As much as I hate to admit it now, I didn’t always love Howling II. But over the years, as I’ve revisited this cult classic time and time (and time) again, mostly due to Christopher Lee and his badass punk rock attitude in the film, I’ve grown to appreciate Phillippe Mora’s wonderfully surrealistic take on lycanthropes that feels like a modernized twist on the classic Hammer films I grew up loving. And while it may not be a flawless effort by any means, I can’t help but adore a film that gave us Sybil Danning as Queen of the Werewolves, put Lee in a New Wave night club (complete with zany sunglasses and leather jacket) and also gave the modern lycan mythology a bit of an unexpected twist.
Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf picks up right after Joe Dante’s original The Howling as we see reporter Karen White (a stand-in, not Dee Wallace, was used this time around) being laid to rest after her unfortunate demise that aired on live television. Her transformation into a werewolf and being shot to death shocked viewers and caught the attention of none other than Stefan Crosscoe (Lee), an occult specialist and hunter of sorts who suspects that White’s soul is not at rest. He crosses paths with Karen’s brother Ben (Reb Brown) and her co-worker Jenny (Annie McEnroe) at the funeral, informs them of the deceased’s lycanthropic state, and after disposing of Karen later that night, Stefan then convinces the pair to accompany him to Transylvania in order to put an end to an even more deadly werewolf force, Queen Stirba (Danning), who is planning to take over the world utilizing her Wiccan powers.
And really, that’s only about half of what happens in Howling II as Mora, as well as co-writers Gary Brandner and Robert Sarno, take their very traditional monster movie and give it a bit of an erotic New Wave twist. The results are a sequel that’s tonally all over the place and features some of the worst editing ever (complete with every single film transition you could possibly imagine) and yet, Howling II is still weirdly fascinating and entertaining all the same.
The performances in Howling II are, well….uneven at best. As expected, Lee is undoubtedly the best thing going in the sequel and utilizes his commanding sense of gravitas to its fullest here. Danning’s performance is fiercely domineering and animalistic, befitting of her character’s Queen status over her fellow werewolves. Unfortunately, both Brown and McEnroe are equally miscast in Howling II and share a sexual chemistry of two rocks trying to get it on and that might be putting it mildly (the pair seem more sibling-like than lovers, if anything).
But despite its rough edges, there’s no denying that Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf is an ambitious slice of low-fi gothic cult filmmaking, succeeding (often in despite of itself) mainly due to Mora’s commitment to his wild material and his love for Hammer (which is keenly evident in every frame of the film). What also helps is the fact that Mora shot the sequel over in Czechoslovakia which elevates the sequel’s oddball sensibilities to almost absurdist levels of weirdness (most of the extras in the film were actual villagers from the area, not professional actors) and gives the film a craggy, old-world feel that certainly helps add to the authenticity of Howling II’s overall production values.
It’s not a film that everyone will love, but for those of you who gravitate towards eccentric cult classics and can find great joy in Lee having to infiltrate a grungy punk rock club in wacky 80’s shades or Danning in various stages of undress (for inexplicable reasons), then Howling II is a movie that may be right up your eccentric alley.
As far as Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the Howling II goes, it’s truly a gift for long-time fans of the film. The quality of the transfer is sublime (especially in comparison to the now-OOP DVD) and the special features included cover everything from the special effects insanity that the Howling II crew endured to Mora’s fascinating production tales on an audio commentary track to even interviews with both Danning and Brown, paying homage to their involvement with the sequel. Once again, Scream does an excellent job of paying tribute to Howling II and gives those of us who enjoy Mora’s oddball werewolf tale everything we could hope for and more.
Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: 4.5/5