The Howling Reborn (Blu-ray/DVD)

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Howling 8 Blu-ray reviewStarring Landon Liboiron, Lindsey Shaw, Ivana Milicevic

Directed by Joe Nimziki

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Remember when horror films were made for horror fans? When they tried being scary? It’s starting to feel like ancient history in some cases, and in no instance more than writer/director Joe Nimziki’s flaccid attempt at re-launching The Howling franchise as a low-rent Twilight rip-off. Rife with equal parts teen angst and forlorn love, there’s so little emphasis on the horror of becoming a werewolf in this sappy little fantasy that you’ve got to keep reminding yourself that this is, indeed, a horror film signed, sealed and delivered beneath The Howling moniker.

I know. The Howling as a franchise has never been worth a damn, right? That long line of sequels notoriously littered video store shelves throughout the 80s and 90s so what’s the problem with one more? While those loosely connected werewolf misadventures ranged in quality, they were at least made with their audience in mind. One look at Howling II with its sinister dwarf, exploding eyeballs, werewolf threesome and gratuitous Sybil Danning, and there’s no doubting that it was made for horror fans. Ditto The Marsupials, The Original Nightmare, The Rebirth and The Freaks. Say what you will about their quality, but they knew their place and aim (New Moon Rising, not so much – my thoughts are here).

That’s not the case with The Howling Reborn, a trite follow-up that’s as loosely connected to the rest of the films as any given sequel (with the exceptions of 2 and 7). More of a failed CW pilot than R-rated sequel, it can’t be bothered with any effort to scare its audience or entertain through sheer exploitation or gleeful gore. Instead, Reborn leaves audiences reveling in a forced romance between a fledgling werewolf teenager named Will Kidman and the lady-friend object of his affection. These characters aren’t particularly well-written, interesting or likable – which makes it very difficult to care about what happens to them.

Howling 8And what happens isn’t all that much, really. It takes forever to get going, and it’s almost at the hour mark when our hero runs afoul of the antagonists – an alpha werewolf and her three flunkies. They’re hell-bent on bringing Will into their ranks, but instead of seducing him with the lure of an attractive superhuman lifestyle, they force an uncomfortable proposition down this throat: Come with us, and by the way, we’re going to brutally kill that girl you love while forcing you to watch. Needless to say, Will rejects the deal, and the final act is a lethargic game of cat and mouse throughout the halls of an abandoned high school.

Part of the problem here is that director Nimziki’s pacing is so poor that there’s virtually no sense of urgency to the action, crippling the only chance this movie might’ve had at redemption. The prospect of hiding from a pack of werewolves while trapped in something of a claustrophobic location might’ve provoked some tension and suspense, but instead it plays out like an afterthought. The accent is on the overflowing passions of our heroes, who are compelled to make a pit stop amidst the chase to further dissect their feelings, even indulging in a PG-13 style sex scene that’s as boring as it is unbelievable. The Howling Reborn, like The Twilight Saga, is a story with base roots in the horror genre and zero desire to explore them any further.

Nimziki also wrote the script, which oddly is cited in the opening credits as being based on Gary Brandner’s excellent novel “The Howling II” (Reborn’s effort to pass itself off as the “true” sequel, perhaps?). Needless to say, this has nothing to do with Brandner’s tale – itself a story of the surviving werewolves and their determination to take revenge against Karyn Beatty, who narrowly escaped the village of Drago. There’s nothing as interesting as that happening on screen, although a minor subplot involving the creation of an army of werewolves feels like hopelessly squandered potential. It occurs largely off screen and mainly as an afterthought that extends over the closing credits – hardly worthwhile, even for werewolf diehards.

Howling 8What little wolf action there is isn’t too bad, thanks in part to the practical FX work that brings them to life. Admittedly, the designs are damn good and they look excellent – more so when you consider this is a low budget offering. Unfortunately, our creatures have almost nothing to do, and when they finally rear their pointed snouts in the final fifteen minutes, it’s too little too late. Good wolf vs. evil in a battle royal that sees the most smashed-through walls since Maniac Cop 2. That’s all there is, and it’s not enough to warrant a viewing.

The tragedy of The Howling Reborn is that Nimziki could’ve brought the series back into good light (for the first time, some would argue) had he wanted to make a horror film. But he didn’t. Neither did series mainstays Steven A. Lane (producer since the original) and Robert Pringle (producer since III) – who clearly saw this as a chance to get a piece of that Twilight money, rather than please the people who would actually be watching this. As a result, we’ve got this turgid little waste of time and effort. Not even the staunchest werewolf fanatics out there should bother. It wasn’t made for you, and it certainly doesn’t earn its R rating. Now, if there’s a twelve-year-old Twilight fan in your family, that’s a different story…

Anchor Bay brings The Howling Reborn to Blu-ray in a mediocre high definition transfer, the worst offender of rampant banding I’ve seen in some time (just look at that scene where a werewolf drops through the ceiling and lands on a table – yikes). Color saturation is fine (it’s a drab-looking film to begin with), but detail isn’t always prevalent. The image is often flat, and textures can be nonexistent depending on the shot. To be clear, it’s not an awful disc, just not a terribly attractive film.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track fares a bit better. Sound separation is good, with even dialogue levels and rear-channel action that offers some ambiance. This isn’t a terribly atmospheric film, but this lossless track gets the job done.

