. Also known as “Howling II: Stirba- Werewolf Bitch“, which is a much more delicious title.
I have witnessed “Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf” twice now and have come to the conclusion that somewhere late in its production, the filmmakers realized just how terrible their movie was and decided to re-package it as a joke. I don’t think that a ‘so bad, it’s good’ styled comedy was the intention throughout most of the filming process though, because the acting is too sincere…bad, but sincere…I have seen Reb Brown (Ben) ‘act’ before and while I took special note of his ‘attempts’ to be charming, tough, incredulous, intense and sad, nothing about this performance was any different than any of his others…So unless all of his flicks were designed to be incredibly campy, he was not aware that this was supposed to be funny. Annie McEnroe (Jenny) is even worse, because while Reb is at least ‘trying’ to engage the audience, she looks like she spent most of her time on set experimenting with many different kinds of drugs. It was actually somewhat creepy seeing her face suddenly become completely vacant during allegedly ‘scary’ sequences, or listening to her line delivery turn ominously robotic, as if her mind was under siege by 1,000 mushroom induced hallucinations. Yet the late (and great) Sir Christopher Lee (Stefan) turns in a shockingly good performance, accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of making his ludicrous dialogue sound convincing and drawing even more attention to how awful his co-stars really are. His presence commands every scene he is in, sometimes even stealing the show from the real star of “Howling 2“: The delicious suckitude. Making this even more awesome, the director claimed that Lee knew the movie was a disaster and was miserable throughout the entire film-making process, but he was a true professional and did his absolute best with the material. He somehow manages to remain stoic even when wearing those new wave shades, which is a hilarious visual. Marsha A. Hunt (Mariana) and Judd Omen (Vlad) seem like they understand the kind of trash they are in, so just have fun with their hammy performances, while Sybil Danning (Stirba- Werewolf Bitch) is so over-the-top with every line and mannerism that their acting starts to look subtle in comparison (loved them all!). Most of the cast don’t speak English very well, as a lot of the performers sound like they’re delivering their lines phonically. Some are practically winking at the camera, while others seem like they’re trying to sell us on the ‘intensity’ of the moment, which tells me that there was a lack of an overarching vision…or maybe just a lack of communication. Maybe the director was giving conflicting instructions or more likely, wasn’t giving any and allowing the actors to more-or-less do what they wanted. Of course, I imagine there weren’t many- if any- retakes, so it’s possible that the director only wanted to get the shoot over with. But do you know what? I’m kind of glad that the acting was so diverse, because I ended up laughing a lot. I laughed because Reb was so bad and because Lee was so good in such a bad movie. I am very fond of that yell Reb Brown does when being attacked or attacking, especially during confrontations that I think are supposed to be taken seriously. In a way, that battle cry embodied “Howling 2“.
“The Howling” was an innovater in special effects, boasting creepy werewolf designs and grotesque transformation sequences. “Howling 2“…was not…I think there were supposed to be different stages in the werewolf cycle, as sometimes they’re presented as very hairy humans who growl a lot and have fangs (the Kardashians?), while other times they are people in gorilla suits. What’s interesting though is that they obviously filmed separate effects in another location, such as pronounced snouts forming or elongated jaws snapping at the camera and they inserted these into the majority of the action scenes…or sometimes just random scenes in general…This leads to an army of continuity errors, where in close ups they have the long muzzles, but in the other shots their faces seem humanoid. They also filmed Marsha A. Hunt in more extensive facial makeup, which actually looks acceptable, but she’s just sitting around, looking bored every time we see her in it. Yet the editor keeps re-using this same shot in all of the action scenes, even when the locations are completely different and it becomes difficult to tell if she’s actually participating in the carnage. The lighting can get very murky, making it difficult to tell what exactly is going on, probably in a desperate attempt to cover up the phoniness of the effects. If “Howling II” was supposed to be a farce from the beginning, I doubt they would’ve been so insecure about the quality of the effects, although the finale is certainly not embarrassed by them! We get a lot more gore and it is cheesy, but in a very fun and gross kind of way. I’m pretty sure by the time ‘a dwarfs’ head explodes from magical howling because he lost his holy ear plugs’ was filmed, the filmmakers were no longer taking themselves very seriously… When I first saw Christopher Lee and Sybil Danning engaging in a …light show battle…I was sure that I must’ve taken some of Annie McEnroe‘s LSD, because that was bizarre. Stupid, nonsensical, cheap and absurd, but…awesome? Once again, Sir Christopher Lee plays the scene like this is the most dramatic and important confrontation of all time…and that is why it is so funny.
