HOWLING: NEW MOON RISING (1995)
(Written and Directed by Clive Turner)
(Starring Clive Turner, John Huff and John Ramsden)
Plot: A mysterious drifter with an agenda named Ted (Clive Turner) wanders into an Australian town in California (!!), where the inhabitants start being preyed upon by line dancing…and occasionally a werewolf- who is probably line dancing too.
I’m not entirely sure I can properly review this one as…it’s so bad that I’m beginning to feel the need to apologize to the previous Howling flicks for the low ratings I assigned them. I find it unnatural to start question whether I’m being too harsh on bad movies, just because worse horrors happen to lurk in the shadows, waiting to prey upon unsuspecting critics…Bad will always be bad, but “Howling: New Moon Rising” is a special kind of evil- one that represents everything I deplore about cheap sequels, from stock footage abuse to padding to terrible everything, causing the traumatic experiences of the Puppet Master franchise to resurface. Yet despite all of this laziness, “Howling: New Moon Rising” is strangely ambitious. Clive Turner attempts to weld the continuity of the previous three sequels together, despite the conflicting werewolf lore and there are even some shocking revelations surrounding minor characters from those movies that I certainly did not see coming. It confirms that Elizabeth She was reprising her role as Mary Lou for her cameo in “Howling VI: The Freaks“, although I’ll try to ignore that they show footage from that movie as if someone was recording her…from the werewolf pit…using a more sophisticated camera than the one used to film “Howling 7“…Remember Ray (Clive Turner) from “Howling V: The Rebirth“, the charming Australian ex-musician? Or do you remember Clive Turners’ bit role as the tow truck guy from “Howling IV: The Original Nightmare“? It turns out that they are the same person and Ray survived the events of the fifth movie. This makes absolutely no f@cking sense, as he’s mauled early on and his body is seen much later- meaning he was laying unconscious in the blizzard for hours, but I’m still trying to comprehend how he was a werewolf in the fourth and not in the fifth or this…My mind has exploded from the sheer nonsensical bullshit that this sequel is trying to feed me. Writer, Producer and now leading Actor Clive Turner even tries to weave a complicated mystery, filled with many twists and turns and I…still am not entirely sure what went down. I almost feel like I need to re-watch the last 25 minutes just to understand the ending, but…have you seen “Howling 7“?! I’d rather not go through the experience again! The first hour is just people standing around, drinking, dancing and farting, only for the finale to cram an ungodly amount of information down our throats in such quick succession that…I COULDN’T KEEP UP! I WAS DEFEATED and…I kind of respect the movie for it. I do sincerely believe that Clive Turner TRIED to tell a compelling story and now I feel challenged to completely analyze every aspect of its failure- and make no mistake, this is a failure, even if I am fascinated by it.
The first thing you should know about “Howling 7” is that the budget is so low, they could not even afford general production equipment, actual filmmakers or even trained actors. This was shot on video, so the quality of the film resembles one of your parents’ old home movies and the majority of the cast were residents of the town they were shooting in- so they had no experience or training. This could’ve been funny, but to be honest, they all look uncomfortable in front of the camera, so deliver their lines in such a rigid way that I began to miss the ‘lively’ performances of “Howling 4” (although even the ‘professional’ actors aren’t particularly good). I will admit that Clive Turner has a lot of charm (he was actually my favorite character in “Howling 5“), but the writing seems designed to serve his ego. Everyone finds his lame jokes to be hilarious and he is always the center of attention in EVERY SCENE HE’S IN. Part of me wonders if he refrained from hiring real actors (and sharing the screen with the other professionals), just to make himself look more talented in comparison. Every time he made one of these Howling flicks, he increased his role behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera, so it’s certainly possible. We don’t get a glimpse of the werewolf until an hour into the movie, so the attacks are shown from the killers’ POV using this murky red filter that makes it impossible to tell what is happening. When we get a transformation near the end, it’s executed using awful CGI that would embarrass even the cheapest of television shows and the beast itself is merely a person in a werewolf mask…I’m pretty sure I saw an identical one on Ebay for $40, so now I feel bad for criticizing the effects of “Howling 2“, because I’m not sure if any of the ‘creations’ within “Howling 7” should qualify as ‘special effects’. I’m surprised to learn that there was a credited cinematographer, but not surprised to learn that Clive Turner apparently edited this picture too. It’s very choppy to say the least, with no respect for tone, continuity, pacing or even cohesive storytelling. Someone will get killed, only for it to cut to a comical music montage. This is especially glaring during the finale, where the climactic showdown suddenly jumps to a musical number. There will be scenes of extras goofing around and drinking for long periods of time, but then it will abruptly transition to important exposition so quickly that my mind struggled to process this new information and two seconds later, we’re back to the goofing around and drinking for long periods of time.
