Howling 5/Howling 6
Film Length: 96/102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (1.33:1)
Audio: DD 2.0 Stereo Surround (both films)
Subtitles: English (both films)
Joe Dante’s 1981 classic The Howling ranks among the greatest horror films of the decade but sadly the film was great because that meant a whole flood of sequels would follow. I pretty much gave up on the series after Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf, which is without a doubt one of the worst movies ever made. Part three was released in 1987 with part four following the next year. Then in 1989 Howling 5: The Rebirth was released direct to video. It’s sequel Howling 6: The Freaks would follow two years later. Now in 2003 we get a double feature thanks to Artisan.
Budapest, 1489 is where our film starts off. In a dark castle everyone inside has committed suicide for some unknown reason. Two survivors are in terror and decide to kill themselves after a baby is thought to have also been killed. After their death we hear the baby cry out, which gets us onto to the mystery. Five hundred years later a group of people is brought back to the castle by a strange Count who could be hiding his own little secrets.
The group has no idea why they are at the castle and things take a strange turn when the bus that brought them there drives off into the night. To make matters worse a snowstorm has hit, which means they’ll have to spend the night in the castle. Soon members of the group begin to disappear so that Count orders a search of the place. Soon bodies are found with their throats bitten out and it appears that the legend of the werewolves is real. In a Ten Little Indians fashion, the group must discover who the werewolf is and destroy the thing before more die.
Howling 5 suffers from a very small budget and I’m not sure to bash the film for this or praise it. The low budget is so low that we have to suffer through the fact that the werewolf is pretty much never seen. We get a few close-ups of its teeth and a couple quick shots of it attacking but we never get a good eye on the creature. This become pretty irritating, although I guess some could claim this was a homage to Universal’s dreadfully bad She Wolf of London. Those expecting gore will also be disappointed to hear that all the death scenes are shown off screen.
The good thing about the low budget is that the director tries to make up for it with some wonderful locations and a pretty nice script, which is full of some funny dialogue. Most of the laughs come from a dumb blonde actress who is too stupid to know what’s going on around here. The director pretty much abuses the “dumbness” in the woman but it’s pretty funny in the end. The castle is very well decked out and adds some nice atmosphere to the mix. Another good aspect is the snowstorm that rages outside. This here leads to some very nice shots, although I doubt this is what horror fans is wanting to hear.
In the end Howling 5 is a decent little movie but the low budget and non-gory violence will probably turn more genre fans off. It’s well made and well acted but that can only take a horror film like this so far. Another problem is that the film drags on and on with useless talk about the legend and mystery when the viewer knows exactly what’s going on. The characters talk and talk about it not being a werewolf yet we know it is so these scenes come off as fake and really just pad the running time, which should have been cut to begin with. Many fans of the series talk about the shock ending but I pretty much caught it early on. If you want to see this same storyline better done then I highly recommend the Amicus film The Beast Must Die with Peter Cushing, which features that infamous “werewolf break”.
Drifter Ian Richards (Brendan Hughes) arrives out of nowhere in a small town that doesn’t have too much going for it. As soon as he steps foot in the town he is hassled by the Sheriff who doesn’t want his type in the city. Thankfully a preacher steps forward and offers Ian a job in rebuilding the local church. Ian, needing a place to stay, agrees to take the job and starts working that day. Within a week he has a new church up and has become quite friendly with the Preacher and his sexy daughter.
Arriving in town the same day as Ian is a traveling circus, which contains all sorts of freaks but Ian seems to know something a little more. For the past several years Ian has been tracking this circus around because he knows that its owner is a vampire who travels around gathering new “freak” vampires to add to his collection. We’re in for a bonus shock when the full moon rises and Ian turns into a werewolf. Soon we’ve got a showdown between the vampires and the werewolf.
Howling 6 is a dreadful film, which is shocking because there are so many good ideas going on here. The screenplay however makes the mistake of trying to get us to know and understand the characters. There are so many worthless scenes trying to explain everything going on that my head was about to explode. It seems every single character in the film has a story to tell and I for one really don’t want to hear any of them. Running nearly two hours in length is another problem for the film. Had the movie been cut by twenty-minutes then it probably would have helped things. There are some nice special effects however but it takes way too long for all of them to come into play.
VIDEO---Both films are shown full frame (4:3), which is the correct ratio since both of these were made for video. H5 looks decent, although you can tell not too much work went into the film. The opening credits are full of speckles but these clear up throughout the movie. The entire film looks a bit washed out, although I’m sure some of this has to do with the nature the film was shot. Some of the scenes also appear a bit too fuzzy. While this isn’t Anchor Bay quality the transfer is still a little better than VHS. H6 looks even better and it’s pretty close to flawless. There are a few black speckles that pop up here and there but overall the transfer is very easy on the eyes. The opening shots of the desert sky don’t look too hot but the nighttime scenes have very rich blacks that make this a perfectly fine transfer.
AUDIO---Both come with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround tracks. H5 has clear dialogue throughout and the music score sounds very well, although it’s a bit flat. For some strange reason there is a lot of hiss whenever there’s a quick cut to the outside of the castle. After each death there’s usually a cut to the outside and this is where a lot of hiss can be heard but this only lasts a few seconds. H6 has a wonderful track, which has some wonderful moments. The music score sounds wonderful coming from the surrounds and the funny song being played while building the church might have you turning up the volume and dancing.
EXTRAS---Just an insert with chapter listings.
OVERALL---These were the first sequels I’ve seen since part 2. I thought the fifth was decent but the sixth film really got on my nerves so I’ll certainly retire it along side the second film. I was pleasantly shocked to see how good these films look and sound. If you’re a fan of either film then you’ll certainly want this disc in your collection.
Release Date: September 23, 2003