Monday, November 12, 2012

Baying at the Moon

The Howling Reborn (2011, directed by Joe Nimziki) is what you get when exploitation filmmakers try to ride the zeitgeist. It's about as good as any other movie that bears the title, "The Howling," whenever said movie is not directed by Joe Dante. Which is to say, it pretty much sucks. I don't know if this is the worst episode the franchise has ever produced--the standard of comparison is ridiculously low--but it's probably in the conversation.

The Howling Reborn finds high school senior Will undergoing another kind of change of life: he suspects that he has somehow become the victim of lycanthropy. This, on the eve of his graduation and on the occasion of finally connecting with the girl he's been lusting after for months. After she spies her own image in his sketchbook, she invites him to a rave. Things don't go so well once he finds it. Unfortunately for him, he's the son of an alpha werewolf, who wants him to join her pack. Mom want's more than that, though. She's plotting the annihilation of humankind as she creates an army of werewolves. It's up to Will to stop it, all the while navigating the heartache of young love...

Truth: there's a good movie hiding somewhere inside this mess. That movie is part werewolf fang and frenzy, part zombie apocalypse, part James Bond film. The premise that comes to the fore offers the possibility of werewolf mayhem on a truly grand scale and I'd love to see that movie. I would. What's actually on the screen here? That's a mixed bag. There's a big werewolf showdown at the end of this movie in which Will, all wolfed out, and his mom duke it out while treating walls like cardboard. It's a lot like the final fight in a superhero movie. To this point, the werewolf attacks in this movie have been filmed in a shakycam run and gun style, mostly in low light to that the viewer gets the impression of werewolves more than she gets the actual visual image of the werewolf. That changes in this final showdown, as the filmmakers devolve into slow motion destruction. When we finally get a look at the werewolves? Eh. I've seen worse. It's possible, after all, to make a good werewolf movie when your werewolf is less than convincing (see: Snaps, Ginger).

The main downside of this film is the central relationships between Will and Eliana. Will provides the film with narration, which proves to be a huge mistake because it renders the film's best ideas as an opportunity for adolescent profundities about the meaning of life. The love conquers all nature of Will and Eliana's courtship is the sort of thing you get in Twilight fan fic, and it seems to me that the entire reason this film exists is to make some bank on the backs of Twi-hards looking for their werewolf romance. Whatever I may think of Twilight and its fans, they deserve better than a cynical cash grab. They deserve a full blooded romance or horror movie (or horror romance), and they don't get either. Some of this is down to the casting of Landon Liboiron and Lindsay Shaw in the lead as our doomed lovers. Neither of them can hold the screen for very long and their characters are signficiantly underwritten. The film is on firmer ground when it equates lycanthropy with sexual awakening, which is a time-honored theme in lycanthropic cinema. The Oedipal elements of the film tend to make this theme of awakening ickier than necessary.

The end of the movie finds the filmmakers groping for a way to tie this into the mythos of the Howling franchise. It does this by repeating the scene from the 1981 film when Dee Wallace turns into a werewolf on television. This ends up faceplanting, in part because The Howling Reborn doesn't have an instinct for the jugular. Where the final scenes of the first film is a sly satire on mass media and how we react to it, this film provides a hollow echo.

Current tally: 33 films.
25 first time viewings.

I have one more film to write about to wrap up this year's challenge. Then it's back to business as usual. In the mean time, check out Rev. Anna Dynamite's summary of her challenge over on Dreams in the Bitch House.

My final tally for this year is 34 movies, which means that I'll be cutting a check to the MS society for $17. I'd prefer to cut a bigger check, but I'm poor right now. Instead, I'll ask all of my readers to likewise cut a $17 check to either the MS Society or the charity of your choice.

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