Even though “The Howling” was an adaption of Gary Brandners’ book of the same name, the filmmakers took a lot of liberties with his story, which apparently displeased him. So you’d think that because he helped write this sequel, it would be a much more faithful adaptation of his books? I haven’t read any of them, but the general consensus is he widens the gap between the literature and movies, although he also distances this sequel from the first film…even though it’s supposed to be a direct followup…huh?…They mostly retcon the ending of “The Howling“, the motives of its protagonist and even the werewolf mythology. Silver doesn’t work on these werewolves for some stupid reason that I didn’t understand, but apparently stakes in the heart can do the job and garlic can repel them, presumably because someone really wanted to make a vampire flick. Furthermore, the setting is Transylvania and I had a good hearty laugh when Stefan Crosscoe seems shocked to learn that Stirba is located in Transylf@ckingvania- which is nicknamed ‘The Dark Country’. If I was hunting for a werewolf queen and Transylvania existed in my world and it was commonly referred to as ‘The Dark Country”, that is probably where I would start my search. But these are among the lesser problems within the script, because nearly every scene has something wrong with it…albeit in a hilarious way…I love how Reb Browns’ character threatens to kill Stefan if he dares stake his sister, only for her to spring to life, causing Reb to shriek and immediately shoot her…and by the way, that is the ultimate fate of Karen White, so I hope you weren’t attached to the character. She wasn’t played by Dee Wallace though, so I guess it does not matter. There is another bizarre segment where the gang stumbles upon a group of peasants tending to an injured woman. She turns into a wolf, is promptly killed and the peasants mysteriously vanish. Were they all werewolves too? Why wouldn’t they all just attack at once? Were they being forced to participate in this stupid but nefarious plan? Yet later on, the wolves seem surprised that our heroes have arrived, so…no??? That couldn’t have been prepared in advance…I think. Even though they’re going to the same village, Stefan decides to leave them for unexplained reasons, which seems very reckless of him…especially when in that same scene, it turns out a werewolf snuck into their car. Maybe he just wanted a ride to Transylvania and didn’t care whether they lived or died after they got him there? That’s my theory! Characters are constantly doing ridiculous stuff, like following a creepy looking guy who is giving you rapey eyes, saying weirdly suspicious things and pressuring you to follow him into ominous and isolated woods…Or after their party is getting picked off one by one, someone makes the baffling decision to split up, because that always ends well. Or what about going on your own with a dwarf to investigate a ‘castle guarded by werewolves’ in order to see if it is the ‘castle guarded by werewolves’ that belongs to Queen Stirba? At one point Stefan sees a costumed kid wearing a comrades charm, so demands to know where it came from. The kid flees down an isolated alley, taunting Stefan BY NAME with a voice that is clearly an adult imitating a child, leading him to an abandoned building…You’d think that a seasoned werewolf hunter would be at least a little suspicious? I’m beginning to wonder if Brandner was so sour about the changes to his source material that he intentionally sabotaged the franchise, making sure that every page of his script had at least one memorably ridiculous encounter. The dialogue is awesome too, trying to be ‘hip’ and in tune with 80’s culture, while also having that old fashioned classical horror movie vibe from the 60′. It’s a trainwreck of linguistics, spoken by a cast who either don’t know the language or don’t know how to act, but it only added to my own howls.
The direction is mostly flat, as if Philippe Mora‘s primary goal was to finish the shoot on schedule, although I’ve seen a lot worse. The camera placement was adequate, I guess, but there is no suspense, atmosphere or even eroticism (amidst the nudity). The cinematographer isn’t interested in providing eye popping imagery or spooky visuals, probably because he was too busy trying to cover up the shortcomings in the special effects! Apparently “Howling 2” had a very chaotic production (the assistant director didn’t know anything about filmmaking, among other problems), so I suppose I can’t blame everyone for just wanting to get it over with, as it wasn’t like they were going to make high art with their limited budget and terrible screenplay. At least the costume designer seems to have had fun, as the flamboyant wardrobes captured an insane overabundance of 1980’s spirit. If anything, “Howling 2” is a caricatured time capsule for the decade. I’m not entirely sure what I was supposed to feel during the werewolf sex scenes, as it’s so weird watching a bunch of hairy people grunt and thrust up against each-other. Their mannerisms during these orgies are strange and awkward. But was it supposed to be sexy? Not really. Did it represent something, such as how “The Howling” used werewolf sex as a metaphor for succumbing to our animalistic urges? Nope…It was just pure sleaze, but not of the erotic variety. There is one uncomfortable moment when Stefan is describing Stirba and he starts stroking a stake in a somewhat masturbatory way. I wasn’t sure whether or not that was intentional, especially considering how they are eventually revealed to be siblings. But later on, Stirba rips off her top (in the most notorious shot of the movie) to engage in a werewolf orgy and it cuts to Stefan sleeping, edited as if implying he’s dreaming about that…Okay…During their final confrontation, she says lines like “You could never resist me” before he penetrates her with his phallic weapon and they embra- alright, the incest subtext was intentional. The funny thing is it’s handled fairly well and would’ve made more sense if Stefan turned into a lustful werewol- Oh my God, why did my mind just conjure that image?! But in all seriousness, this nuance does suggest that at one point, somebody- maybe Mora, maybe his writers, maybe Sir Christopher Lee himself- cared about the project.
