Sunday, October 13, 2013

HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS (1991)

SYNOPSIS: The HOWLING series is the werewolf version of what John Carpenter wanted post-III HALLOWEEN to be: a bunch of unrelated films only conjoined by a general conceit.  Anyway, there's a small town with a dying economy in America and they don't take to English drifters.  But this one drifter, Ian (Brendan Hughes), proves his mettle by helping a local pastor renovate his church.  Then a carnival shows up, complete with a sideshow of geeks and a sad-sack alligator boy (Sean Sullivan).  Ian divides his time between dating the preacher's daughter (Michele Matheson) and turning into a werewolf.  

WHAT TWERKED:
This HOWLING is divested of the goofy humor that plagued/peppered a few of the prior entries, but it does try to serve up some quirky characters and sometimes subtle wit shows up.  I loved the on-purpose "WHY NOT?" on the campaign sign in the diner.  I have seen the exact same thing in real life, seriously!


I also loved that the diner has a boom microphone hanging from the ceiling and it barged into the shot a bunch of times.


A carnival is a cool place to set a werewolf movie and HOWLING VI takes advantage by constructing some cool set designs.  The surreal geometry and garish colors of the carnival also contrast well with the dull and sun-baked town scenes.


The carnival setting also allows for some interesting characters, even if H6 doesn't capitalize as much as it might have.  I liked the authentic carnival elements, like the pickled punk in the jar of formaldehyde, and this film has one of the best geeks since NIGHTMARE ALLEY.


Grant some leeway for an unambitious script, but I dug Bruce Payne as the villainous carnival owner.  Poncy Eurotrash is always a good call for your antagonist and Payne delivers with a very Julian Sandy performance.  In fact, he'd take over the Warlock role from Sands in WARLOCK III, as I just learned!  Wow!


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
This script is telling a story that you've heard hundreds of times already.  The carnival element is pretty spiffy, but otherwise this is pure stock.  There's certainly promise there in the sideshow and the economically-terminal town, but it's mostly left on the table so the werewolf can be a werewolf with a heart of gold and befriend the one sympathetic freak and fight the heavy.


We also spend a lot of time in proto-TWILIGHT territory, with the romance between Ian and Elizabeth.  It's hilarious that their first date was a sideshow (but I cannot throw stones, since I have also taken a girl to look at fetuses in jars and Fiji mermaids, but at least I'm not a homeless werewolf).  Neither is really developed enough as a character to get me to care about where and when they kiss, so this is a washout.


Werewolf design did not work at all, AT ALL!  I am quite upset that this weird bacon-face technique made it past the storyboard stage.  And, of course, we spent all this time and money on our crappy creature design, so you have to watch it for many, many minutes.  


Fucking seriously.  You're the WORST, HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS.


Not as catastrophically terrible as HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS, but definitely not the continued upward leap that I wanted to see after HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH.  Very dull and unengaging.

RATING: 3

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