Much like Demons, Prom Night, Amityville, Children of the Corn and the House series of films, none of The Howling movies really seem to add up. No worries! That’s why we’re here, to be your guide through a series of movies that goes from the highest of highs to the absolutely lowest levels of cinema.
So how did it all get started?
Gary Phil Brandner wrote the book that the original version of The Howling was based on. While he would write two sequels and help write the screenplay to the second film, he had nothing to do with the other films in the series.
This would lead to The Howling, the 1981 Joe Dante film that pretty much sets the standard for all werewolf films to come, even in a year that also featured Full Moon High, Wolfen and An American Werewolf In London.
By the way — if you click any of the titles of the films, you can visit our complete review.
The Howling (1981): Other than the work of Paul Naschy as El Hombre Lobo, this is my favorite werewolf movie of all time. Speaking of Naschy, one of its werewolves is named after the director’s legal name (Jacinto Molino), as well as mnaming characters after famous werewolf directors like George Waggner, Roy William Neill Terence Fisher, Freddie Francis, Erle C. Kenton, Sam Newfield, Charles Barton, Jerry Warren, Lew Landers and Stuart Walker.
This is a movie that makes the journey frm grimy police procedural to pure horror in no time flat. I make a special point to watch it at least once a year to appreciate just how great it is. You can get this movie from Shout! Factory.
At this point, I will not be saying anything that nice about any of these films.
Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985): I hated this movie the first time I saw it, but after revisiting it after watching the rest of this series, I found that it’s actually pretty solid by comparison. I think that’s more due to the lackluster films and sheer rock bottom that this series reaches.
It’s also the only sequel in the series that features a plot that directly follows the original film and also the only one that has direct input from the aforementioned Gary Brandner, who hated how the 1981 film diverged from his novel.
Obviously, Christopher Lee (who apologized to Dante for being in this movie) and Sybil Danning (I can also make a case for Reb Brown, Marsha Hunt and the scene where Babel plays in the punk disco) are the main reasons to see this. It has grown on me, but a movie that shows Danning’s bare breasts seventeen times in a row and had the tagline “The rocking, shocking new wave of horror!” can’t be all horrible.
The Howling III: The Marsupials (1987): Much like the Howling II, this was directed by Philippe Mora (who also made the were-ciccada movie The Beast Within). If the two films before it didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be horrible. And yet because the other films in this series do, it somehow becomes better by comparison. It also features the cheapest Oscars you’ve ever seen. You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi. Shout! Factory has also released this on blu ray.
Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988): While this film does boast direction by John Hough, this had the noble goal of being the only movie in this series to faithfully adapt Brandner’s original novel. Clive Turner, who produced this and would become involved in the later films in the series, re-cut and re-voiced the whole film afterward. Actually, the dubbing wasn’t hard. as the budget was so small that it was shot without sound. You can watch this on Tubi.
Howling V: Rebirth (1989): This one is more Agatha Christie than Lon Chaney Jr., this movie starts with the silly scene of everyone but a baby being killed in a castle — who saved the baby? The cameraman? — and then gets even goofier. You can watch it for yourself on Tubi.
Howling VI: The Freaks (1991): Another movie based on the novels, this would be the last decently budgeted film in this onslaught of furry films, even if it went direct to video. It’s not horrible, actually, but not really what you want out of a werewolf film, instead concentrating more on the freakshow aspects — as per its title, that kind of makes sense. It’s also on Tubi.
The Howling: New Moon Rising (1995): Directed, written and starring Clive Turner, this film uses footage from four through six — as well as characters from those movies — to attempt to tie together some form of continuity. It’s also a movie where Turner decided he’d rather tell the story of drunken barflies than werewolves. I’d love to chat with him about this movie because I find it fascinating. I can’t hate it — oh, it’s beyond a bad movie — but the about face that it makes in featuring long sequences of the drunks of Pioneer Town singing obsesses me.
The Howling: Reborn (2011): With a poster like that, you may think that you’re about to watch a rip-off of Twilight. No, instead, you’re just watching a reboot of the series that claims to be based on the second book. As of now, this is the last* of these movies.
The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen (2017): Space Goat Productions released four issues of this comic book (along with Evil Dead II and Terminator comics) in 2017, but a failed Kickstarter for an Evil Dead II board game has seemed to put the future of this company into question.
So what’s next?
Andy Muschietti, who directed the two It movies, is making a new version of the series for Netflix. Of course, with most of the world on hold thanks to COVID-19, it may be a long time until we see his vision.
Have you seen all of the films? Do you disagree with our assessment? What film series would you like to see us tackle next? Let us know!
If you want to see every werewolf movie we’re watched so far, check out this Letterboxd list!
*For those wondering, The 2017 movie The Howling has nothing at all to do with any of these movies.