Friday, October 11, 2013

HOWLING IV: THE ORIGINAL NIGHTMARE (1988)

SYNOPSIS: Another change in our journey through the HOWLINGverse, as IV ditches all of the previous films' jocularity and keeps it both super-serious and allegedly hews closely to the original Gary Brandner novel.  An author seemingly experiences a nervous breakdown, including seeing nuns at restaurant patios and her doctor counsels her to take it easy and limit her imagination.  So she and her hunk boyfriend travel to a remote cabin in a town called Draco and have lots of unimaginative sex.  But there's howling in the woods and they argue about it for literally four nights in a row.  An ex-nun shows up and helps our heroine investigate the mystery.


WHAT WORKED:
I enjoyed a few of the supporting actors, especially Dennis Folbigge as Dr. Coombs.  His delivery seemed really natural and enjoyable in a film that had several bad and clunky performances.  It is pretty demanding of the audience to accept an English doctor (and a sheriff with an Arkansas cracker accent) in a town of what appears to be 12 people, but whatev.


Makeup really only becomes important in the last ten minutes or so of IV, but it all looks pretty good.  Hat tip, Steve Johnson, your work deserves a better platform.  I'd rank the transformation scene here with the one in the original...


Squishy!  I also liked the full-blown werewolf and wish it could have had a bigger role in the film.


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
As you have discerned by my praise of the supporting cast and the makeup, there are a fuck of a lot of things wrong with HOWLING IV.  It's difficult to see why it's titled the ORIGINAL NIGHTMARE, since much of it feels like an inferior remake of the original HOWLING.  Folks say it's more faithful to the novels, but sometimes being too slavish is a bad thing.  


I really dislike singling people out for criticism, BUT Romy Windsor is acting's worst monster as Marie (the Dee Wallace role here).  Comparing her performance to Wallace yields some links, as Dee initially played her protagonist as bemused and stunned.  It's hard to tell if Windsor is doing that for this entire film or if she's just so uninvolved and unengaged in her character that the lines seem to emerge from a GPS speaker.  She seems to have had a pretty busy career, so maybe HOWLING IV was just a bad time for her?  I dunno, but the acting is so creaky and awful that I felt bad for her and her co-stars.


Another big issue is the sheer amount of time the movie takes to build to the werewolves.  HOWLING IV seemingly tries to be a character piece for 90% of its lifetime, but that doesn't work when your characters are "furious sheriff with a Southern accent" and "hunk boyfriend who can't ever button all of his shirt".  Most of this just feels bloodless and boring.


Plus it looks so cheap!  We get tightly-shot scenes that are decorated with garage sale grab bags, the editing is sometimes jarring (presumably to cover mistakes), and the whole thing looks ugly and disinteresting.  There is a blue-tinged foggy forest shot to which we return again and again, but otherwise, HOWLING IV is a drag to watch.  You'd think Coke would've provided more money to make a better-looking film, considering how frequently its logo pops up.


Arguably better than III, but terrible in its own special ways.

RATING: 2

1 comment:

J. Skorzeny said...

First saw this as a kid. Was the first time I'd ever seen a lap dissolve go in reverse. That one effect kept me watching until Black-eyed demon wolf at the end.
That thing and the sounds it made terrorized my nightmares for months.

The last scene where it busted out of the fire was a pants-shitter for a 10 year old kid alone in the house at 4:00am.