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The Howling Collection (Umbrella Entertainment Review)

Howling III: The Marsupials
Director – Philippe Mora (Mad Dog Morgan, Pterodactyl Woman in Beverly Hills)
Starring – Barry Otto (Rogue, The Punisher), Imogen Annesley (Queen of the Damned, The Outsider), and Lee Biolos (Vietnam, Echoes of Paradise)
Release Date – 1987
Rating – 3.5/5

Tagline – “The “Howling” terror continues”

People are highly opinionated but rarely respect other’s opinions. You either think the same as they do or they will bash you for being different. Horror fans are no different. From a young age I realized that my movie tastes are much different than others and as a horror fan that is extremely true. I tend to like the films that most people deem bad or unwatchable. To me these films are more original and fun.

When I was in high school I was traveling to Tennessee with my dad to visit my brother. We stopped in Virginia and near a gas station was a store called Roses. I wasn’t familiar with that store then but since then I’ve come to realize that it is a chain store in the same line as Big Lots. I went inside while my dad pumped gas and found a movie display. Most were $5 but there was a few far less. It was here that I first found Howling III: The Marsupials. The movie was $1 and I couldn’t leave without it. I had seen the first film and loved it so I needed it for my collection. As soon as I got to my brother’s home I had to watch it and I fucking loved it. Jump forward and Umbrella Entertainment has released the film on blu and in a DVD box set along with VI, V, and VI. They were kind to hook me up with both!

**Spoiler Alert**The film follows a young woman who is a weremarsupial that lives in the bush with several other women and her step-father who sexually abuses her. She longs for something more and leaves to Sydney where she meets an assistant director who offers her a part in Shape Shifter 8, a werewolf film is he working on. Her abusive family follows her to bring her back to her step-father. Trapped in the middle of the feuding family is an anthropologist who suspects that werewolves exist after discovering an old video of one being killed by aboriginals. His research put him in the middle of the family but soon they are all in danger when the government learns of their existence as well and sets out to eradicate them. **Spoiler Alert**

I know this sequel to the popular Howling film often gets a bum rap among horror fans. I can see why it would turn many off but I fucking love it. In fact, I do find it a little more fun than the first film. I know that is an extremely unpopular opinion but that’s just how I feel.

The acting in this one is actually pretty fucking good. I always enjoyed Barry Otto’s performance. He may not be the traditional lead but he sure delivers one hell of a performance. Imogen Annesley and Lee Biolos work perfectly together. They feed off each other’s emotions which really sells their scenes. The supporting cast is fun as well.

The story for this one is what really sold me on the film. Tasmanian tigers are something I was very interested in middle school. That whole cryptozoology thing had kicked in so I was very interested in it. Several books I had read made mention of the tigers and sighting of the creature that had been extinct since in the 1930s. Having a werewolf movie set around this was pretty fucking cool if you asked me. I also liked the love story tacked on and the various werewolf tribes. This created a huge universe that could be used for future films. With that being said, the biggest drawback to this one is that it is not a continuality of the first two films. It is a standalone film. My biggest complaint about the film is the ending. The action ends and we enter this happy phase of the film which is cool and all but it just keeps going. It could end at any time but it doesn’t. It chooses to just keep going and going with nothing new added to the story.

Finally, this one has some questionable effects mixed with some fun one. There is several scenes that always fascinated me but there was a few times where I could not figure out what they were thinking. Like the werewolf nuns with the rubber masks. They looks completely ridiculous when they tried to talk. If they would have just stayed still it would have been a cool shot and not look so cheap. Overall, Howling III: The Marsupials is a guilty pleasure of mine. I absolutely love the film and the blu release from Scream Factory is a must for any collector.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
Director(s) – John Hough (The Legend of Hell House, Twins of Evil) and Clive Turner (Howling: New Moon Rising)
Starring – Romy Windsor (The X-Files, Surf Ninjas), Michael T. Weiss (Dark Shadows, The Mummy), and Antony Hamilton (Nocturna, The Twilight Zone)
Release Date – 1988
Rating – 2/5

Tagline – “A terrifying journey into the gaping jaws of death…”

Horror franchises rarely end as well as they started. Companies love to beat a dead horse. This can be seen with franchises like Child’s Play, Hellraiser, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and so on. These names sell so companies continue to hash out half-assed films because fans will pay for it. The Howling franchise is a bit of an odd duck. These werewolf films have nothing in common aside from the fact they are centered around werewolves. The first two films are tied together but the others have nothing to do with each other. Most sequels at least try to fit together but not with this series.

**Spoiler Alert**The film follows an author who suffers from an overactive imagination and has visions of nuns and wolves. Her husband, being the genius he is, takes her into the woods to relax because wolves don’t live in the woods. While there, you guess it, she hears wolves and becomes infatuated with their howls. Her search of the woods and the local town brings her the attention of a former nun who is also doing research there after one of her best friends goes missing and is found completely insane. The two start looking together and quickly uncover that the townsfolk is now as they appear to be.**Spoiler Alert**

I wanted to like this one. I had heard nothing but horrible things about this one so I thought it would be just as fun to as me as Howling III. I was wrong. The film just could not pull everything it had together into something coherent and entertaining.

The acting in this one had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Most of the men are dubbed over in a deeper voice that reminded me of those late 80s wrestling shoot videos. They seemed to be more aggressive than the actor actually was and a few times I was expecting them to start quoting the Ultimate Warrior. With that being said, Romy Windsor actually delivers an impressive performance which is overshadowed by everything else wrong with the film. Her character is great and she does a fantastic job.