I don’t think “Howling 7” was even trying to be scary and there’s no violence or atmosphere- alienating any potential horror fans. The only suspense is the dread you will feel when an incoming dance routine is about to begin and…Are we sure this isn’t a werewolf themed Country Music Video? Because this shit happens a lot. To pad out the runningtime, there will be a lot of filler, primarily surrounding singing and line dancing, which gets pretty tedious even before they begin. I’m not entirely sure why the characters do a lot of this with the lights off, unless this was a lame attempt from Turner to be artsy and I don’t get why they do it so often, because they don’t look like they’re having fun. No one seems to be smiling, presumably because the townsfolk are too busy trying to say in sync for the shot and their ‘director’ had told them they had to do it in the dark. Another tactic to pad out the runningtime is using stock footage from “Howling 4” and “Howling 5“, which draws more attention to the inferior camera quality of this sequel. I despise ‘franchise clip shows’ because they don’t require any skill whatsoever, but this is even more bizarre than usual as characters are describing events which they could not possibly know about and sometimes manage to get information wrong- I guess these are retcons, as they refer to Ray as Ted now. At what point in “Howling 5” did anyone ever suspect Ray/Ted of being the killer? But we’re probably more distracted by the fact that the Priest is aware of the final showdown in the castle, even though the only person (survivor) who could’ve told him this was Mary Lou, the antagonist. He even says “Mary Lou made a choice…the wrong one…” when choosing to shoot David over the count, but he already knows she was the killer, so that line makes absolutely no f@cking sense.
The script is already at a disadvantage with its reliance on clips from other movies, but why else does it suck? The narrative is structured in a very confusing way, as the conversation between the Priest (John Huff) and the Investigator (John Ramsden) seems to take place in one sitting and yet it’s broken up amidst scenes of Ted assimilating into the town, which appears to take place over the course of a few days. Um…what? I’ll return to the ending later, as its suckitude deserves its own paragraph, but the script is insanely unfocused and contradictory. The first act spends a lot of time developing a romance between Ted and a local Widow, which just suddenly…stops…I’m not entirely sure when that ended or even if it did officially end, but she fades into the background and all of that build-up was wasted. They reveal a lot of new information about the werewolf lore, which enters absurd territory. I guess I can roll with the possession angle, as “Howling 5” does indicate that werewolves are either the products of that kind of black magic or at least are capable of performing it. The Priest claims that the werewolves take three years for their powers to mature, while also stating that the events at the Hungarian Castle (fifth film) took place three years ago. Yet later on, Mary Lou takes credit for the events in Drago (the fourth film), which I’d presume took place before then? How was she responsible for those events anyway? My theory…ugh, I can’t believe I’m doing this…is she possessed the doctor-antagonist from “Howling 4” and when s(he?) jumped at Marie during the closing shots, she brainwashed her…maybe…There are still holes in that idea though, which I’ll return to later. On another note, why does the investigator believe the Priest about the werewolf story? He’s incredulous at first, but is willing to listen for apparently days instead of doing his job and he eventually accepts the Priests’ theories without any proof. The answer to all of these questions is: “Shit Writing”.
