“Do you know what sort of wolf killed this man?”.
“A big one?”.
This is the sort of dialogue that greets us as we take an ill advised trip to the furthest most reaches of the dankest corners of the continuously spiralling Howling franchise; a series whose quality has sunk so low, it’s currently chilling out with anglerfish at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. It’s been a ride that’s gotten steadily bumpier ever since Joe Dante’s majestic orginal, but one thing that’s remained sort-of constant is the series has boasted continuity that’s gotten looser as a pensioner’s bladder as time has gone on.
But wait – wouldn’t it be cool if someone came along and decided to string the continuity of last three movies together in a single film that’s loaded with exposition, more country music than you can stand and repurposed footage from previous movies?
No? Well tough titty, pardner and buckle up, because director, writer and star Clive Turner obviously doesn’t give the slightest of fucks about what you think.
Australian dad-joke machine, Ted Smith breezes into the woefully named Pioneer Town (what, was Hickville taken already?) looking for work and a place to lay his head and eventually finds it at the local watering hole. Quickly endearing himself to the local yokels with his ability to serve a pint while spewing an endless stream of bullshit, Ted settles down rapidly and even gets himself a shot of romance with a local widow, but trouble is brewing elsewhere.
Father John, a priest who’s been sent out by the Vatican to investigate supernatural goings on has demanded the audience of a ancient looking, worn out, police detective (unsurprisingly named in the credits as – wait for it – The Detective) to aid him in solving the rash of chewed up bodies that are popping up in the desert. As the wizened lawman sits there, battling the urge to snooze, or even just die, Father John relates to him the plot of Howling V, in which a bunch of people in Budapest were hunted around a snowed-in castle by one of their number who secretly was a werewolf (man, if only I had a pound for every time that happened to me while visiting a castle in Budapest). The priest then drops massive spoilers for the fifth entry by revealing that the lycanthope in hiding actually was actress Mary Lou who subsequently escaped into the night and eventually showed up next on camcorder footage shot at the carnival from Howling VI.
Father John further surmises that Mary Lou as changed her human form, possibly into that of Ted (uh, what?) or maybe used mind control… or something – the movie isn’t exactly clear – anyway, whatever the hell is supposed to be going on, Father John believes this grizzled, long haired aussie is at the centre of things and must be destroyed.
Welcome to the utter rock bottom of the Howling franchise – a film so impossibly amateurish it has to be seen to truly be believed. How and why this movie actually exists at all makes me wonder not only what type of faustian pact Clive Turner made to put this baffling piece of shit on the screen, but why he didn’t think to ask for more filmmaking talent to go with it. At least in his previous efforts of Howling’s VI and V he kept himself sort of in the background (despite “acting” in V), but here, not only does he write, produce, direct and edit, Clive’s only gone and made himself the main character too and the result is quite possibly the most depressing vanity project you’ve ever fucking seen. Seemingly thinking that the only place in the world where he could ever convincingly be seen as the life of the party is a town full of ageing drunks who frequently feel like an out of work ZZ Top is cosplaying King Of The Hill, Turner aims low and still misses. Suggesting that this is the only place in the world where his smug drivel could ever snag a laugh (key example: he claims he’s on a vodka diet with the punchline being that he’s lost three days already – hilarious), is surely a cry for help, but it’s drowned out by the desperate attempts to steer the flick around the glaring fact that the film has the lack of funds to feature barely any werewolf action in a werewolf movie. As a result we’re forced to endure an eternity of scene after scene of fucking line dancing and extended clips from the fourth and fifth Howling entries in a drunken attempt to tie Turner’s other attempts together in a way that make the clumsy retconning of Spectre look like the god damn MCU.
When the werewolf does eventually show up – for all of five fucking seconds – it looks like a giant, rabid Build-A-Bear stuffed into a yellow shirt and as Howling FX regular Steve Johnson is wisely a no show, the mangy mauler definitely isn’t worth the wait.
Alternatively, awful dialogue mixes with non-existent acting to provide a potent stream of WTF moments – provided you can pay attention long enough to actually catch them – at one point someone unhelpfully adds that the wolf must be at least twice the size of the Hound Of The Baskervilles; yeah, real fucking handy that – comparing something to a dog that doesn’t even sodding exist. Next time try something else equally as pointless, like saying something’s one and a half times larger than Boo Boo from Yogi Bear or that it’s a yard shorter than Bigfoot.
As you can probably tell by now, all the boring gaffer taping together of plot threads, interspersed with people line dancing inexplicably in silhouette, did irrevocable damage to my patience and if I’d actually paid to watch this glorified home movie of Clive Turner showcasing his shittest jokes, I might actually have gone postal – but there is light at the end of the tunnel. With only a forgotten, low budget reboot to go, surely the worst that the Howling franchise has to throw at us is now firmly in the rearview mirror as we put some much needed distance between us and the fetid smell of possibly one of the worst films ever made.
Clive Turner may have hoped being the brainchild of the arse-end of the Howling franchise would bring him the sweet smell of success. Instead, Howling: New Moon Rising just stinks of wet dog…