Sunday, October 27, 2013

Franchise Review: Howling 6: The Freaks (1991)

In the palindrome year of 1991, somebody decided that after four bad Howling movies, they might be able do it right for once. And surprisingly, they kind of do. Don't get me wrong. I will probably never watch any of these movies willingly again (except maybe for Howling 2 because that one was a freaking hoot), but Howling 6: The Freaks is strangely okay, if your standards are fairly low like mine usually are.

Ian Richards is a quiet drifter who comes to the dying town of Canton Bluff looking for work. Local man Dewey man gives him a job helping to fix up the church, while Ian makes nice with the man's pretty daughter Lizzy, and tries to hide the fact that he is a werewolf. However, the owner of a traveling circus, Harker, learns Ian's secret and kidnaps him to make him a part of the rest of his freaks.

What's missing from Howling 6 - and not in a bad way - the comedic element that sometimes very prominent in the previous films. The sixth entry takes its idea very seriously with hardly a hint at anything funny, even when it comes to the freaks in Harker's World of Wonders. That doesn't mean that the movie is magically any better than first four sequels, but heck, I have to give them an A for effort for not making this a total shitfest like it very well could have become.

Speaking of Harker's World of Wonders... that was interesting. When Lizzy and Ian go through the unusually large space where the main freaks are held, Harker gives them a personal tour while they view the half man-half woman, the midget with a third arm, the newbie freak Alligator Boy, and a clown that... bites the head off a chicken? Whuh? How is that supposed to be an "oddity"? Well yes, it's odd and very disturbing, but not your normal freak fair at these things. Harker is very good at running the show. He is very creepy in his looks and demeanor, but also seems strangely respectful of all his freaks. So he can't be all bad, right? The Funhouse and now this movie keep making me wonder whether or not it would be cool if they still had shady sideshow circuses like this anymore. There would be outrage from the community, for sure, but who doesn't want to see a mutated pig fetus or something?

The special effects, while well done, are just not to my liking aesthetically for the particular monsters they are trying to portray. Ian's transformation into a werewolf is one of those typical, really painful-looking transformations where we see fingernails growing, feet lengthening, etc. until they do the full shot at the end. I hate the look of this werewolf, mostly because he has no snout and his face is mostly hairless. How can you call something that looks like that a "wolf" of any kind? The rest of the body is good (even if the hair on top of his head was way too long) but doesn't make up for that awful face. One of the worst werewolves out there. There's also a bit of a change with the werewolf lore in that not only can the full moon change Ian, but he can also transform by use of an amulet and certain magic words that Harker recites.

The big reveal - oh no! a spoiler! - near the conclusion of the film is that Harker is a vampire. Kind of. Actually, he's a bald, purple vampire with no nose and pointy, chewed-up ears. WTF. And the first thing that came to my mind when I saw him was that Buffy, the Vampire Slayer of all people ripped off his look for the ubervamps in season seven of that show.

The ubervamp look didn't bother me there, but the fact that Harker was a weird purplish, blue color really threw me off. I wouldn't have even known that Harker was supposed to be a vampire if it weren't for the coffin full of dirt (disguised as a couch) in his trailer or the fact that Ian staked him at the end and ultimately killed him by exposing him to sunlight.

I didn't love any of the actors, but I didn't hate any of them either. The girl playing Lizzy had a really annoying voice and no awareness of her physicality, and other than that, these guys did an okay job for the caliber of movie they were in. Nobody stands out except maybe for Bruce Payne as Harker, and that freak who played the half man-half woman. He/she could have had a real career at that. The lead actor playing Ian is easily forgettable, even after his semi-sweet moments of not eating the kitty and walking off into the sunset at the end with Alligator Boy (they became buds).

All in all, really not a bad flick. It's not blatantly retarded like some of the earlier Howling films were and that gives it some major points in my book. The plot could have used a bit more work and there could have been more character development - but then the film could have been a bit too serious for its own good. Strangely I didn't miss the lack of werewolf attacks in Howling 6. The fight scene at the end between Ian and Harker made up for it and then the movie ends quickly after that, as it should have.

Oh my gosh, you guys, I am so freaking close. Only two Howling movies left. I think I might actually make it through okay.

1 comment:

  1. Haven't seen it in a very long time, but I remember that I highly enjoyed it and actually loved it more than the original. Bizarre atmosphere, cool make-up and a few stunningly intense scenes.