Anchor Bay // 2011 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 14th, 2011
Full moon. New blood.
Not sure who demanded this feeble franchise be resuscitated, but werewolves are hot now and the moody kid from Terra Nova is in it so green-light!
High school senior Will Kidman (London Liboiron, Terra Nova) is just trying to make it out in one piece. His high school crush (Lindsey Shaw, Pretty Little Liars) is dating a jackass and thinks very little of Will's affections. What's worse, he might have some dark family secrets ready to come out and bite him. And that my friends is to be taken literally, as his family secret is this: he's part of a bloodline of powerful werewolves. Will's furry, man-eating kin are descending upon him and he'll have to choose: give into his feral instincts, or try to rein in his impulses and keep his wannabe girlfriend from becoming Alpo.
I'll confess right now: I know very little about The Howling series. All that pops into mind is "werewolves" and "obscene Sybil Danning cleavage." A cursory glance at the films which followed the 1981 original fail to instill much regret that I'm missing an iconic motion picture franchise.
Whatever. Ignore the history. The Howling Reborn could just as easily be named This is Another Movie About Teenagers and Werewolves. It's rated R, but I'm not sure what the point was. The plot feels like your typical angst-ridden supernatural high schooler thriller and the mature rating doesn't really reach its full potential. There are some bloody scratches and a handful of mangled corpses and -- oh, drug use! -- but none of it seemed necessary to the integrity of the film. I don't advocate for this often, but water it down. Hardcore horror fans won't care. The Howling Reborn is built for The Vampire Diaries crowd.
Honestly, you're going to have to be in the thick of adolescence to glean any value from this effort. The storylines are ripped straight from some middle schooler's comp book fan fiction: the awkward boy with the impossible crush discovers amazing power, uses it to murder the douchey bully, saves his graduating class from a werewolf attack, and walks past his classmates with the hot girl on his arm, smirking and awesome.
Along the way he'll face off against a trio of Eurotrash werewolves ripped from the pages of GQ. They're villains we've all seen before: attractive, well-dressed models with amorphous accents and very few lines of dialogue. Which is fine, because all they really have to do is belch forth a few bits of hamfisted exposition, snarl, and let the prop guys take over when the full moon rises.
Which brings us to the bigger question: How are the werewolves? You're not going to get classic An American Werewolf in London transformations, but I will give a thumbs-up to how director Joe Nimziki and crew handled the beasts. They're huge and their costuming is practical, far more preferable to a bunch of huskies running around the set or some CGI garbage. The negatives: none of the wolves show up until the very end, and the big wolf-on-wolf fights are edited so hastily it's difficult to track the lupine action.
Anchor Bay's Blu-ray is adequate, serving up a good 1.78:1/1080p HD transfer that may not sizzle with its top-tier peers, but sports enough pop and resolution to earn it a nod over a DVD presentation. The action is frantic and not easy to discern, but minus this decent picture quality it would have been a true bear to watch. The TrueHD 5.1 audio track is lively enough, getting a whole lot friskier when the only action of the film hits. Extras: commentary from writer/director Joe Nimziki and Lindsey Shaw, storyboards, and a making-of featurette.
Only the werewolf-obsessed or grounded need apply.
Shoot this one from a helicopter.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R