Everybody and their brother, and their sisters, and all their other relatives and I’ll even go so far as to speculate that if aliens are ingrained into our society they too would agree the best Howling movie is the first one, but there’s always room for guilty pleasures with this franchise and for me the only other Howling flick I enjoy is the fourth one, The Original Nightmare (1988). When it comes to Howling II, however, the Flix channel used to run it regularly and I used to catch pieces of it from time to time but last night’s viewing was the first time I’ve seen it all the way through since the mid-80s. No, it doesn’t hold up for me. In fact I do recall not even liking it when I first saw it, but I was hoping the passage of time might’ve softened my opinion on it. Sadly, it has not.
The two things this movie has going for it is Christopher Lee and Sybil Danning, both for very different reasons. Danning provides the sexuality and T&A while Lee provides his trademark gravitas and memories of his Hammer Films heritage, though at the time I first saw it I had yet to appreciate the lineage of Hammer Films. Aside from the werewolves, Danning was the big eye-candy-draw for me back then and this was long before I knew who she was.
Director Philippe Mora (The Beast Within) takes more of a camp route than true horror. I will say, at least, with this first sequel Mora did provide linking material to the first flick, so there is a kind of “continuity,” something the other films in the franchise have ignored all together. After the customary prologue of werewolves claiming their victims, we start with funeral of Karen White (the character Dee Wallace Stone played in Joe Dante’s movie), we even get glimpses of White in her coffin but it’s clear Stone did not return for any kind of cameo.
As the camera gives us a look at the attendees we see Reb Brown (Captain America, Captain America II: Death To Soon, Yor, The Hunter From The Future) and Annie McEnroe (The Hand) in attendance and if you look way in the back, before he’s formally introduced later on, there’s Christopher Lee. Rrown is White, Ben White, Karen’s cop brother from Montana and McEnroe is Jenny Templeton, a fellow newscaster friend of Karen’s. Lee plays Stefan Crosscoe and from him the mythology of Dante’s werewolves is opened up a bit. Apparently all werewolves answer to a higher up, a “Queen Of Werewolves” so-to-speak and that’s where lusciously endowed Danning comes into play. She plays Stirba, an immortal who as an old lady sucks the life force from a youngling in a ceremony that restores her youth. Voila! Sybil Danning officially enters the picture.
Why is Crosscoe at this funeral, aside from informing Ben and Jenny of the Howling mythos? He’s also there to inform them Karen is now a werewolf and that she needs to be put down for good. Remember that final scene from the first movie, where White went on her newscast and told everyone about the ‘thropes living among us and then proved it by changing into one, only to get gunned down on camera by her buddy, Chris (Dennis Dugan)? Well, the coroner took out those silver bullets so now she’s awake in her coffin and a werewolf.
More linking material is provided but apparently Mora wasn’t allowed or couldn’t get access (haven’t yet listened to the commentary for an explanation on this) to that footage from Dante’s movie, so when he shows Ben and Jenny the footage from that newscast it’s all been recreated, and not in a good way. The werewolf FX comes off a lot like a glorified Halloween mask.
Later that night after they try and stop Crosscoe from staking Karen’s body with a titanium spike, and encounter more werewolves, and even not-dead-Karen as a werewolf, they finally believe every damn word Crosscoe now says about this hidden society of shape-shifters. And the only way to stop them is to cut off the main head, to kill Stirba. Where does Stirba reside? In Transylvania, of course, and that’s where the rest of this sequel unfolds.
The werewolf FX is obviously not on par with Bottin’s from the first film. There isn’t a “major transformation” scene, just some quick shots of certain body parts shifting, with some brief shots of animatronic heads that actually worked for me as they were filmed, but the full reveal of the werewolves kind of come off more ape-like than lupine.
The main thing I always remembered about this movie was the campy, animalistic sex scene between Stirba, another chick and another guy, all in partial transformation. I’m sure it was an attempt to either one up the werewolf sex scene from Dante’s movie or just pay homage to it. Danning actually looked hot covered in full body blonde hair though.
The “big reveal” at the end is that Crosscoe and Stirba are brother and sister and both meet a fiery end when Stirba tries some magic on him and he stabs her with his special knife, igniting both of them in terminal flames.
I actually liked the music in this one. The score, which is actually part of a full song called, “The Howling,” played by a new wave band called, Babel.
On July 14th Scream Factory (Shout! Factory’s horror/scifi sub-label) releases Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf on blu-ray for the first time. Up to now it’s been widely available on DVD via MGM.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono—English subtitles only
Colors, clarity and audio all looked and sounded good to me.
- Audio Commentary with Director Philippe Mora
- Audio Commentary with Composer Steve Parsons and Editor Charles Bornstein.
- Leading Man – An Interview with Actor Reb Brown (13:51)
- Queen of the Werewolves – An Interview with Actress Sybil Danning (17:03)
- A Monkey Phase – Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler (15:29)
- Behind the Scenes Footage (in HD – from Philippe Mora’s archive) (3:52)
- Alternate Opening (10:34) and Alternate Ending (9:35) (in HD – from Philippe Mora’s archive)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery (8:17)
The saving grace for any flick I don’t like are the extra features, presuming the disc comes with any and I’ve always been a fan of retrospectives, commentaries and behind-the-scenes extras. The main draw in these batch of extra features are the three separate interviews with Reb Brown, Sybil Danning and FX artist Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler. I will say age has been very kind to Danning, she’s held up nicely and is still hot. Steve Johnson, though, provides the best tales of his work on the movie. I’ve seen him in other interviews and he’s always entertaining, so this isn’t surprising. He regales us with accounts of him having to put hair on actor Judd Omen’s dick to cover it so it wouldn’t be seen in the three-way he has with Danning and that other chick. I mean he actually had to handle the dude’s junk! He also explains the orgy scene near the end turned into an actual orgy, since all of the local extras just decided to “go for it.”
I’ve never read any of the Howling novels, always wanted to and may some day, but from what I understand none of the movies, even The Howling: Reborn (2011), has anything to do with anything Gary Brandner ever wrote. This past spring it was announced that The Howling is getting remade, so we’ll see which one becomes the inspiration, Brandner’s novel or Dante’s movie. Not that I have a preference, since Dante’s movie is one of two that are the benchmark for what a proper werewolf movie should be, but it would be nice to see more of the novel onto the screen, whatever that looks like. I must make a mental note now, if this remake actually does get greenlit, to read the damn book this time.