Thursday, October 10, 2013

HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS (1987)

SYNOPSIS: Philippe Mora again directs the HOWLING franchise into unnecessary territory, this time taking us to Australia, where a species of marsupial werewolves have evolved.  If you don't know what "marsupial" means, a hypnotized werewolf helpfully explains about how they keep their young in a pouch.  This adaptation allowed some of the young to survive werewolf pogroms!  A tender-hearted professor wants to study the werewolves, and later fuck one of them also, but the government and the Pope, who has a ton of sway in Australian affairs for some reason, want to kill them.  Also: werewolf babies and Z-grade horror films-within-the-film, directed by a bad Hitchcock impersonator.

WHAT WORKED:
HOWLING III is pretty charmless, but it does occasionally show flashes of imagination that are not agonizing to the viewer.  For instance, I dug the prologue which showed very Caucasoid "natives" posing around the corpse of a werewolf.  The whole scene recalls the footage of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, which will be explicitly referenced later.  


Also, a couple of times, we get meta, as characters point at and address cameras.  This might not be as amazing as anything in a good movie, but it does break up the monotony.


As do the intermittent bad-by-design lines and scenes that hit.  Like this:

JERBOA: I don't like home!
PRIEST: Why, child?
JERBOA: Because my stepfather tried to rape me, and he's a werewolf. 


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
Alas, for every scene like the above where Mora channels some of HOWLING II's charms, there are innumerable others where comedy is wielded like a big stick, bashed about your face and chest, constantly demanding that you pay attention to it and laugh.  If you are in 1987, you probably do not want to spend a solid 1/4 of the film on an Alfred Hitchcock impersonator joke.  


I defend HOWLING II more than most because I can appreciate its surreal stuff-in-a-blender feel.  But III goes way too far in that direction, throwing in scenes that were perhaps theoretically funny on a script page, but are just baffling and off-putting on the screen.


The makeup all sucks ass and we see way too much of it.  I credited Mora for the choppy, bad-makeup-hiding editing in HOWLING II, but maybe I spoke too soon, because he lets us see all of the horrible crap effects here.  Some of that is definitely intended to shore up the film's comedy goals, but guess what IT DOESN'T.


HOWLING III ups the ante on II's uncomfortable werewolf sex and seems fascinated with the grossest elements of lupine anatomy.  I really didn't need to see the nascent nipples of transforming werewolf babes...

And, good God almighty, no one anywhere needs to see a wolf fetus puppet escaping from a werewolf woman's hairy unwaxed vagina!!!  


I was worried that the town of Flow would be where werewolves banished their menstruating wives, but it ended up just being Wolf spelled backwards (this is their kingdom!).


Nonsensical decisions abound.  Good example: there's a scene in which a werewolf is strapped to a table and being filmed, so we get your usual cuts to the monitor for the transformation.  BUT we also get shots of the observers filmed through the monitor with no explanation of why this is happening!  They make it clear that there's only one camera, so is this more meta stuff rearing its head?  If so, it feels more like a big fuck-you from the filmmakers than some cool element for the viewer to enjoy.  Like not only did they not care enough to explain this, but they went out of their way to make it happen and make it noticeable.  


The biggest fuck-you of all happens in the final moments of this werewolf film.  The action-packed climax happens in less than a minute, then we're served this weird domestic epilogue with a guy, his werewolf wife, and their mulatto-werewolf daughter tending to potted plants and such.  FOR ALMOST FIFTEEN MINUTES.


Ultimately, that's why III doesn't work at all for me.  II certainly sucked a lot, but at least you knew there would always be a fun part on the horizon and we could laugh with the filmmakers, like a family.  III feels a lot more cynical and audience-unfriendly, like Philippe Mora was making a film about marsupial werewolf civil rights against his will.  The HOWLING series can only go up from here!

RATING: 1

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