Howling II Review

Some films are bad. Some underachieve. Others disappoint. But only a few are truly dreadful. Howling II - or as some of us prefer to remember it, Stirba - Werewolf Bitch - is one of these and a very rare genuine example of a film which is so bad that it's funny. Right from the opening spiel in which Chris Lee, poor bastard, utters the phrase "the filthiness of her fornications", it consistently beggars belief.

It's set immediately after the ending of Joe Dante's excellent The Howling with Ben (Reb Brown), the brother of doomed newswoman Karen White, teaming up with Jenny (Annie MacEnroe) to discover the truth behind her death. Their investigations take them to Transylvania, which I was surprised to discover is apparently in Czechoslovakia, where they hook up with occult expert Stefan Crosscoe, played by Mr Lee whose excuse for appearing in the movie was that he had never made a werewolf film before. Or perhaps that he had never before had the opportunity to wear wraparound shades. He explains that there is a worldwide network of secret werewolves led by Stirba (Sybil Danning) who is waiting for the tenth millenium after her birth when all werewolves will show themselves.

Apologies if I've mangled the plot a little bit in that summary but every time I watch the film I am diverted from the narrative by the myriad distractions it offers. First among these is the dialogue which is a constant delight. I'm sure that somewhere, fans of this movie are congregating and intoning lines such as " "He's not sticking a stake in my dead sister!", "It doesn't sound like any coyotes I've ever heard", the impassioned "This woman was hit by a car. We must get her to a doctor quickly!" and the elliptical exchange, "This hotel doesn't seem to have six floors!", "Yes, funny isn't it..."

Meanwhile, the improbabilities pile up at a speed which is a touch brisk even for a trashy werewolf flick. Why does Ben not know about his sister being a werewolf when she transformed into one on national television? Why does the hotel manager's excellent English not extend to the word "view"? We discover that werewolves like mid-80s new wave music, wear leather bondage gear, can only be killed with titanium (not, as you and the rest of the world might think, silver) and like nothing better than rolling around with each other in an erotic frenzy prior to hiding in the bushes and getting themselves killed despite the fact that they are an army of thirty up against five humans. Stirba, their leader, behaves like Heidi Fleiss and has a penchant for ripping off her top to reveal an impressive bust. The filmmakers are so taken with this moment that they repeat it numerous times over the end credits. Oh and, before I forget, an exploding dwarf is somehow involved.

Considering what appalling guff this all is, it's surprisingly watchable. Philippe Mora makes up for a complete lack of terror or tension with terrific pacing and some pretty groovy special effects, particularly during a climactic duel between Lee and Danning which gets quite psychedelic. One vaguely wonders whether the film is actually meant to be funny but this seems unlikely. At any rate, fans of Sybil Danning will get their money's worth, although I suspect that most of them already own a copy and will be worshipping before it for a long time to come. Amongst these fans must surely be counted Eli Roth since the Hostel films seem to take place in exactly the same village in which this film is set.

Optimum's DVD offers an excellent 1.85:1 transfer which is anamorphically enhanced. The mono soundtrack is quite acceptable which is more than can be said for the songs which is supplied by a band called "Babel". There are no extras but, hey, who needs them?

Category Capsule Review

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