But the third act is when the script implodes, while somehow simultaneously catching my interest in a very warped kind of way. My eyebrows raised when Marie (Romy Windsor) from “Howling 4” returned, even if only to recap what happened to her, so they can use more stock footage. However, she is the one who drew attention to Ted/Ray being the aforementioned tow truck driving werewolf, which made me wonder if there were two beasts prowling around. One of the problems with this narrative is that even though Ted has a mysterious agenda, we know he can’t be the killer because we see him during the ‘killer cam’ POV shots, making the mystery sort of redundant. But Ted being a werewolf who just happens to be innocent of these crimes would be a really cool twist and could explain how he survived in “Howling 5“. Unfortunately, this is dismissed by the Inspector claiming that Marie was ‘under the werewolfs’ mind control’ and…what? The werewolf has mind control powers? Um, why doesn’t she use those during the ending when facing certain death? But maybe this explains why the Count didn’t suspect her- OHMYGOD, I AM NOT DOING THIS! I AM NOT GOING TO FILL YOUR HOLES, MR. MOVIE! But does this mean that “Howling 4” was a delusion? Or a lie? Because Clive Turner did play an extra who turns into a werewolf in the fourth flick and we see that footage, but the twist is that she was making that part up. Yet Mary Lou claims to be ‘responsible for Drago’ to Ted and not those she was trying to deceive, so something must have happened. BUT WHAT!? Then the narrative starts going into some stupid territory by having the Inspector and Priest debate the innocence of Ted, even though they seem to know things they should have no way of knowing. During this, they start having flashbacks to a conversation they had with Ted, which COULD’VE EASILY BEEN SHOWN IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER THE SCENE BEFORE. This was weird, but then they return to the ‘Priest Vs Inspector’ argument and then flashback to ANOTHER SCENE WHICH TOOK PLACE SHORTLY AFTER THE EVENTS OF THE FIRST FLASHBACK AND THIS CONTINUES. We learn that Ted was captured via flashback and then escaped via flashback and then was recaptured via flashback and WHY WAS THIS STRUCTURED THAT WAY!? These editing choices confused me so much that I had to rewind this segment just to understand what was going on…except I really didn’t because this movie is too bad to endure more than once (or even once). Also, the Priest just wants to shoot him before the full moon rises and this also seems like a really dumb idea. Considering how the movie ends, silver bullets do kill werewolves so why not wait until the transformation begins? You’re less likely to get charged with murder and there’s no chance of accidentally killing an innocent person! Finally, what were the motivations of Mary Lou? I’m still not sure why she bothered setting up Ted to be the fall guy. Was her plan to spare him all along in “Howling 5“, so she could frame him for those murders, even though everyone was already convinced that the Count (AND NOT TED) was the real killer? If so, she failed miserably because the Priest already knew she was guilty. But then why create an entire organization to lure Ted into this town, just so she can frame him for the few murders she’s committing to COVER UP HER DIABOLICAL PLAN TO…frame him…What? Her scheme is the equivalent of a snake eating its own tail, so she must be the dumbest werewolf on the planet and she is supposed to be the overarching villain of the franchise…ugh, Mary Lou makes me miss Harker….and Stirba (werewolf bitch)…and Antagonist-Doctor whose name I can’t remember.. Also- If Mary Lou is possessing people, she shouldn’t be afraid of being caught and if any werewolf-ish murders occur, Ian (“Howling 6“) would probably be the first suspect (because he transformed in public and survived). I liked the attempt to connect the stories of the fourth and fifth films to some overarching plot, but when that plot is vague and makes no sense, it doesn’t matter.
One of the reasons I believe Clive Turners’ heart was in the right place, which makes it difficult for me to completely hate this film, is that a lot of attention was put into the dialogue. This generally takes the form of lame attempts to be funny, but at least the lines have flavor to them. The majority of the jokes don’t work and sometimes they’re wildly terrible, but they do sort of give the film a distinct personality. The incomprehensible writing makes me wonder if Turners’ previous writing partner in crime- Freddie Rowe, whom the director of “Howling 4” suspected of being Turner himself- was a real person who managed to convert Turners’ wild ideas into something resembling a coherent storyline. Their collaborations didn’t produce good scripts, but at least I was able to understand them. Clive Turner could’ve potentially become a good producer, as he is very imaginative, but it sounds like he burned a lot of bridges during his tenure on the Howling franchise and once he was able to continue his work, he was given virtually nothing to work with. Even a good director, writer and editor would not be able to overcome these absent production values and Clive Turner is an awful director, a worse- if more ambitious- writer and he might be the worst editor. Ever. Of anything. So “Howling VII: New Moon Rising” is shit, but I respect the effort, even if it’s consumed by incompetence. But even though Turner tried, there is absolutely no reason to watch this, as it will bore you at best, bore AND confuse you at worst. If you want a good laugh at the expense of a werewolf, just watch this clip, as it’s the only piece of entertainment you will get out of this sequel.
Violence: Very little.
Overall: “Howling VII: New Moon Rising” lowered the bar for the Howling franchise (which was already crawling on the floor), primarily because the budget was so small that I’m sure even I could’ve financed the movie. This is bad. Very, very, very, very bad