Joe Dante’s The Howling is a classic horror movie. Aside from An American Werewolf in London, it’s one of the best werewolf movies of all time. Interestingly, however, The Howling has produced one of the more bizarre horror franchises. To date, studios have churned out seven sequels over four decades. Most of these sequels were straight-to-video movies; none of them are particularly memorable. Except for one. And for all the wrong reasons. The Howling II – Your Sister is a Werewolf or Stirba Werewolf Bitch – is one of those notoriously bad movies. Inept special effects, wooden acting, odd plotting – The Howling II has it all. But is it just a ‘bad movie’ or is it ‘so bad, it’s good’?
Following the events of The Howling, Ben White arrives in Los Angeles to bury his sister, Karen. At the funeral, occult expert Stefan Crosscoe tells Ben that his sister was a werewolf. Along with Jenny, a journalist and Karen’s co-worker, Ben joins Stefan on his trip to Transylvania. In this old part of the world, Stefan plans to find an destroy Stirba, Queen of the Werewolves, and her werewolf cult.
The Howling II a ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ of Storytelling
Memorably bad movies can’t be boring. To hit the ‘sweet spot’ of ‘so bad, it’s good’, bad movies have throw all logic out the window. In this regard, The Howling II is a huge success. Nothing about this movie makes sense. With only the loosest connection to the first movie, The Howling II mixes together supernatural elements with no concern for logic. The movie borrows Transylvania, staking, and other vampire tropes. As the movie progresses, Stirba inexplicably uses witchcraft. In one hilariously bad scene, Stirba chants a Wiccan spell, which causes a little person’s eyes to explode. Don’t ask. Somewhere in the story is something a werewolf plot to take over the world. And the original movie’s ending is conveniently dismissed.
When Christopher Lee puts on sunglasses to disguise himself in a punk rock bar, you just know what kind of bad movie you’re watching.
Poor editing makes the movie even more difficult to follow. Near the movie’s climax, a new wave band from earlier in the movie inexplicably turn up at what looks like a werewolf orgy. Is it meant to be a flashback? If so, why? Or did Stirba fly them in from Los Angles? Where do they go? Who cares. The Howling II also has the strangest, and longest, werewolf ménage-a-trois. Of course, it may not be long – it could just be the editing that occasionally drops snippets of the scene at different points in the movie. When Christopher Lee puts on sunglasses to disguise himself in a punk rock bar, you just know what kind of bad movie you’re watching.
Not So Special Effects May Elicit Some Unintentional Laughs
Though some of The Howling’s special effects are dated, the werewolf transformations remain among the genre’s best. Not so much in the sequel. The Howling II’s retconning of the original movie’s ending, for example, is hopelessly inept. Basically, the werewolf looks like an actor wearing a dollar store wolf mask. Some of the other werewolf effects are modest improvements. But when cartoonish lights emanate from Stirba’s hands as she casts a spell, it’s all downhill. For some reason, something that looks like a rubber bat-like creature turns up. At the start of the movie, Christopher Lee is superimposed over a shot of the universe as he narrates the opening. Yes, its as bad as it sounds.
Poor Christopher Lee Looks Like He’d Rather Be Somewhere Else
Like all truly bad movies, The Howling II features some terrible acting. As Ben and Jenny, Reb Brown and Annie McEnroe as absolutely atrocious. Wooden doesn’t come close to capturing their performances. Despite being a journalist, Jenny does absolutely no investigating or reporting. The chemistry between the leads is non-existent, which may explain why Reb Brown is still wearing pants during their sex scene. Legendary B-film actress Sybil Danning spends most of the movie in werewolf fur as Stirba. When she’s not fuzzy, Danning looks like she’s in a heavy metal music video.
But how he ended up in this movie is a mystery.
And then there’s poor Christopher Lee. He’s a horror icon, and The Howling II doesn’t diminish his status in any way. But how he ended up in this movie is a mystery. He’s a long ways away from playing Dracula for Hammer Films. Nevertheless, Lee is a consummate professional and, as such, he does the best with the terrible material. Arguably, he’s the best part of the movie even if it looks like he’s rather be somewhere else.
The Howling II Will Have You Howling
It’s hard to tell if The Howling II was intentionally or unintentionally funny. Nothing about the movie qualifies as scary. In spite of its utter ineptitude, The Howling II is never boring. This is the kind of bad movie that inspires brow-wrinkling and laughs in equal measures. With the right crowd and copious amounts of alcohol, The Howling II would make for a fun night of bad movies.