Cinematic failure is something that has always drawn me in. There's just something about movies, no matter how good or bad they did in the box office, that make you wonder "why was this made?" and "who though this was a good idea?" Maybe it's also because I'm really into Nathan Rabin's hilarious and at times poignant A.V. Club series "My Year of Flops" (and the book it begot), but there's just something about movies like "The Howling II:...You're Sister's a Werewolf" that make me watch them more than once, even though they are all around bad movies.
I really don't know why studios thought it would be a good idea to do a sequel to "The Howling." It's a great horror film, and was a hit, but nothing about it really screamed "sequel." The same could be of "The Exorcist", but that's a whole different story all together. Nonetheless, 1985-that year that gave the world the likes of "Re-Animator", "Return of the Living Dead", "Demons" and many others-was the year America got to see the sequel to "The Howling" that only some horror fans were clamoring for.
"Howling II" takes place right after the events of the original (well duh.) After a rather ridiculous monologue from Steffan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee, in what he calls his worst performance), we are witness to the funeral of Karen White (the newswoman from the original.) Well, Stefan lets her brother Ben (Reb Brown) and his girlfriend Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe) that she's not really dead, but actually a werewolf, and that she must be killed via titanium stake to the heart. After seeing Karen rising from her coffin as a werewolf, our trio head to Transylvania. Why? Because a covenant/cult of werewolves is about to awaken the ancient, powerful werewolf queen Striba (Sybil Danning.)
Though fans of bad movies will find much to enjoy here, "Howling II" is a disastrous sequel. Whilst the humor in the original was sly and knowing, the humor in the sequel is forced and tiresome. From bad sex gags to Christopher Lee in New-Wave glasses to a dwarf werewolf hunter, the humor ends up provoking more eye rolls than actual laughs. The acting is also suspect. Lee tries his damnedest to wring something worthwhile here, but the usual class he brings is lost here thanks to the bad script. Brown and McEnroe meanwhile, are all around bad, and Danning is more hilariously bad as Striba (who had a tendency to get naked and wear dominatrix gear), feeling too much like a forced attempt at making a campy villain than anything else. Even the direction from Philippe Mora (whose credits include "Mad Dog Morgan", "The Beast Within" and "Communion", among others) is lacking, mostly feeling flat and uninspired in spite of a few decent moments of atmosphere.
To be fair, there are a few bright spots (a flying bat creature, some nifty gore effects, a few almost Hammer horror likes moments of atmosphere, and a really fun end credits montage), but "Howling II" can only come recommended to fans of cinematic schlock, and while I tend to champion cinematic schlock, this proved to be a not particularly fun experience.
Needless to say, I've seen the movie twice (maybe there's something wrong with me), so maybe I'll watch it again. As I said, there's sometimes something appealing about major studio failures, even if they aren't particularly entertaining. 1985 was a fortuitous year for the horror genre, but this is not one of the highlights.
There were five more sequels after this one, with only Howling III: The Marsupials" (which was also directed by Mora) getting a theatrical release. Afterward, it was straight to VHS town with "Howling IV: The Original Nightmare", "Howling V: The Rebirth", "Howling VI: The Freaks" and "Howling: New Moon Rising." Interestingly enough, only "New Moon Rising" hasn't gotten the DVD treatment, though it's apparently the worst of the series.