Saturday, October 12, 2013

HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH (1989)

SYNOPSIS: The third tonal shift as in many sequels, V takes us to Hungary, where in the late 1400s, a castle full of folks were dispatched with a very large broadsword, including the wielder of the sword and his honey.  500 or so years later, the castle is being reopened, thanks to a local count, who invites a diverse group of visitors to come check it out.  Their trip is marred by bloody death, though, and the survivors must figure out who, or what, is the cause.


WHAT WORKED:
V is just as unconcerned with connecting to the original film as its fellow sequels, but it does throw us some cool nods, especially Stephanie Faulkner as a writer who had some sort of breakdown.  Unlike IV, this isn't practically a remake, so don't expect one, but it's still nice to see they didn't just don the HOWLING mantle without making some outreach to its existing fans.


The acting is generally pretty solid!  Our old friend Mary Stavin shows up as a famed Scandinavian actress, Victoria Catlin and Ben Cole are enjoyable as a girl doctor and a guy in a sweater, and Philip Davis is great as the menacing, surly count.  Some performances are less meritorious, but all of it seems like an incredible upgrade from IV's herky-jerky robot acting.  


The alteration in approach from III to IV was goofy crapfilm to boring serious horror.  Neither style yielded fruit, but the shift in V to a Three Little Indians/THE BEAST MUST DIE whodunit? kind of thing works.  For one thing, it allows the film to keep the monster mostly hidden (like IV) while simultaneously keeping the action moving (very unlike IV).  


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
Almost all of V occurs inside the ancestral castle, so our girl doctor, tennis player, and their friends spend almost all their time running around dark sets.  It gets a little mundane and makes one hanker for exteriors of the Hungarian forest.  Plus sticking strictly to interiors is a big break from prior HOWLINGs (although it's not like V is trying to tap into some epic tradition...at this point, each HOWLING could be considered a standalone thing).


I hate the first half's guts.  When we're introduced to the characters, the film dumps so much dumb comedy on us that I was scared we'd regressed to the excesses of II and III.  Comical bimbos, whimsical bickering!  This putridly persists once we're in the castle, but thankfully tapers off once the body count begins and V shifts into a (pretty) tense murder-mystery.  Still, the big slab of joking in front makes V rather unbalanced as a complete work.


Without all the early comedy, I'd call this a really average horror flick.  The script's not outstanding and there's stuff that doesn't make sense, but it's enjoyable enough for a time-waster.  Which doesn't seem like very high praise, but on the HOWLING scale, rising to "average" is quite the achievement. 

RATING: 4

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