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Case Number 03617: Small Claims Court

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Howling V: The Rebirth / Howling VI: The Freaks

Artisan // 1991 // 201 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // November 22nd, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

More fake fur than fashion week in new york!

The Case

A group of irritating invitees attends the grand reopening of a castle condemned for its position on witchcraft and mass suicide five hundred years before (seems every pencil neck behind the parapets offed his or her self to protect an ancient secret recipe or something). After a splendid luncheon and an unexpected blizzard (yeah, right!), they find themselves trapped inside the tenement turrets without a means of contacting the outside world, or a plot to make their predicament interesting. One by one, ancient Agatha Christie style, we whittle our way down to some sort of crappy conclusion. Apparently, an unseen force is doing a little corporeal palace cleaning and non-descript Eurotrash cast members are part of the "Honey Do" list. As one-dimensional dimwit after single celled acting amoeba disappear from our derivative detective story, we begin to wonder just what all this Ten Little Indians imitation tripe has to do with werewolves. Turns out this citadel was once the home to a race of full moon fans. Now, the last remaining cursed cur is trying to escape. Or kill off the rest of his kinfolk. Or open up a tourist trap (it's never really clear). Eventually, the character least likely to be a vulpine is exposed—maybe—for the audience, and just like the ultra ambiguous ending, we are all left to ponder what exactly The Howling V: The Rebirth means.

Then, in one of those backwater burgs where one person owns all the land and the financial fortunes of the rest of the population are teetering between trailer and white trash, a proper English bloke named Ian shows up. Naturally, his calm kind of Caucasian supremacy is not appreciated around these here boondocks. But somehow, he manages to get bed and board at a decrepit church and before long, he is sanding, priming, and painting like a less masculine Genevieve Gorder. Eventually, the whole town thinks he's pretty peachy, but our bandsaw wielding Brit has a horrible secret to hide and it has something to do with a carnival freak show that saunters into town like a freelance hooker on Federal farm subsidy payday. Run by the tall, slickly temperate Mr. Harker, everything from deformed feti in a jar to a really lame drag performer can be viewed at his cavalcade of human oddities. But Harker too has a mysterious air, and it's not the leftover funk from the alligator boy's sawdust pit. He wants Ian, and oddly, Ian has a non-gay thing for him. See, Ian is the ultimate freak, and it's not because he enjoys a good steak and kidney pie. He's the last remaining werewolf from a family of same stalked and enslaved by Harker over the years. See, Harkie is…well…he's a…demon sorta…vampire ghoul…thingie. Anyway, both of our supernatural swishers duke it out in a battle royale to see who will wear the crown of cud called The Howling VI: The Freaks.

When is a werewolf movie almost not a werewolf movie? When it's called either The Howling V: The Rebirth or The Howling VI: The Freaks. These lying, light on the lycanthrope lug nuts wouldn't know a good shapeshifter if it took a whiz on their wainscoting. These faux films are so far removed from Joe Dante's delightful deconstruction of the genre that a safe system for traveling such long unoriginal distances has yet to be devised by man or alien race. Heck, when compared to the butt and boob bonanza of Sybil Danning's sexed up Howling II, you'd still have to traverse a few galaxies before you'd land at the rote, rotten doorsteps of these made-for-video VD voids. Now, there is nothing wrong with trying to twist a tired formula into something new, or even milking a franchise to within one micron of its potential worth. But the maniacal merchandisers of the Howling monopoly are utterly insane. These people have never met a bad idea that they won't embrace outright. A typical pitch meeting with these miscreants must go something like this:

"Hey, Mr. X. Why don't we make a Howling movie where…um…where the werewolves come back to life…as, um…disco divas in an all male strip club?"
"Hey, Mr. X. What if we set an entire Howling film inside the rotting spleen of a dying billy goat?"
"Could it be an infected rhesus monkey?"
"Um…yeah, sure."

It's the only way to explain how such hackneyed ideas as the ones offered here ever got connected to the traditional skin-walker canon. The wolfman (or lady) is a noble paranormal creature. To treat it like a prop in some incompetent's unexplainable fever dream is truly unfair.

The Howling V, for example, could easily have substituted a unbalanced yak or an out-for-revenge reindeer for its main manimal killer since (a) we see very little of the beast onscreen and (b) it would make about as much sense as the ancient, cursed wolf creature championed here. Like Demons, where a bunch of retards are trapped in a movie theater with an ever-increasing population of pissed off pixies, our castle keep challenger is supposed to produce a lot of intense suspense and gory dread, but all we get are reams of exposition, secondary subplot stupidity, and a confusing conclusion that merely hints at who or what was responsible for all the off-screen killings. Frankly, a film that is relying on the flesh ripping skill of its monster to scare your skorts off shouldn't be hiding its horror outside the frame.

Not that Howling VI is all that more revelatory. More concerned with telling its carnival barker bunkum than giving us gallons of guts and gullet garroting, this movie is a make-up effects feast fouled by a wickedly weak screenplay. Indeed, all the creature work (save the sorry title terror) is first rate. Too bad it's forced to take a Bunsen burner to some excruciating attempts at local color, an ever increasing-in-its-obnoxiousness dream sequence, and heaps of hambone acting. Such once-were-somebodies like Carol Lynley and Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas might allow one the assumption that there is a modicum of professionalism to found here, but outside Bruce Payne's enigmatic turn as Harker (he's so mellow he's almost inert), everyone else is groping around looking for a clue. Unfortunately, The Howling VI isn't contributing one anytime soon.

As paltry as the offerings are within the films themselves, nothing can compare to the paucity provided by Artisan as part of this so-called DVD double feature. Sure, they give you two totally trashpile movies for the price of one. And the shiny surface of the disc itself, when held up to the sun just right, makes a wonderfully fun reflective play toy for your pet cat. But there is nothing else of substance on this digital offering to make it worth your pecuniary proclivity. The full screen transfers on both films are compressed, grainy, and very soft. The Dolby Digital Stereo Surround is impressive in name only. And there is not a single bonus feature, not even a set of subtitles, to wrap your impulse buying around. So unless the notion of an empty offering of bad films alone makes your wallet leap with elation, skip The Howling V: The Rebirth and The Howling VI: The Freaks. No matter how many times it reinvents or reincarnates itself, these sad sequel excuses will never be acceptable: not by horror fans or werewolf enthusiasts. Even the human oddities in Tod Browning's ode to the unusual would have a hard time chanting "gooble gobble one of us."

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 40

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 201 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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