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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Howling II:
Your Sister Is a Werewolf

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: July 14, 2015) – Undeniably cheesy but indisputably fun, "Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf" is of a less prestigious caliber than its predecessor, 1981's Joe Dante-directed "The Howling," but somehow is more entertaining in spite of—and, occasionally, because of—its foibles. When newscaster Karen White (played by Dee Wallace in the original) is shot dead while on-air, her brother Ben (Reb Brown) and reporter colleague Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe) team up to get to the bottom of what really happened. Joining forces with occult investigator Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee), they soon learn Karen had been bitten by a werewolf and sacrificed herself to reveal to the world that lycanthropes exist. To put a stop to the queen of the werewolves, Stirba (Sybil Danning), Ben and Jenny accompany Stefan to Transylvania just as the Festival of the Full Moon is getting underway.

Philippe Mora directs "Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf" as if the whole of the 1980s has exploded all over him and his actors, and this is a very good thing. As Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler's rubbery but effectively gnarly make-up effects pose no real threat to Rick Baker's astonishing werewolf transformations in the first film, New Wave band Babel (fronted by Steve Parsons) sing their hearts out on the soundtrack with a theme song called, appropriately, "The Howling." This infectiously catchy ditty will pop up again and again (not unlike a shot of Sybil Danning revealing her breasts that hilariously repeats itself 17 times during the end credits montage), a recurring musical calling card that complements Ben and Jenny's atmospheric journey to unknown parts of Eastern Europe.

As new couple Ben and Jenny search for answers and sleep together (not necessarily in that order), "Howling II" tosses in any number of bizarre flourishes. In one daytime scene that follows a nighttime one, an intertitle on the screen earns titters by informing us it is "The Following Afternoon." So, too, does a three-way sex scene full of moaning and crossed eyes involving the furry, S&M-garbed, frequently nude Sybil Danning. The early scenes set in Los Angeles aren't convincing in the least (the film was shot in Czechoslovakia), but the foreboding forests and gothic architecture throughout contribute to the offbeat mood. As Stefan Crosscoe, Christopher Lee doesn't always stop himself from blatantly rolling his eyes while in front of the camera, but Reb Brown and Annie McEnroe are appealing romantic love interests as Ben and Jenny, selling their roles even when they are at the mercy of a preposterous script. "Howling II: Yours Sister Is a Werewolf" isn't what one would call a chilling time at the cinema, but it has such a cool '80s-retro vibe to its score, its tight editing, and its gorgeous locations that it hardly matters when it falls into clunky absurdity. That very absurdity, after all, is what sets it apart and makes it so unabashedly endearing.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

I can remember seeing "Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf" on VHS and cable growing up, and the picture quality was always so dark it was often difficult to decipher what was going on. This problem is no more with Scream Factory's pleasing 1080p transfer. While this particular print has not been extensively cleaned up—there are still plenty of instances of age- and stock-footage-related scratches, dirt specks and mosquito noise—seeing it in high-definition is night and day from all previous versions. Grain is finely and accurately layered, DNR is minimal to nonexistent, colors are potent, and black levels are imperfect but still solid. Detail and clarity are better than they have ever been, the image's slight softness the result of the era and film stock used. There is an odd smearing effect that occurs fairly late in the film as the characters make their way through a nighttime forest while holding torches, but it is difficult to say whether this is an issue with the transfer or inherent to the original photography. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is all about the music; it drives the film from scene to scene with energy and vigor, and sounds exceptionally full-bodied. The mix features very good fidelity, and the dialogue and other sound effects are never overwhelmed by the soundtrack (though, let's face it again—this movie is all about that music!).

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director Philippe Mora
  • Audio Commentary with composer Steve Parsons and editor Charles Bornstein
  • "Leading Man" - An Interview with actor Reb Brown (13:51, HD)
  • "Queen of the Werewolves" - An Interview with actress Sybil Danning (17:03, HD)
  • "A Monkey Phase" - Interviews with special make-up effects artists Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler (15:29, HD)
  • Behind the Scenes Footage (3:52, HD)
  • Alternate Opening (10:35, HD)
  • Alternate Ending (9:35, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:07, HD)
  • Still Gallery (8:17, HD)
Bottom Line
Scream Factory's much-anticipated Blu-ray release of "Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf" is not one of the genre label's so-called Collector's Editions, but based on the extensive special features provided it certainly deserves to be. An increasingly passionate cult item for a reason, the film is earnest and unusual, but never takes itself too seriously. More than anything, it's just got an infectious vibe, one that will play very well to fans of silly, unpretentious '80s horror. Looking and sounding better than ever, "Howling II" is worth biting into on Blu-ray. Highly recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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