After the funeral of the news reporter killed in the original werewolf sightings, her brother Ben, his girlfriend and an occult investigator go to Transylvania to take out a werewolf cult which is headed up by the alluring Stirba.
I can’t say I’m a big fan of the original The Howling, loosely based on the novel of the same name. But it was successful enough to not only spawn this sequel but a whole series of cheaply-made sequels, most even more terrible than the preceding one. The Howling series has gone on to become one of the worst horror series ever made. Ditching the original’s seriousness and scares, Howling II is very much the epitome of the crazy 80s horror genre. It was filmed and then shelved for two years before it was eventually sent straight-to-video. Surely an early warning sign of just how terrible everyone considered this sequel to be.
I think the best thing that can be said about Howling II is that it follows on from the original, starting up a short while afterwards at the funeral of Karen White. The fact that the main character here is her brother is the only connection that this sequel has but it’s still something that the majority of the sequels failed to bother with. But then the script is tossed out of the window and it’s anything goes for the rest of Howling II. To even consider describing it would be to do it an injustice. Not only content with completely re-writing the werewolf rules of the first film, it unleashes a series of improbable plot holes and contrived tongue-in-cheek sequences in an ‘throw everything at the screen and hope something sticks’ mentality.
Howling II is badly edited, with random shots of inanimate objects intercut into scenes as well as poor scene transition swiping, full of cheap-looking werewolf effects, loads of mystical mumbo jumbo and plenty of 80s punk rock music to boot. The emphasis on 80s music, clothing and general culture really dates this more than the other sequels. There’s no question as to what decade this was made in but I guess everyone was having so much fun expressing themselves in new ways that they forgot to include the key ingredients that film makers have been using for decades – namely a story and script. It’s films like this where it’s best not to think too hard about what is going on, sit back and see where the journey takes you.
The journey will not take you anywhere near a convincing make-up department. The werewolves look dreadful and transformations nowhere near the quality of the original. The gore effects fair a little better, with a dwarf who has his eyes pop out, but only in the sense that they’re gloriously over-the-top. Howling II also likes to emphasise the werewolf’s primal desires – namely that they like to have a lot of sex. Werewolf orgies galore take place throughout the film but unless you like your sex scenes with a lot of bodily hair, grunting and sweat then these will be more off-putting than arousing. There’s a reason why werewolf films tend not to show this side of their shaggy characters and these scenes add a sleazy touch to the film. Not that it really needed it to begin with but anyone portraying a werewolf overacts, emphasising the feral nature of the character with all the tact of a runaway train.
Even the legendary Christopher Lee can’t save this train wreck and I feel sorry and embarrassed for him to be associated with anything to do with this. Lee is slumming big time here and looks like he’d rather be anywhere else (even sporting a pair of silly 80s designer sun glasses which give him that ‘uncool granddad’ look). He’s still the best thing on display and rather amusingly apologised to Joe Dante, director of The Howling, for appearing in this when the two men made Gremlins 2: The New Batch a few years later.
Sybil Danning stars as Stirba and provides the film with its glamour quota. The end credits feature a repeated clip of the voluptuous Ms Danning ripping her shirt off and revealing her Playboy-endorsed chest (from earlier in the film) over and over again, each time followed by a random clip of someone in the film reacting to something. It’s the most sophisticated piece of editing on display anywhere in the film. Jimmy Nail pops up as LA biker, complete with his thick Geordie accent (a person from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in England for those unsure of what a Geordie is).
Howling II has about as much going for it as a feature film as a cheesy 80s music video would (complete with the punk rock soundtrack) and the comparison between the two is pretty accurate. Largely unconcerned with the finer arts of film making like a story, script and characters, Howling II just lets rip with a bewildering array of 80s cheese. It’s a car crash of a film, one of the worst sequels of all time and yet strangely watchable.