Howling II …Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985) (91 minutes)
Directed by Philippe Mora.
aka Howling II: Stirba-Werewolf Bitch
Written by Robert Sarno and Gary Brandner.
Starring Christopher Lee, Annie McEnroe and Reb Brown.
Follows The Howling (1981)
Followed by The Marsupials: The Howling III (1987)
When you think back to the 80s, the true golden age of horror, there are certain films that define their sub-genre. I’m thinking of the Friday the 13th and Halloween films defining the slasher sub-genre, or Fright Night and The Lost Boys defining the Vampire sub-genre. And the ones that (for me at least) defined Werewolf films are the likes of An American Werewolf in London and The Howling!
One of the downsides from making a genre defining film though, is that there will invariably be a sequel (or sequels) that just can’t live up to the original’s quality. This has happened with Howling II …Your Sister Is a Werewolf.
While its more illustrious predecessor – the 1981 classic The Howling, directed by the impressive Joe Dante – has a brilliantly entertaining script and just oozes energy, the sequel is another kettle of fish altogether.
Howling II picks up where the first film left off. Basically, after Karen White turned into a Werewolf on TV and was subsequently killed, her brother Ben (Reb Brown) attends her funeral. Now, I must make something clear. The film actually retcons the part of the story where Karen was killed live on TV. Her death wasn’t witnessed by the world.
Anyway, back to the funeral. While mourning his sister, Ben meets a colleague of Karen’s, Jenny (Annie McEnroe), who wants to know how she died as well as Steffan (Christopher Lee), an occult investigator. Steffan informs Ben and Jenny that Karen was actually a part of a huge Werewolf cult, led by Stirba (Sybil Danning). Our heroic trio then head to Europe with the aim of destroying Stirba and ending the Werewolf curse once and for all!
Now, I’m sure you can guess from the end of my third paragraph that this film is bad. I mean really, really bad. The script is cringeworthy, on the whole the acting is cheesy at best and some of the directing and frame composition is just baffling. If this doesn’t sound bad enough, they manage to completely screw up the Werewolf mythology. I mean, we all know that to kill a Werewolf we need to use silver, right? Not in Howling II. No, this time, Lee’s character (an expert in the occult, bear in mind) wants to use a steak. When that isn’t successful, we eventually find out that titanium, rather than silver is what is needed! Yep, as I’m sure you can tell, this film is a complete mess. And I’m not even touching upon the “black magic” that Stirba uses…
As mentioned, the acting is almost as bad as the plot. The film’s lead, Ben is played by Reb Brown. Now Brown’s performance is bad enough, but his complete lack of screen presence and charisma really brings the film down even more. Now, I heard how bad the film was before watching it, but decided to give it a go due to the presence of horror legend Lee and B-movie favourite Sybil Danning. Now, if I understand right, Christopher Lee only took this role as he had never done a Werewolf film, and to be fair to him its entertaining to see him trying to polish this turd of a movie. Danning on the other hand, goes balls to the wall with her portrayal as the lead villain, and if I’m honest, her performance deserves better than what the film gives her, and she basically carries this mess of a production on her shoulders.
A lot of the time we horror fans can excuse even the worst scripts and the cheesiest acting if the film’s effects are impressive. And seeing as FX master Steve Johnson is on effects duty, they should be pretty good right? Sorry, but no, they’re really disappointing. There is an interview with Johnson where he admits to the effects being shoddy due to a mixture of lack of time and money. This led to mass produced Halloween masks being used in some cases and death scenes that leave a lot to be desired.
I really want to end this review here as I don’t like being overly negative and ripping films to shreds. But the truth is, barring an entertaining turn by Sybil Danning and a bodice ripping scene, there isn’t really anything to praise. If you are a completest or get a kick out of watching the worst of the worst, then by all means go and watch this sequel. If not, then I hate to say it, but please save yourself some pain and give it the widest of wide berths.