Sunday, October 7, 2018


The Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988) d. John Hough (UK) (94 min)

Joe Dante’s original 1981 werewolf smash was a perfect assemblage of sharp direction, Rob Bottin’s superb special effects, marvelously calibrated performances, and a smart, cunning script from John Sayles that improved markedly upon novelist Gary Brandner’s source material. For the fourth entry in the (very) loosely connected franchise, the decision was made to dispense with these winning elements and get back to the basics of shoddy lycanthropic cinema: a muddled yet cliché plot peopled with thunderously dull thesping, occasionally punctuated by a few sequences of fur and fangs and froth, all in the service of providing a more “faithful” adaptation of Brandner’s slick pulp yarn.

Accounts differ, but the prevailing story seems to be that co-screenwriter/co-producer Clive Turner was originally in the director’s chair, and that things were proceeding so miserably he was given the boot and veteran Hough (Legend of Hell House, Twins of Evil) flown into South Africa where filming was taking place to save the day. After production wrapped, Turner shot additional footage and scenes and edited them into Hough’s version, leaving the final product a disjointed, muddled mess.

It’s unclear who directed what, but it’s readily apparent that stars Romy Windsor and Michael T. Weiss have better hair stylists than acting coaches – their monotone delivery sinks the leaden dialogue written by Turner and “Freddie Rowe” (suspected to be Turner’s pseudonym, allowing him to surreptitiously slip changes into Hough’s shooting script) even further. And despite her best efforts, sultry siren Lamya Derval cannot replace Elisabeth Brooks (Marsha Quist from the 1981 original) in the pantheon of toothy temptresses.

FX whiz-kid Steve Johnson (Night of the Demons, Species) is credited with the makeup effects, but outside of a few tufts of hair and pointed incisors, his main contributions are the climactic show-stopping “transformation” scene (literally, because all dramatic action halts while we watch Weiss melt down into a gooey puddle a la The Devil’s Rain) and an impressive-looking but barely-glimpsed werewolf suit - one has to wonder why Hough/Turner decided to obscure it behind a wall of flame.

Johnson would return to the franchise three years later for the slightly better Howling VI: The Freaks, finally realizing his ultimate werewolf vision with 1996’s underrated Bad Moon. For his part, Turner went on to write, produce, and co-star in Howling V: The Rebirth before writing, directing, producing, and headlining the “you gotta see it to believe it” Howling: New Moon Rising (1995), which effectively killed the series for good.


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