After the last HOWLING burned and salted cinema forever, there was no way that a theoretical next HOWLING movie was going to continue with the whole honky-tonkin-werewolves/body-jumping story arc. So REBORN really is a reboot, with no linkage to any previous HOWLING, especially goddamn NEW MOON RISING.
SYNOPSIS: Groovily-named Landon Liboiron IS Will Kidman, an aspy, nerdish teen orphan whose dad can't get over the mysterious brutal murder of Will's mom some 18 years ago. But Will has other problems in the form of a crush on the school's hottest spooky girl and, then later, with an apparent influx of teen werewolves. WHAT R U 2 DO, WILL?
People from the Internet seem to think this is a clear TWILIGHT ripoff, but it's not like horror and romance haven't crossed paths before (BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, NEAR DARK, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III), so I'm not as dead-set against the pitch of HOWLING: REBORN as most. It does get a little fucking silly when the couple have a "If you don't want to be with me!" fight right in the middle of a werewolf attack, but otherwise the Will/Eliana relationship doesn't seem horribly saccharine or anything. Both lead actors are pretty good, too! In fact, the cast in general is award-winning on the HOWLING scale and decent enough on any other scale.
Sometimes, the script is pretty clever and careful about its characters. I could see Will's wiseacre friend Sachin pissing people off (he says something about movies casting 40-year-old leads in this film, which is not set in a colony full of middle-aged people). I generally liked him, though, as the Greek chorus figure who informs the clueless vegan Will about the ins and outs of werewolves. Annoying hair, though. Teen mush aside, the script also deserves props for cocking a Chekhov gun in the early stages and firing it towards the end.
Creature design is generally okay. Sometimes the werewolves look reptilian, but the effects kind of get worked out in time for the grand finale and it's pretty grand, indeed. It mostly seems to be practical effects, too, so people who got excited about remade EVIL DEAD should immediately declare HOWLING: REBORN a masterpiece, too.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
In a way that's similar to the McKee film of THE WOMAN, the overuse of mopey sad-guitar music lessened my enjoyment of this. Subtle soundtracks can be overlooked when they suck, but HOWLING: REBORN blasts the score at you at the most inopportune moments. And, seriously, please let's all just agree to forget "Don't Fear the Reaper" from here on out.
And when there was no music, there was Will's omnipresent narration, so if you're a fan of teenage musings on hooking up and the decline of Western civilization, you're in for a treat.
The film opens with an actress in one of the baddest bad wigs I have ever seen, but at least it's shot in darkness and concealed. BUT THEN she reappears later with the same awful throw! Jarringly bad, Tyler Perry's-level bad! Plus this ties into a plot point that strains credulity to the breaking point.
Not a great film, but certainly a few steps above the direst stages of our journey through the HOWLINGs.