Horror was hot again in the 2010s, and werewolves had just got very hot thanks to Twilight making them take off their shirts. Which explains why, 26 years after the god-awful New Moon Rising, Anchor Bay was willing to give The Howling Franchise another chance with a Reborn. They also gave it a reboot, just make clear it had nothing to do with the shoehorning, time padding, nonsense of its predecessor. So, how did director and writer Joe Nimziki do with this post Scream, post Saw, post remake onslaught, bit of fur frenzy?
Okay. They did, pretty much, okay. Nothing special, nothing especially terrible. Just okay. It starts off with a central premise of “what if a slightly unpopular kid at school became a werewolf?” and jogs along with it for 92 minutes. It has a scene where he does E at a party because it’s the 2010s, and then werewolves wander around the background because it’s a werewolf movie. It has him beat up his ridiculously overviolent high-school bully, because werewolf, and getting the girl because she’s possibly a werewolf. That’s its level of innovation and interest for most of the film.
It’s not especially bad at any of this. The performances range of pretty good to occasionally very good, with everyone involved being jolly professional about a low-budget, unpolished script. The visuals are very “of its era”, and work. The bulk of everything happens at the school because it doesn’t need to be in more places and that saves money. Nothing looks cheap, nothing looks expensive, and the werewolves don’t come out to play much till the third act because that builds tension and keeps everything within the budget it’s been written for.
There are a couple of moments where the script makes mention of werewolf movies as a whole and pokes fun at The Howling series directly. This assures the audience that it’s self-aware and that the kids involved have The Internet, whilst also laying down the mythos rules that it will be following. Other than that, it’s sticking to the “So, you think you might be Super Natural Creature X” As Metaphor For Teenage Angst formula because even fairly good-looking twenty-somethings can have bad days. Still, it’s set in the city, with protagonists who aren’t over thirty, so that is a shake-up for the series.
When The Big Reveal finally comes, it’s interesting and reasonably well earned. All the twists are reasonably well earned, as if someone went through with a tick-list to make sure they were all earned so people on forums wouldn’t moan about that. It’s also the point when the film realises that the established stakes aren’t enough (even though they absolutely are) and escalates things to apocalyptic danger (even though it absolutely doesn’t need it and can’t pull it off). Everything goes moderately crazy at that point, and it’s off-putting. It’s almost as off-putting as the two main characters getting horny in the middle of a life and death situation, but I guess they had to crowbar in that fan service somehow.
Thankfully, this is also when the werewolf effects come out to play, and they are actually quite good. There is a lot of focus on the jaws, because that’s easier to do, but also a ton of full-body costume shots and some epic werewolf-vs-werewolf brawling. And, to give the film it’s due, you’ll actually care somewhat about who wins in those and it has a twist that works very well. Then the actual ending kicks in, more atrocious (but cheap) light alt-rock kicks in, and you kind of wish everyone had just died or the film had stopped five minutes previously. Still, it’s teenagers monologuing about life and the world so it being pretentious and trite kind of works.
All told, there is nothing terribly wrong with this movie. It’s perfectly watchable if you have nothing better to do, just about smart enough to keep your attention, and has a couple of moments that could have been great had anyone put the work in. It’s got werewolves doing werewolf things, and that’s what the audience wanted so you can’t complain about that. The problem is that you could substitute the wolves for any number of other threats and it would still have worked. It’s a really solid, time-filling, paint-by-numbers. So, whilst it isn’t the worst in the series on any front it is also the least distinct. It’s a run-of-the-mill, high-school-based, low-budget teen horror. That’s all it wanted to be, and that’s all it achieved.
Turns out there were scenes in the credits, thanks to Steve B for pointing them out. They depict the apocalyptic nightmare subplot that the main movie didn’t need, and which that totally jars against the second tear The Replacements ripoff band playing away. This renders the film’s actual ending, if not the previous 50 minutes, completely moot. Yikes. All this adds incredibly little and is way less interesting than it was trying to be, but someone had fun doing it so fair play to them.
There is also the disclaimer that “No actual werewolves were harmed in the making of this motion picture” which made me smile a little.