- May 24, 2010
<font color=red>The Howling is back, but does it mean the revival of this long dormant series?
Guten Tag, jeder.
I was planning on making a grand October review for the reboot of the Howling series, an event I thought would never come even with hell and high water. Sadly though, as the direct-to-video quality shows even after my second viewing of the movie, this film is a complete disaster, despite some flashes of fun here and there.
As a werewolf movie/series fan, it's sad to see this film series continue to get so poorly treated, since it's labeled as a reboot, not a sequel. In the year that gave us MTV's Teen Wolf, which was an awesome reboot, this was the complete opposite.
I just hope it doesn't sink the series on a note worse than Howling 7.
William is coming up on his 18th birthdate, and his graduation from high school. Over time, he uncovers that fact that he is a werewolf, and not just one that was bitten by chance. He's an heir to an army of werewolves...all being bred under his high school.
As far as storylines and set ups go for 'The Howling' films, this...should I even say one thing about how stupid this is? If the entire school was a breeding ground for all these werewolves, and all these people have been vanishing to be used as food and cannon fodder, why does the story not give us some hints early on that something about this city isn't right? Aren't there people wanting to know where these guys are disappearing to? What about police searches and investigations? Agh.
Moving onto the script, aside from the blatantly obvious wolf-themed dialogue and terms everywhere, the script is also a complete mess. Will's character seems to flip back and forth between dork and semi bad-ass, even early on in the film. His friend Sachin, who is a cinematographer, knows a lot about werewolves but the film's transition to him spilling this knowledge to William is so badly done, you can tell that some essentials were cut.
Since the film is only 91 minutes long, those extra 10-20 minutes of cut footage would be of great help to flesh out the characters in this film.
Cinematography/Creature Design -
Speaking of cuts, before Will transforms for the second time, the camera cuts to his face as his body starts the shift, and in that time period, you can hear the audio snap to the sounds of him changing versus the snarling and cracking of bones from before. There's even nightmare-esque periods of image popping later in the film, a-la Chainsaw Massacre/Ginger Snaps/The Ring, plus the classic shaky-cam from Underworld/Transformers/Blair Witch Project.
Cuts like these have long outgrown any usefulness in creating suspense in werewolf films. Movie-goers are smarter than that and almost always know the creature is a werewolf through the trailers, rumors, or clips, plus The Howling is always about werewolves. Having the camera not be able to focus on the creatures gets really annoying real fast when some frantic action comes along involving them.
In creature films, you want to see the monster as soon as you know what it is, and thankfully the movie recovers on this near the end when William and his mother shapeshift and fight, and when Eliana's own were form is revealed. In fact, the best shot of the creatures comes when Eliana stands in front of Will and growls at him. I have to say, it looks pretty bad-ass in good lighting, the extra hairy plaintigrade legs notwithstanding. (Yeah, I know it's to cover the suit actor's legs.)
The costume designers must have gotten help from some of the people who made the suits for Underworld and Dog Soldiers, because the design seems to borrow elements of both of those, with ankle long tails thrown in for good measure. Seeing William and the Alpha female duking it out as werewolves is enjoyable, but the set-up is badly deflated by the fact that Will shouts down and taunts his own mother before deciding to change, and the shaky cam gets in the way again.
And that leads me to the tipping point of this film. There is a very clear indication by the camera's light blue film grain, the shaky-cam, and several other factors like shot angles, flashes and creature design that make me believe the writers/directors were trying to play off Underworld's success in making werewolves fun. That's fine, if you do it right.
Underworld succeeded by making the monsters powerful against powerful enemies with so-called large stakes on the table, even though in the end it was just an action movie meant to show off vampire on werewolf action, and Kate Beckinsale. What Reborn tried to do is copy that when the stage should be set instead to focus on the trials of graduation and adulthood, coupled with a kid who is undergoing a change into a monster against his will but has the drive to fight back against what it could do to him.
Had the script tried to do that, gotten rid of the premise of raising an army of werewolves, fleshed out William and his friends better, and played on the modern trends in cinema to show the monster more, this film would've done so much better. Heck, bring back the old school transformations. Those alone would make the film awesome.
Let me sum the acting up this way: "No one acts normal or convincingly in this movie, nor do many of the actors do their lines well, outside of Will's friend Sacher."
As I said before, Will's character, played by Landon Liboiron, seems to jump back and forth between semi bad-ass and dork on a whim. It's as if the writers had zero idea of how he should be acting, and tried to make him two people at once to cover for him slowly becoming a werewolf for the first time.
His girlfriend Eliana, played by Lindsay Shaw, is another character that got royally screwed over in the film, not just because of the script, but becauseof how she executes her lines and expressions.
Even when she sees the collection of bodies used as food for the werewolf army, her expression barely changes in response to it. Wouldn't something like that make you wet your pants in horror, even if you were kind of a hard-ass? Even worse is she doesn't even start showing real emotion until she's got a Glock aimed at Will's face as he changes in front of a camera.
William's mother, played by Ivana Milicevic from Casino Royale, always has her character molded into the stereotypical ice queen, showing pretty much zero emotion as she tries to act out her lines that detail what werewolves mean in the world at large. She gives some decent lines and delivery, but the script doesn't help her at all.
Overall, the acting just has this feeling of cheapness about it, which I guess is normal for direct-to-video films.
Final Opinion -
This video was not as great as I hoped it would be. In many ways, it's the worst way possible to relaunch a series like The Howling, because most of the sequels were rife with lackluster plots and bland characters. Following in that trail of wolf pawprints and repeating the same mistakes is not the right way to go with reboots like this.
However, if you are looking for a mindless romp through a werewolf action movie, this film does deliver on that front. Despite the gore from the underground burial/feeding chamber, it strays far away from anything truly disgusting and it's bloody in just the right spots. If you can ignore the bad acting and the plot with little thought, then you will enjoy this one.
As for me, The Howling: Reborn earns a 4 out of 10. A Below Effort attempt, as Blistered Thumbs would rate things. This film had promise as the revival of The Howling series, but unlike Teen Wolf, this just wasn't the effort that was needed to reach it. All this said, I would still rate it above every Howling sequel except 6 in terms of outright fun.
Maybe if someone tries again with competent scripting and likeable/enjoyable protagonists, The Howling may go on once again.
If you have also seen the film, what are your thoughts? Should this be the last time anyone revives The Howling, or should the series have another go soon? I would enjoy seeing the series continue, but maybe after eight movies this beast should get a silver bullet through the head and go out with some dignity intact.
Auf wiedersehen, and I hope you enjoyed this 'review/rant'.