The story for this one is more a kin to the source material than the first film. Sadly, it is a nightmare to sit through. The scenes are painfully boring and will try the viewer’s attention. So many scenes could have been cut from the film and the story would have still worked. Hell, making it shorter would have made the film have a completely different feel and more entertaining. Editing is key to this one.

Finally, the film does have some awesome effects. We get some great practical effects and I fucking loved the werewolf. It did look a little cheesy but I still liked it. Overall, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare tries to me more faithful to the book the series is based on but compromises the quality of the film. The movie has plenty of unintentional humor and great practical effects but falls flat everywhere else. In the Howling franchise this is the weakest installment so far.

Howling V: The Rebirth
Director – Neal Sundstrom (Dead Easy, Space Mutiny)
Starring – Phil Davis (Alien 3, Sherlock), Victoria Catlin (Ghoulies, Twin Peaks), and Elizabeth She (Howling VI: The Freaks, Howling: New Moon Rising)
Release Date – 1989
Rating – 2.5/5

Tagline – “The beast returns!”

Horror franchises are rarely consistent through every film. The Evil Dead trilogy is always fun and almost all of Romero’s Dead films are worth every horror fan’s time but there is other franchises that start with a bang but quickly turn sour. Series like Return of the Living Dead, Phantasm, Leprechaun, and The Howling are just several series that start out great but soon start releasing films that are poor quality just to cash in on the fan base.

A week or so ago I was sent The Howling Collection DVD box set from Umbrella Entertainment. The set includes Howling III, IV, V, and VI. I had seen the first three prior to receiving this set. I actually own all these all ready on DVD and blu but I had never got around to watching them until now. After watching Howling IV and V I can safely say this is a franchise that suffered as the series progressed.

**Spoiler Alert**The film begins 500 years ago when a family massacre happens inside an old castle in Budapest. The castle was closed up and not opened again until now when a bus of strangers is asked to come spend the night there. There is nothing that connects them all together except they have a peculiar birthmark on their arm. As the night progresses they find themselves dwindling in numbers until the final few remaining learn that they were brought together by an ancient order that believes one with the mark is actually a werewolf and this is their only shot to kill it. This creates paranoia among the group and the real werewolf is able to get the upper hand. **Spoiler Alert**

I’m reaching new territory with this set. I didn’t know what to expect but after forcing myself through the painful Howling IV I knew it could only get better with Howling V and for the most part it did.

The acting in this one is leagues above Howling IV. The characters are extremely clichéd but the cast worked with what they were given which makes the scenes tolerable.

The story for this one mixes the werewolves with the murder mystery format. It could have worked except we never get werewolf action. The carnage takes place off camera and the werewolf is barely a character throughout the film. Most werewolf fans will be disappointed by this. With that being said, I loved the introduction to the ancient organization that hunts werewolves. I hope this is something explored in later installments because it could be something extremely entertaining.

Finally, this one has some solid practical effects but they are just after moments. We don’t get to see the kills actually happen and the werewolf is barely visible in the film. Overall, Howling V: The Rebirth is a little better watch than Howling IV but still has it’s own fair share of problems. It still deserves a watch but don’t expect to be revisiting it anytime soon. 

Howling VI: The Freaks
Director – Hope Perello (Pet Shop, St. Patrick’s Day)
Starring – Brendan Hughes (Torchwood, Return to Horror High), Michele Matheson (Kingpin, Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation), and Sean Sullivan (Wayne’s World, Back to the Future III)
Release Date – 1991
Rating – 3/5

Tagline – “Vampire vs. werewolf. The ultimate clash of the forces of evil”

I know Howling VI: The Freaks is not the last in the Howling series. If memory serves I think there is two more after this one but I knew this would the last one in the set so I didn’t have high expectations. This 1991 horror film is often mentioned in groups and compared to the first Underworld series that features a werewolf/vampire hybrid.

People often bashed The Freaks but referenced it when Underworld was released. I had never seen The Freaks until now and I finally understand why people compared the two. Way different stories but the beast is very similar. I was not looking forward to this one but it actually surprised me and I liked it. This box set begins and ends with solid films while the middle is murky.

**Spoiler Alert**The film follows an English handyman who goes to a small town during a drought looking for work. A preacher who is a single father hires him to help restore the church in hopes of inspiring others in the community during this troubling time. Everything goes smoothly until the night of a full moon. The handyman changes into a werewolf and the owner of a traveling carnival that is traveling through knows exactly what he is so he cages him to use in his sideshow. The preacher’s daughter is in love with him and tries to free him but discovers that the sideshow owner is harboring a dark secret as well.**Spoiler Alert**

I didn’t know what to expect from this one but at the end of the day I really enjoyed it. It was just as flawed as the previous installments but I really enjoyed myself.

The acting in this one is actually pretty entertaining. We get some rather enjoyable characters with some great development mixed with some very forgettable characters. The cast does give the scenes everything they have to offer but there is a few where it just comes up short or falls flat. With that being said, it is leagues better than Howling IV.

The story for this one really held my interest. I’ve always enjoyed horror films centered around traveling carnivals and sideshows. Carnies have such a horrifying appeal to me. They could be roaming serial killers that bounce from town to town or vampires that drains entire towns during their visits. The possibilities are endless. With that being said, I really liked how it was added to the Howling universe and even expanded upon. However, there is several scenes that are painfully slow to watch as the film progressed. The first 45 minutes or so coasted by but the film does start to wonder after the hour mark.

Finally, the film has some solid practical effects. We get some blood and great practical effects and the creatures are great with the exception of the one werewolf scene where he is caged. He was very laughable. Overall, Howling VI: The Freaks may not be perfect but it doesn’t deserve the shit that it gets It definitely deserves a watch. 

Written by Blacktooth

(Staff Writer) Lover of all things horror and metal. Also likes boobs and booze.