Thanks to Outposter Wrenage for this The Howling V: The Rebirth
Retro Review!

Howling V

Some movies never get the recognition they deserve from critics or the general population: Casablanca, Citizen Cane, Jaws, Star Wars, The Howling V. All we can do is work to raise awareness of these tossed-aside gems. Perhaps, someday, they will get a modicum of the respect due.

Let’s start with The Howling V. It came out direct-to-video in 1989. Neal Sundstrom directed. Sundstrom also co-directed Space Mutiny (1988), which means he got to work with Reb Brown. I’m surprised he did not retire right there and go out on a high note.

Let’s take a moment to let Reb Brown give us a lesson in explosives…

Taking what he learned from Space Mutiny, Sundstrom constructed the awe-inspiring viewing experience that is THV.

THV takes place in Hungary, which is convenient because it was filmed there. After departing the luxurious Ramada Hotel, ten strangers take a bus ride to tour the castle set from The Man With Two Brains (1983). At said castle, the ten strangers start getting picked off one-by-one by a killer in their midst — a killer that happens to be a werewolf.

After reading that synopsis, the Agathe Christie estate is probably contacting their lawyers this very moment. Then they remember the original title of And Then There Were None and decide not to attract attention to themselves in this day and age…

It’s Not Easy Playing Dumb

THV’s cast is a veritable list of actors and actresses who appear in a movie.

Howling V

Philip Davis as the Count (AKA the Count): Davis plays the emcee of the group. The Count gathers our intrepid group of victims at the castle for his own mysterious reason. Davis is the most accomplished performer in THV.

He’s an English actor who displays genuine classical training and has a fairly long list of credits. He even got to die in Charles S. Dutton’s arms in Alien 3 (1992).

Mary Stavin as Anna (AKA Actress 1): Stavin plays an accomplished actress in THV, which is ironic, I suppose, to play an accomplished actress in a movie like THV. Nevertheless, Stavin appeared in not one, but TWO Bond movies: Octpussy (1983) and A View To A Kill (1985).

Elizabeth Shé as Marylou Summers (AKA Actress 2): Shé plays an unaccomplished actress in THV, which is meta, I suppose, to play an unaccomplished actress in a move like THV. Shé did not appear in two Bond movies, but she did appear in two other Howling movies: The Freaks (1991) and New Moon Rising (1995).

That’s almost as good, right? Just agree. She might be reading this…

Nigel Triffitt as the Professor (AKA Professor): Triffitt…didn’t they make a movie about him? Something about one of his days? Day of the Triffitt or something like that? Pretty sure they did.

William Shockley as Richard Hamilton (AKA Preppy Jerk): Hamilton’s character looks like he should have a sweater tied around his shoulders and say things like:

“Hey, hey, buffy, anyone for tennis?”

Shockley has credits to his name beyond THV. For example, he was one of the dudes Robocop dispatched in 1987. Plus, he was a regular on Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman (1993-1998).

Howling V

Mark Sivertsen as Jonathan Lane (AKA Tennis Guy): Speaking of tennis, Sivertsen plays a tennis jock in THV. He is the lady’s man of the group, with his blond mullet and white sneakers. Sivertsen remains a busy guy in acting today. He even showed up in The Walking Dead.

Stephanie Faulkner as Gail Cameron (AKA Material Girl): Faulkner rocks a business/party ensemble that makes me think of Madonna going for an accounting job interview. THV was Faulkner’s last movie. I wonder if it was that bad of an experience for her.

Faulkner did some neat stuff prior to THV. She was on Misfits of Science (1985), The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) and even They Call Me Bruce (1982).

Intermission: rock out to the They Call Me Bruce theme song…

Victoria Catlin as Dr. Catherine Peake (AKA Cold Shoulder): Catlin plays the mean girl of the group. Personally, I didn’t think she was that bad of a battle axe, but I like domineering women who constantly cut me down with scathing remarks about my manhood. It keeps me humble. Catlin also showed up in Ghoulies (1984), Amazing Stories (1987) and Maniac Cop (1988).