At some point during filming, they decided to jack up the camp value, because you just don’t have a scene where characters go to a hotel and stay in ‘Room 666’ unless we’re not supposed to take this seriously. The opening scene is of Sir Christopher Lee dramatically quoting from the Bible, while he and a fake looking skeleton are floating around in space…and that sentence speaks for itself! But it’s the editor who seems to be having the most fun, even though in many ways he also magnifies the suckitude- for better or worse. He is constantly re-using footage (st…st…STOCK FOOTAGE?! NO, MY PPMSD!) and putting it in places which disrupt the continuity. This is especially apparent with the use of the band who sings the movies’ theme song (called ‘The Howling‘), as the same concert footage is spliced in everywhere throughout this adventure. Much like the transformations, it’s obvious that they filmed the band in a separate location. They’re playing for Stirba during the finale until she is informed that the protagonists have arrived, leading her to order everyone to attack. But the band doesn’t stop and apparently most of her minions are ignoring her, while others are facing the wrong direction. At least the song is catchy? For absolutely no reason, footage of werewolf threesomes will be edited in between random scenes and this is a re-occurring quirk! At times, brief glimpses of earlier (or even later) scenes will appear on-screen during some mundane event, making me wonder if someone was having a flashback that they weren’t even around for…except the movie keeps doing this, even when a character is not in focus, making it feel more like padding. The transitions between scenes are pretty funny as well, as they use distracting wipes- diamond shapes, swirls, etc, which you can find on any cheap editing software these days. Maybe the filmmakers thought these would spice up the action? But you know “Howling 2” became a total joke during post production when the end credits start to play and they keep re-using footage of Sybil Danning ripping her top off…That’s just brilliant filmmaking, but the hilarity is increased when they take other characters ‘out-of-context’ facial expressions and edit them into reactions. So imagine-
- Stirba rips off her top.
- Christopher Lee smiles.
- Stirba rips off her top.
- Annie McEnroe’s eyes widen.
- Stirba rips off her top.
- Dwarfs’ head explodes.
Add in that ‘Howling 2’ theme song and you have the perfect way to end “Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf“. When I first saw this movie, I disliked it because I only saw the badness, but now I recognize the films craptastic entertainment value. I think it’s funnier that a lot of scenes are taken very seriously, while others are just loopy enough to clue you in that this might be one big joke. But the editing…as dreadful yet amazing as it is… is where “Howling 2” becomes glorious. It makes sure to draw your attention to the badness, primarily by continuously showing the footage that was already bad the first time around. But even though I usually dread such techniques (PPMSD!), “Howling 2” was the perfect storm of crap, packaged in a way so that it could continuously amuse me. “Curse of the Puppet Master” (grrr) was a lot seedier in its presentation because it was lifting special effects shots from its predecessors, while “Howling 2” at least recycled its own original footage, instead of stealing from “The Howling“. Now make no mistake, “Howling 2” is terrible, both as a sequel and as a standalone movie. But while the filmmakers intentions during production are ambiguous, I simply found the incompetence on display to be more amusing than infuriating. I loved watching Sir Christopher Lee (RIP) trying hard to maintain his dignity just as much as I loved seeing Reb Brown…well, be Reb Brown…His style of ‘acting’ has grown on me over the years and his Reb Brownish performances have made plenty of garbage flicks almost watchable. I might revisit this flick sometime in the future and won’t have such a positive reaction, so it probably just depends on my mood, but tonight…I was in the mood for “Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf“.
Violence: Rated R, it’s graphic but crude.
Nudity: Um, yes…
Overall: “Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf” is a piece of shit, but it’s a fascinating turd that made me smile.
DISCARDED MATERIAL (the original review)
Note from Writer- My original writing was actually one of my most reviews during my freewebs days and I was proud of it at the time, but now I see more of a rant than a review- and I still relied too much on namedropping. A major reason why I did a full re-write instead of just polishing up my words is my opinions have changed (obviously). I also feel like I’ve developed my own style of humor, while back when I wrote this, I was kind of imitating my favorite reviewers.
Plot: A man, whose sister became a werewolf in the first film, is convinced by a werewolf hunter to go find the werewolf queen Stirba, and end her reign once and for all. Or some shit like that.
