By the time the Howling series had weakly loped to its fifth installment, the one good thing this drawn out shaggy dog story had finally figured out was to ditch any links to past movies (despite claiming to still be adapting Gary Brandler’s source novels) and simply become a lycanthope themed anthology series. I mean, anything would be better than Part IV’s piss poor remaking of the original Howling or the ludicrous Aussie antics of Part III – and you’d be right… just not by that much.
Taking a completely different approach to the The Howling series – and by “different” I mean “completely rips off the 1974 movie The Beast Must Die” – The Rebirth repurposes itself as a mystery thriller as a group of idiots wander aimlessly around a castle pointing fingers at each other while their numbers shrink by the minute.
Various characters arrive in Budapest under invitation of a mysterious Count to celebrate the opening of a castle for the first time in 500 years and the fact that none of them think it’s remotely odd that only eight people have been chosen to attend just goes to show that their collective IQ isn’t exactly a particularly high number. Containing such insipid drains on humanity such as photographer David, a man who is as bland as his nondescript jumper; incredibly prickly doctor, Catherine; Jonathan, who seems a shoo-in for douche bag of the year and Marylou, a wannabe actress of such low mental fortitude, it’s frankly amazing she can remember the breathe, the group listen blankly as they are told of the castle’s history, which, 1000 years ago, was attacked by countless wolves seemingly controlled by the devil who walked among them as a man by day and a wolf by night. Reeling at the fact that the bible chose to leave out the quite sizable plot twist that Satan was a werewolf, the group continue about their evening either bickering among themselves or trying to get laid…
Anyway, crashing the party is a hairy gate crasher that starts chomping its way through anyone silly enough to go wandering off alone and trust me, no one’s coming up with a cure for cancer in this lot – but things take an ever weirder turn when the Count suggests that it’s actually a lycanthope that’s the lethal plus one. However, further investigation reveals that everyone invited have no parents and all have a particular birthmark on their arm which means that they’re all descendants of the people who inhabited the castle centuries ago and that one of rhat night’s party goers is actually the satanic beast. Will the survivors buy this theory or will they simply point fingers at each other as they blindly wander to their doom?
It’s here during our odyssey through arguably the consistently worst franchise in horror movie history (yes, worse than The Human Centipede), that we tip the cap to Clive Turner, the man who not only wrote and produced Parts IV, V and VII, but someone (probably him) let him direct the latter one and even act in all three. I only bring this up because it’s nice to put a face to my pain and also I desperately need to fill column space and reviewing a film this duff is really bloody hard.
To give The Rebirth it’s due (although Afterbirth would be a far more accurate title) it’s actually a more watchable piece of werewolf shit than the previous film and even though the concept isn’t new, magnificent 2021 comedy Werewolves Within nicked it as well so I guess I can’t play the hypocrite there. However, this doesn’t stop Howling V from being gloomy, dank shite that’s filled with atrocious acting, tin eared dialogue and a story that obviously doesn’t have the first clue how to string together a mystery plot if its life depended on it. Why are there scenes early in the film suggesting that there’s a chained creature in the dungeons if the werewolf has barely got to the castle yet – that’s not how red herrings work, Clive!
The cast actually contains a familiar face in the shape of Quadrophenia’s Phil Davis who portrays the secretive Count but if I’m being honest, buzzing around Brighton on a moped is more his speed than legging it around a castle in Budapest with a werewolf on his arse. However, Phil is a decorated veteran compared to the rest of the cast, who deal out their line readings with all the focus of a habitual glue sniffer and who can’t emote even the most basic emotion needed for a film like this – and if a large selection of your actors can’t portray fear in a horror film, then you’re pretty much fucked from the start. You can’t even remember the characters after they die and you strain your brain to recall who the hell these people were when their mauled bodies are eventually found, but then you immediately remind yourself that these characters are morons, you aggressively don’t care and that you should continue to go on with your life.
“But surely the werewolf itself is good value for money!” I blatantly don’t hear you cry; well, I’d answer that question for you if the filmmakers actually let you take a glimpse of the fucker. The only reason I know what this particular lycanthope looks like a rabid Muppet is from the VHS cover which shows it in all of its well lit glory. The film itself requires night vision goggles to make any sense of the thing and while hiding the creature (Jaws, Alien) can add an air of Hitchcockian tension; not seeing the werewolf at all in a werewolf movie is just bloody annoying, especially considering that the original Howling has some of the best werewolves in movie history.
So at this point, the Howling movies are 1 for 4 when it comes to quality with still more to come, but I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy a so-bad-it’s-good vibe from the thing with puzzling dialogue mixing seamlessly with shitty plotting in order to create truly stunning moments. “There is an old Hungarian proverb; check the one who looks innocent!” demands a character at one point as he accuses a gangly photographer while utterly neglecting the naive, young, bambi-eyed actress sleeping in the next room…
The attempt at shifting the series from American gothic to just plain old gothic is admirable and props should be given for trying something other than the usual “werewolf community” storyline – but this particular Rebirth required some stricter planned parenting.