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John’s Old School Horror Corner: Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988)

January 23, 2013

MY CALL:  This is a perfect example of a “Werewolf FAIL.”  There’s a lot of soap operatic relationship drama, hardly a werewolf in sight and a lot of lying and anxiety; basically, this is a Lifetime Network movie about werewolves with a VERY LOW budget.  [C-/D+IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH:  Well, if you’re in the market for a great werewolf movie that has a sense of humor, then see An American Werewolf in London (1981)–hands down the best werewolf movie ever made!  Second best would be The Howling (1981), which takes itself quite seriously.  Another fun one is Cursed (2005), which is loaded with clichés and honors many past horror flicks.  If you want another utterly ridiculous werewolf movie, then move on to Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) and Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987).  FRANCHISE/SEQUEL NOTE:  Other than a lot of parallels with the original (a remake really), I find no story-based connection between this, The Howling (1981; the best of the series), Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985; random and hilarious) or Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987; still a lot of weird fun).  Based on quality, it’s awful that the destitute part IV even tried to remake the excellence of part one!  These movies get better as you work your way back to the original.

Marie (Romy Windsor; Howling: New Moon Rising) keeps seeing a vanishing nun, frightening reflections, and visions of claw marks.  She needs to clear her mind.  So, along with their hideous his and hers 80s mullets, Marie and her husband Richard (Michael T. Weiss; Dark Shadows, Bones) leave to spend three weeks in some secluded place called Drago which bathes in the accents of the locals’ shallow gene pool.

As they get settled in they meet a local shopkeeper Eleanor (Lamya Derval) who, like Elisabeth Brooks from the original, is a sultry minx with street walker make-up and an occult rat bone necklace who makes eyes at other women’s husbands.  [Also, just like in the original, Marie’s husband and the local cultette will eventually do it.]  Between this mild flirtation, some dreams about wolves and losing her pet dog in the woods, Marie’s stress builds right back up.  The director really shoehorns these scenes, along with more visions of this random nun and the ghosts (or visions?) of some disturbed and confused elderly couple, into a rather short period of time.  However, I fail to appreciate it as this movie just drags on with no sign of satisfaction in sight.  POV shots, slow-motion running and scenes of misty forest all dreadfully fail to contribute to the mood.

Another vacationer, Janice, comes to Drago.  Janice used to be a nun and knew the nun from Marie’s visions.  This dream nun died after a being plagued by the sound of howling and had nervous breakdown.  This “revelation” was no more exciting to me than sipping from a two-day old glass of flat Diet Coke.  Halfway through this movie you’d think it’s about visions of a nutty nun and not about werewolves at all–really, AT ALL!

Wolf in slut’s clothing.

Later Richard meets up for a tryst with Eleanor.  She makes an instant transformation into a werewolf, bites him, then instantly transforms into a wolf (off camera, of course) and runs off.

Richard’s transformation is the opener to the only gory sequence in the whole movie–but it’s long.  It’s deliciously revolting, but it doesn’t make up for the rest of this awful film. It starts with Richard literally melting to death into a puddle of…well…himself. Then he emerges as a slimy, slowly expanding werewolf–it’s certainly original.

I asked him if he had to go before we got in the car!

At this time, the other townspeople are transforming and the creature quality is all over the place.  Some look lame, like trolls or orcs or something, many are simply red-eyed dogs, and one looked REALLY cool with a neat abomination of an intermediate transformation phase. Were it not for this sequence and some nudity, this film would have fit in perfectly on the Lifetime Network.

Werewolf fist guns activated.  PEW PEW PEW!

The acting is something painful.  But don’t worry, it’s complemented by VERY bad editing–day to night to day transitions between cuts in one scene, seeing things on screen waaay to briefly, some of the dialogue is off or dubbed, and other misdeeds of post-production filmmaking.

This “sequel” is called The Original Nightmare–I can’t help but to wonder why.    Perhaps an attempt to make us think this is a prequel even though it relies on the premise of the original as it is really a remake.  The husband meets a local culty slut in the boondock town, kills a rabbit and cheats on his wife with a chick who turns into a werewolf during the act and bites him–making this the third of four Howling movies with a mid-coitus transformation, four if you count the subtlety of the sex scene “change” in part 3.

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