Movie Review: 'The Howling Reborn'


In the dank and dingy annals of horror cinema sequel-dom, few American "franchises" can approach the true worthlessness of the one that bears the name "The Howling." What was once a clever and amusing 1981 Joe Dante horror / comedy about werewolves hiding in modern society quickly spiraled well out of control: infamous French schlock-master Phillippe Mora gave us Howling 2: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) and Howling 3: The Marsupials (1987), which led to Howling 4: The Original Nightmare (1988), Howling 5: The Rebirth (1989), Howling 6: The Freaks (1991), Howling 7: New Moon Rising (1995), and now, in 2011, a reboot of sorts that is all sorts of terrible. The Howling Reborn is the eighth film in the series, and if it's not the stupidest, it's certainly the most pat, generic, formless, silly, and slavishly beholden to films like Twilight, The Lost Boys, and, I dunno, let's say The Notebook.

Yes, The Howling Reborn is a high school romance drama masquerading as a horror film, and it goes so far in its fakery as to borrow a still-memorable franchise title in an obvious effort to win some coin on name recognition alone. The irony here is two-sided: older (or experienced) horror geeks who actually like The Howling will almost certainly "LOL" at what's offered in The Howling Reborn; and those who might actually be interested in a chintzy feature-length episode of Supernatural will probably have no idea what "The Howling" refers to in the first place. Clearly one of the producers out there still owned the rights to "The Howling," and simply went about churning out some product based solely on what was hip, hot, and allegedly cool six months ago. The end result is not pretty.

Loosely based on a novel by Gary Brandner (as were most films in the series, which means lots of free cash for Gary) and boasting Klaus Badelt as an "executive composer" (hey, it made me chuckle), The Howling Reborn is about a weenie of a teenager who has a crush on the brunette bad girl in school but doesn't have the stones to do anything until he realizes that he's a werewolf but so are some other mean guys and blah blah blah. There's an ostensible subplot about Teen Wolf's mopey dad and long-dead mom, but that's just a bunch of shoe leather and stitchwork employed to occasionally cut away from one of the treacliest teenage emo-romances you'll ever see outside of a Hot Topic boot sale. By the one-hour mark you may be lamenting the fact that there are so few werewolves in this werewolf movie, but once they arrive and start brawling via truly bad editing, you'll want to skip the "horror" and head right back to the JV version of Lupine Rouge.

Mired with a hilariously overwrought narration track, as if we need signposts on a path this straight, The Howling Reborn actually goes as far as mocking Twilight and its "twinkly vampires," despite the fact that The Howling Reborn is more or less 60% Lost Boys, 30% Twilight, and 10% guaranteed to evoke huge peals of derisive giggles at slumber parties across the country. So this isn't just a shameless mash-up of whatever teen-friendly concept happens to be popular today, it's also one that bites the hand it's stealing from. Mixed metaphor that may be, but there's no getting around the fact that The Howling Reborn is sloppy, silly, desperately unscary, and woefully unworthy of having Joe Dante as an ancestor.

So basically, it's a lot like all the other sequels.