Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Havoc: THE HOWLING: REBORN (2011)

Despite Clive Turner giving the werewolves of the HOWLING films a seemingly terminal case of fleas and mange with the life-questioning seventh entry, the series lived to howl at the moon another day (or night) thanks to some enterprising producers. The horror genre had changed a lot since HOWLING VII rotted video store shelves – SCREAM gave audiences neo-slasher geek chic; the remake train left Hollywood, destination everywhere; and millions of teenage girls fell in love with high school vampires and werewolves of the TWILIGHT saga. The not-so-fine folks at Moonstone Entertainment felt the time was right to resurrect the beast with all of those elements. So the werewolf was pulled from its grave, thoroughly groomed and spruced up for this remake – oh, sorry – reboot the HOWLING series.

The story opens with a pregnant woman (Ivana Milicevic) being stalked and killed by a werewolf in New York City. Cut to 18 years later and Will Kidman (Landon Liboiron), her grown son, is getting ready to graduate from high school. His life sucks because he is bullied, unsure of himself and pining for the girl of his dreams, Eliana (Lindsey Shaw). We know all of this thanks to his whining voice over. After a wild night at a high school dance where he thinks he was chased by a werewolf, Will begins to notice changes. He can see better without the need of his glasses (SPIDER-MAN who?) and he takes out his bully nemesis Roland (Niels Schneider) in a fistfight. He asks his horror nerd friend about werewolves and, sure enough, Will is exhibiting the signs (his cut wrist heals itself). Virgin Will is going to be getting some tail alright – his own! Things go from bad to worse when love struck Will and Eliana get trapped in their high tech school and stalked by Will’s returning mom, who is building an army of werewolves to take on the world. Thanks mom for ruining my special day and making it about you!

“You staring at my girl, Harry Potter?”



Having revisited the previous HOWLING sequels over the past week, I’m quite unsure what to think about THE HOWLING: REBORN. It is certainly a slicker production than anything from part III forward. At the same time, it is probably worse than any of the other HOWLING sequels (well, save part VII) because the film is trying so hard to be something else. I can just see writer-director Joe Nimziki pitching this to the producers. “Imagine this - it will be like THE HOWLING meets TWILIGHT with some SPIDER-MAN high school drama thrown it,” he certainly said. And with those two film series raking in billions, I’m sure the producers slobbered up like Pavlov’s dogs. Unfortunately, Nimziki and crew didn’t seem to understand the ultimate HOWLING tenant – just because you include the elements that made something else successful, it doesn’t mean you will be.

Oddly enough, the film’s opening credits boldly claim this film is based on the book The Howling II by Gary Brandner. Even though I haven’t read that book, a quick read of the synopsis shows that is about as factual as Sarah Palin being a Mensa member. Like the other sequels, there are werewolves and that is about it. There are a few in jokes (a character says they will be at Brandner’s Pub; Nimziki includes his own name as an author of a lycanthrope book), but Nimziki’s script offers very little in terms of actual scares or drama. Will is constantly spouting lines like, “You know what we do? We let moments pass, opportunities pass, our lives pass.” And I just about died when his final voice over offers “we’re always at our most monstrous when we ignore our humanity.” Really? You went with that. How much do you want to bet Nimziki wrote that line and then thought “damn, I nailed it” to himself? Of course, this is a guy who wrote a bully getting his ass beat in the toilet by a nerd and then deciding to pull out his gun post-beat down when he wakes up.

Like I have said this past week though, crappy scripting can always be forgiven if we get some damn cool werewolf action. Yet again, when it comes down to the werewolves, we get cheated. Most of the beast action occurs in the film’s last ten minutes. Despite obviously having a budget to make some decent creatures, the filmmakers never give the audience a great look at them thanks to some chaotic camerawork that would make Michael Bay clutch his seat and scream “turn it off” like he is George C. Scott in HARDCORE (1979). When will they learn that jerky camera work doesn’t translate to super fast-action? I think what I saw of them that they looked cool. The finale – where Will convinces now werewolf Eliana to change back – is the only time we get a good look at a costume.

One of the most annoying things about THE HOWLING: REBORN is how aggressive it is with the “dis is for da kidz” intention. The werewolf gang has the annoying crossbred demographic that seem to haunt every modern flick. I’m actually shocked there wasn’t a scene of them riding motorcycles or driving souped up cars. It is laughable, like they had a target audience check list. There is also an unhealthy amount of texting on display. One entire scene has our two young leads courtship extending to a classroom scene where they text each other from ten feet away. Perhaps the most offensive bit has the horror geek go off on Hollywood for casting adults in horror movies (“That’s what studios get for casting geezers in their lead roles. If I want to see people in their forties, I’ll just go home and look at my parents.”). “Yeah, take that you stupid old movies,” says the totally slick, pandering new movie made by old geezers probably in their 40s.

So, the journey ends here…for now. In the end, HOWLING VIII is just like all the other werewolf sequels, just with a finer coat. Yeah, I called it HOWLING VIII just to piss off the producers. Here’s how I would rank the sequels from best to worst.

1. HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS
2. HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH
3. HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (for the laughs)
4. HOWLING IV: THE ORIGINAL NIGHTMARE
5. THE HOWLING: REBORN
6. HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS
7. THE HOWLING: NEW MOON RISING


Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. Oh man, this looks putrid. I've seen all the Howling sequels, but I'm not even sure I could bring myself to watch this. It's probably not as bad as New Moon Rising technically, but I'm sure I would find it more irritating.

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