Few filmmakers set out to make bad films, but whether through a lack of leadership, delusion of one’s vision or just general incompetence, bad films do get made. Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf is a bad, bad film. Even before it starts you know we and all cinema is fucked because it is called Howling 2: Your Sister Is A Werewolf. That is not a good title even if you are playing it for laughs.
I doubt anyone will ever know in all that is holy, what on Earth they were thinking. We open with the eternal professional Christopher Lee floating in outer space talking about some abominable beast that shall return to destroy the earth as is abdominal beast’s way. For some reason this shock revelation is not seen as enough so a medical skeleton joins Lee for the rest of his talk, just to add extra chills to your soul. Or at least to keep Lee company in deep space. I am not making this up, although I am probably making it sound better than it looks. Because it looks like this:
This is a professional film, made with money.
Anyway, there is a plot surprisingly. After all this Lee-In-Space business we continue straight on from the first film in which, you’ll remember, the lead character is killed live on air as she turns into a rather cute looking werewolf. Now we follow her brother Ben as he seeks revenge for his sister’s tragic end with the help of Jenny Templeton (who throughout the film is always referred to in full as Jenny Templeton). Lee shows up at the funeral to warn Ben that as his sister had the silver bullets removed from her corpse she is still a threat: “Your sister is a werewolf!”
The problem at this point is that, bless them, Reb Brown as Ben and Annie McEnroe as Jenny Templeton cannot act in any way. When told his sister is a werewolf Ben bursts into laughter and you get the horrible feeling that this isn’t part of the script but Brown just laughing at the dialogue. Which under the circumstances is understandable. Throughout the rest of the picture, our two young leads stumble about unsure of which way to look or how to speak. They mostly sound like they are dubbed but if that is the case it didn’t help. Brown fortunately seems to be able to handle a gun, so at least he gets to run around shooting things, or threatening to shoot things, although no one seems to be capable of editing together a film where there is a lot of fire play so this is mostly a waste of time.
I have to say the editing in this film is atrocious. Some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Apart from struggling to tell the story or even the scene through basic editing techniques, the filmmakers also felt the need to juice things up by randomly inserting shots of werewolves or ears growing or someone howling in a wig in scenes where there aren’t any werewolves. Plus during a number of action moments it will cut to a shot from an earlier scene either to make up for a lack of a shot to fill in the gap in visual narrative or… or… for no discernible reason at all. Plus they present one of the most annoying editing techniques in all of cinema: whenever any character is mentioned they cut to a shot of them so the audience can know who you are talking about. Surely by the tenth time we’ve hear Sybil Danning’s character’s name mentioned we will have an inkling who she is and don’t have to be shown every time she’s spoken about.
Talking of Sybil Danning, poor, poor Sybil Danning. She is humiliated here, I feel just awful for her. Now I’m sure not even Danning would lay any claim to be the world’s greatest actor but if you accept that she’s an Amazonian-like blonde and cast her well she can be pretty effective. You only have to see her hilarious Valkyrie warrior in Battle Beyond the Stars to know what I’m talking about (“You’ve never seen a Valkyrie go down!”). Here, she’s cast as Stirba the Queen werewolf who also happens be Christopher Lee’s sibling (so his sister is a werewolf too). But all that is required of her is to get naked, furry and have very slow, very embarrassing orgies with other furry people growling and pawing each other. Either that or walk about in a bizarre gold suit spouting terrible lines of dialogue about world domination. It’s all very pointless stuff. But the terrible, terrible moment for Danning comes over the closing credits as a shot from one of the earlier orgies, where she tears open her top to reveal her ample boobage, is repeated again and again, and again. And then again. Seventeen times this shot is shown, with cutaways to various other actors looking surprised or shocked or whatever. I think they thought this would be funny. Its not, its grim. Danning herself apparently fled the premiere in embarrassment when the film came out. I don’t blame her.
There are many more terrible moments. The main hero Ben decides to go and investigate the castle where all the wolfy orgies are happening (in Transylvania “home of the werewolves”… er, no). He has met a band of merry men who also have grievances against the lupine monsters including a dwarf called Vasile. Ben and Vasile have never said two words to each other up to this point. In fact all that Ben has said is “Who’s that dwarf?” while pointing at him. But here the dynamic duo are are in the deepest woods of evil and Ben tells his tiny friend “I am glad you are with me Vasile”, like they are best friends or something. “Yeyes” Vasile replies, in that way people say yes when they have no grasp of the English language but feel they should say something.
I bet Vasile wasn’t glad to be with Ben when five minutes later, in the most literal moment of the film, the werewolves use their Howling skills to make his eyes explode.
Later still (this film isn’t long it just seems to go on forever) when the werewolf-hunting team storm back through the woods for a final confrontation with Stirba and her gang, they are terrified by the sounds of beasts all around them. Not wolves though, or even dogs, but monkeys. We never see monkeys, no reference is made to monkeys, but we hear them yelling and screaming, I suppose it was an effects reel the sound editors had lying around so they thought they might as well use it.
Anyway, Christopher Lee continues to look embarrassed by the whole thing, the cinematography is perfectly solid so presume the DP was distraught as Lee was, and everything else is diabolical. But with a name like Howling 2 Your Sister is a Werewold should anyone be surprised?