In 1981, Joe Dante released “The Howling“, a werewolf film that revolutionized werewolf special effects. It was released around the same time as the arguably superior ”An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolfen“, although no one remembers that one. If there was one major criticism of ”The Howling“, it was that it waited too long to reveal the werewolves. It felt as if the filmmakers were using the first film to set up a much more epic sequel. Instead, they got “Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf“ and if you think that title is silly, an alternate name is “Howling II: Stirba- Werewolf Bitch“. Little did they know, this one film would pretty much ruin a chance at being a good franchise. Oh, there was a franchise, but fans of the original try to pretend it does not exist.
The film opens with the great Christopher Lee reading some quote from…I dunno, the Bible? Lee is superimposed in space and a skeleton floats around in the background. It’s as if the film is saying: “I hope you do not take this movie seriously, because we sure aren’t!”. Lee plays Stefan Crosscoe (I’m dead serious), a werewolf hunter who wants to put down the protagonist of the first film. When we last saw her, she had turned into a werewolf on live television and was shot dead. For some reason, they recreate that scene for this film. I guess the first movie wasn’t shitty enough for this. Oddly, it appears there was a big cover up as only Stefan seems to know about this, making me wonder how the hell do you cover up something like that on LIVE TELEVISION. It’s almost as idiotic as the Government covering up the transformers attack, as said in “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen”. Stefan tries to warn her brother, Ben (Reb Brown), that unless she’s staked in the heart, she will continue to rise as a werewolf. Ben shoos him away, but his reporter friend Jenny (Annie McEnroe) believes him. Soon, werewolves attack and Ben and Jenny to decide to team up with Stefan and travel to Transylvania (I’m dead serious) to find and kill Stirba, Queen of the werewolves.
I cannot describe to you how bad Howling 2 is. It s mind numbingly bad. But I can’t say I was ever bored, so don t expect a terribly negative rating in the end. Still, I can’t go into every flaw or I ll never get done. So I ll just talk about the flaws that bug me. The first and most obvious are the wolves themselves. The first film had amazing monsters, but these look like guys in monkey suits. They certainly are not wolves! My second major issue is the poor editing. At times, they will splice random clips of other scenes from the movie. Hell, I think they even reuse their own footage for at least one of the transformations. The most hilarious example is that they keep showing this band who sing about howling. These guys show up a few times, and we presume they’re werewolves. But I can’t help but think that the cameraman snuck into one of their concerts and spliced that footage into the movie. In the end, we see the werewolves transforming and going to kill the heroes, the band still plays and the audience is still cheering for them. Someone SERIOUSLY needs to learn the definition of continuity!
My third major issue was the acting. I will say that Christopher Lee (Stefan) does a good job, considering the material. The problem is that he must’ve cost too much money, or they wanted to be more hip, so he becomes a supporting character to our two leading morons. Speaking of hip, Lee dons these stylish sunglasses at one point and it’s so random and hilarious. Watch the movie just for that. But Reb Brown (Ben) and Annie McEnroe (Jenny) are horrendous. I believe that when people coined the phrase ‘wooden actor’, they were thinking of Reb Brown. I’ve seen trees with better acting skills! (Note from Author: Did I seriously write that?!). McEnroe constantly looks either confused or high on drugs, maybe both. It’s as if she got wasted and when she came to her senses, found herself on the set of ”Howling 2” (scary…). Sybil Danning(Stirba) isn’t a good actress (at least here), but more-or-less fits the role. The acting is mostly bad from the extras and supporting cast, but the main issue is that the films’ two leading actors happen to be the worse (Note from Author: This is just wrong). They aren’t likable characters either, so you’ll want them to die while knowing that God won’t be so kind. It really is distressing. My final point of contention is just the execution of the whole damn thing. When it tries to be scary, it’s silly. When it tries to be silly, it’s annoying. When it tries to be annoying, then it’s scary…although not in a good way. A major example is that there are some werewolf sex scenes (I’m dead serious). There is even a werewolf threesome. The problem is…That’ s disgusting. It’s not even that interesting. It’s just two hairy chicks and a hairy guy growling like morons in their bed. Ew.
Trust me when I say that there are so many problems with the film. That’s because it does NOTHING right, except casting Christopher Lee. So how can one encompass all of its flaws in one single review? I could probably write a full review on what’s wrong with the OPENING SCENE. But still…It s one of those charmingly bad movies, and I have to admit that it never bored me. It ruined the series, and plenty of other bad Howling films would come because of it. I imagine that if I had seen in when it first came out, I would’ve called it the worst movie ever. But its bad movie image has grown enough that I really expected to hate it. But I didn’t… I had a few laughs, have a new appreciation of its predecessor and now can boast that I watched ”Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf” from beginning to end. Good times.
Violence: It has some cheesy violence. R worthy for sure.
Nudity: A fair amount…not always pleasant due to the hairiness.
Overall: Don’t watch ”Howling II: Your Sister if a Werewolf” unless, like me, you actively search for bad movies. It is immensely inept, but it’s far from taking the place of ”Terror Toons“ as worst movie ever.