On to the supplements. The audio commentary with writer/director Nimziki and actress Lindsey Shaw is … well intentioned. It gives the sense that Nimziki was trying to do something good here (and with the numerous nods to other films in the franchise, to boot). Still, not enough for me to reconsider my stance on this total misfire. There’s also a pretty useless ‘making of’ featurette of the usual EPK variety and a storyboard gallery to round out the package.

The Howling Reborn just isn’t very good. It completely washes out as a horror film and fails as a fantastical love story because we simply don’t care about these people. A better idea would’ve been exploring the imposing problem of marauding werewolves that’s only hinted at throughout the story – although perhaps that’s a topic better suited for someone more willing to tackle a horror film. The Howling Reborn isn’t one. Not really. It’s more like a missed opportunity, a cynical string of nonsense that does nothing but reinforce the series’ tarnished reputation.

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with writer/director Joe Nimziki and actress Lindsey Shaw
  • ‘Making of’ featurette
  • Storyboard gallery


    1 out of 5

    Special Features
    2 1/2 out of 5

    Discuss The Howling Reborn in our comments section below!

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    Matt Serafini

    Author (Under the Blade, Feral), slasher movie enthusiast, N7 Operative. Plays games, watches movies, reads books. Occasionally writes about them.

    • YandereSama

      I’ll admit it. This wasn’t a great movie, but it was better than Howling New Moon Rising, so had I reviewed it, I’d have probably given it two knives/stars.

      If you looked at the storyboard gallery, you’d see that a lot of the werewolf scenes could have had more ooomph to some of the werewolf scenes had they had a bit larger budget. Also in the commentary, they said the opening of the film was originally similar to the original film. Had they have gone with that one, this would technically have been considered a semi-remake.

      The werewolves, or at least the three towards the end of the movie weren’t badly designed, save for the rat tails. But, I’m wanting to see the werewolves in movies now actually having personalities of their own. Don’t try to make them background noise, have them be characters too.

      Am I the only one here that thinks the original Howling is better than American Werewolf in some ways.

      If it’s based on the books, the only one it’s related too plot wise would be Howling 3, in that that novel dealt with a teenage werewolf too.

      Personally, I think the best idea for a sequel (or a remake or prequel for that matter) would be to focus on the colony of werewolves themselves from the original film.

      That’s my two cents.

      • Vanvance1

        I’ll second the orginal Howling being better than American Werewolf. Hell, I’ll rank it as the best Werewolf movie made, followed by Dog Soldiers and then American.

      • Masked Slasher

        I did watch all the extras on the disc. I get that the storyboards showed a potentially better film, but that didn’t make the final film.

        And Nimziki clearly likes some of these films (as there seemed to be some homages – the POV looked mighty similar to the Howling II POVs, for example) – but the final product doesn’t deliver.

        As for The Howling vs AWIL, I’ve always loved The Howling more. It’s a darker, creepier film and I actually prefer the look of the creatures as well. Somebody put that on Blu-ray, please!

        • LifeMi

          I love Howling & American Werewolf, but for me American Werewolf is easily the better film. The characters are more interesting and I just find the whole film much more fun to watch.

    • Rob

      This wasn’t utter shit, it just wasn’t good either. But I’ll watch it over Cursed or Blood and Chocolate. The wolf effects were the only really awesome part of the film. I will say that I would’ve preffered the movie that was set up during the credits. In the right hands that’d be a fun fucking movie.

      • Jerel Of The Dead

        Cursed wasn’t that bad

    • Terminal

      Aw, I didn’t hate it. It kept me entertained. And I liked the cast. I’ve seen and expected worse.

    • The Woman In Black

      I have to admit I fell asleep while watching this one. Although I was enjoying some of the tunes in it up to that point. It was like one long music video.

    • Vanvance1

      Sighs. I anticipated a bad film but not something comparable in tone to a tween romance.

      Here’s hoping Nimziki gets ass raped by an angry doberman.

      I wonder if Joe Dante has ever watched any of the sequels to his film…..

    • LifeMi

      I got to know; is this one worse than New Moon Rising? I’m watching them all next week.

      • Masked Slasher

        It’s better than NEW MOON RISING by virtue of it being an actual movie.