Ben Cole as David Gillespie (AKA Camera Guy): Cole is a sensitive photographer in THV. He also rocks a tucked-in sweater. I always find the tucked-in sweater to be a bold fashion choice. Any man who can ignore waistband sweat is a force to be reckoned with. Cole has the kind of face that makes me sure I’ve seen him somewhere before, but his credits do not bear this out.

Clive Turner as Ray Price (AKA Ponytail Guy): Turner plays the comic relief in THV. He also has a ponytail that literally begs you to grab a pair of scissors and cut it off. That ponytail looks like the horse it came from had trichotillomania.

Turner also wrote and produced THV, along with The Howling IV (1988). In addition, Turner has a production credit on The Lawnmower Man (1992), which was David Koresh’s favorite movie.

Howling V

József Madaras as Peter (AKA Butler): I did not expect to see a lot of credits when I looked Madaras up, but low and behold, the dude has 149 of them! Everything he has done is Hungarian, but the guy looks to have had a nice career there.

Renáta Szatler as Susan (AKA Maid): Beyond THV, Szatler’s claim to fame is thus — she was the model used in the faux video “Sally” by the faux “Ian Pearson Band,” which was one of the two video-in-videos appearing in Dire Straights’ Money For Nothing music video. Respect.

It Can’t Be An Animal – No Animal Kills For Pleasure

THV gets a score of 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 4.5 out of 10 on IMDB.

That’s ballpark accurate. THV has a few issues. Its budget is low ($2 million); its performers are generally unknowns; its direction is flat; its production leaves a lot to be desired; its special effects are subpar, and its screenplay exhibits problems.

Yet, it’s watchable. The cast and filmmakers do their best and succeed in certain ways. What is the explanation for this mystery?

Howling V

As Stephen King wrote above the fireplace of that gentleman’s club in stories like The Breathing Method and The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands: It is the tale, not he who tells it…

Putting a group of people in an isolated setting and killing them off one by one might be one of the most self-sustaining movies one can make. It’s literally a countdown, which makes it hard to get bored because the movie recreates itself every 10 minutes as another character dies. Not only that, but you are also trying to guess the identity of the killer along the way.

This type of story is called a closed-circle mystery. Agathe Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) is credited as the work that started this trend.

Following this formula enables THV to punch above its weight despite its drawbacks (another werewolf movie also works along these lines — The Beast Must Die (1974), starring Peter Cushing, Charles Gray and Tom Chadbon; King Willie from Predator 2, Calvin Lockhart, is the lead). Give THV an A-list director, cast, production, budget and script polish, and you could have yourself a fun little movie.

This Is Very Rude!

Movies like THV work best when they sneak up on you. Hype kills bad movies, but coming across them randomly elevates them. I remember first seeing THV on a snowy night on a snowy UHF channel. Perfect conditions.

I watched the opening of the movie, which is suitably intriguing with its lingering shots of mass suicide and punchy music by The Factory, and then drifted away at the commercial, only to come back later and get sucked in for the rest of the ride.

Howling V

But, yeah, it’s not a smooth ride.

The setup of THV works okay, but it drags once they enter the tunnels under the castle. The movie then becomes an exercise in splitting people up so they can be werewolf-ed.

Speaking of which, you don’t really see the werewolf. That’s actually pretty gutsy to not show the werewolf or have a transformation scene in a Howling movie. Then again, it could have been a necessity. Maybe the costume truly was that terrible if lingered upon by the camera. The still shots of it don’t look particularly flattering, but we’ve all seen worse.

The filmmakers also cheat a little bit with the editing and sound to hide the killer’s identity. Do they do a good job? Somewhat. They spin the plates for as long as they can, but the plates inevitably start crashing down as the movie goes along and suspects dwindle.

Nevertheless, the final shot of the killer is fun. It’s a good note to go out on — veni vidi vici THV.

What was with that wide-handled sword at the beginning of the movie, though? You’d need hands like a professional basketball player to wield that thing. Maybe Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could handle it.

Fun Facts:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s fingers are so long that when he picks his nose his boogers are brain tissue.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s fingers are so long that his hands played the facehuggers in the Alien movies.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once gave me a prostate examination and said, “Your tonsils feel fine, too.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I asked Kareen Abdul-Jabbar how many stars he gives THV out of five.

He raised two fingers and got struck by lightning…

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