Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Forgotten Horrors #1: Howling V: The Re-Birth

Budapest, 1489 is where our film starts off. In a dark castle everyone inside has committed suicide for some unknown reason. Two survivors are in terror and decide to kill themselves after a baby is thought to have also been killed. After their death we hear the baby cry out. Now, fast foward a few hundred years.

Set in an isolated ancient Bulgarian castle, 10 people have won a competition to attend said castle's grand re-opening to the public. Their host, Count Veselin (played by British TV actor Philip Davis), informs them that they are the first people to look around inside the castle for over 5 centuries. No one else has dared venture near it through fear of the local superstitions about demonic wolves prowling the area. The guests begin to look around, but of course it's only a matter of time before they slowly but surely meet their doom. With an unexpected blizzard engulfing the surrounding countryside (how convenient right?), the remainder find themselves trapped in the castle, with an unseen killer on the prowl.

However, when the bodies of their friends start turning up with their necks ripped open (amongst other things), it becomes apparent that what they are dealing with is something not entirely human. Could the old legends about werewolves be true, and what dark secrets is the Count harbouring?

Howling V: The Re-Birth was originally released in 1989. I first saw this movie when I was in elementary school (1991-93) and it was one of the first werewolf movies I had seen. Aside from the title of the film I was absolutely clueless as to what in the hell these people were apprehensive about. Since you barely even SEE the werewolf throughout the film I just thought it was some horrific beast or creature from the netherworld slowly feasting upon the sweet flesh of overly excited tourists. Either way the film truly frightened me and induced intense paranoia; the ticking of clocks seemed like emaciated fingernails on decayed window sills while my snoring dog in the kitchen was really the monster in the film slowly working its way into the living room to devour me.

I know that I definitely enjoyed the film when I was 8 and I still love it today. In fact, it wasn't until 2004 that I rediscovered it (Movie Gallery was slowly phasing out their VHS tapes and it was on sale for 99 cents). I re-watched it around Christmas time and relived those precious, macabre moments all over again. I'm almost positive it will never happen but it would be so wonderful if they would release this movie with a proper treatment on DVD. The DVD that I picked up a couple of years ago has an awful transfer (though I'm quite biased when it comes to that scratchy, decayed analog aesthetic) and is coupled with Howling VI: The Freaks (another great film in the series though...I know several people who definitely disagree). I would love to see some bonus features or a "making of" featurette. I guess I should be thankful I own a copy period.

The thing I love about this film is its ambiance. The atmosphere is incredibly eerie and the score shadows Jerry Goldsmith's epic movements in THE OMEN. Another quality I love about this movie is the Sherlock Holmes/Scooby Doo inspired "Who done it?" factor. You see, these guests have all been summoned to the castle because they all have one thing in common: a birthmark. The Count has led them all to the castle to finish what should have been done many years prior to this event (remember the screaming baby at the beginning of the post?) which is to destroy the werewolf before he/she can do any more evil.

The Howling V: Re-Birth is not a perfect film and many who view it today will definitely be turned off by it's late 80's cheese and mediocre acting but it's a chance that many should take. The budget is so low that we have to suffer through the fact that the werewolf is pretty much never seen. We get a few close-ups of its teeth and a couple quick shots of it attacking but we never get a good eye on the creature. Like I said before the movie is definitely based more on atmosphere and imagination which is something those gore-lovers are going to be disappointed with (most of the death scenes are off screen and subverted with boisterous screams).

All in all it's a neat little film that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years and the entertainment value is high enough to deserve a late night viewing with a blanket and some popcorn. Just make sure to leave at least one light on...you'll need it.

1 comment:

  1. Of all the "strangers invited to a spooky castle" type films, this one definitely has its merits. Though I would have preferred to see a little more of the beast, I can understand the director's intention in not doing so. In that sense it shares a lot with Carpenter's The Thing, albeit not half the creative budget.

    Its another one that I haven't seen since childhood either and would be willing to give a second chance. You should definitely bring it with you this Friday.