Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Frank Review of "Howling IV: The Original Nightmare" (1988)

The Short Version? Ghost story, except with werewolves.
What Is It? Horror Drama.
Who Is In It? That guy from "The Pretender" and that woman from "Murder One."
Should I See It? No.

VIDEO Not Safe For Work (Brief Nudity)

I loathe ghost stories. Throughout film history, you've had these goddamned things where you spend over an hour getting to know boring, thin characters in a mundane setting-- listening to creaks, window shutters blowing in the wind, and the odd moving object. They often think too highly of themselves to offer even a cheap jump scare. They think they're actually dramas, and the very worst purport to be based on a true story. These films are liars and thieves, stealing hours of your life that can never be recovered. There are exceptions in all things, but generally speaking, I believe ghost stories are the very worst kind of horror movie. Howling IV is a prime example.

So there's this writer, see, and she's having a nervous breakdown, right, so she goes off on holiday with the head of the Lorenzo Lamas fan club she married. She meets this ex-nun, okay, and the creepy locals, y'see, and she is visited by phantoms and hears werewolves but, like, no one will believe her. Sound familiar?

Everything about this flick plays like a low rent foreign soft core porno, from the line-readings-as-acting to the blatant dubbing, to the big hair to the shit music. The flick was filmed in South Africa, and went straight to video. If you're watching a monster movie, and you haven't seen one after forty-five minutes, it's either a very good or very bad monster movie. Thirty-five minutes in, this one had its first kills, largely bloodless and entirely from the point of view of an unseen werewolf. We just get stupid looking reaction shots/running/screaming. There are tits (just) within the first hour, and they're nice, but in no way worth the wait. The first actual werewolf shows about another ten minutes in. The rest of the special effects, and the only semblance of action, occurs within the final fifteen minutes. Somehow, after all those scenes, there's still so little offered that you can't invest yourself enough to care.

Technically, this film is superior to Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf in most every way. There's a logical story, despite some plot holes. Bad as they are, the actors are performing their designated function at the most basic level. Everything feels grounded in a reasonable approximation of reality. The effects work is competent for the budget. The only thing missing is fun... unintentional belly laughs... lunacy... decent groundwork for a drinking game... entertainment value... basically, a memorable anything. There isn't even a proper ending-- just an unlikely resolution with tacked-on ambiguity for no good reason other than convention. There just is anything of value at all in Howling IV, and it should be substituted for whatever else you can find that inspires any emotion at all. This movie just leaves you dead inside.

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