Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch (1985)

Howling II poster

Tagline: The rocking, shocking, new wave of horror.

Director: Philippe Mora

Writer: Robert Sarno & Gary Brandner (screenplay) Gary Brandner (novel)

Starring: Christopher Lee, Annie McEnroe, Reb Brown, Marsha A. Hunt, Sybil Danning, Judd Omen, Ferdy Mayne, Ptrick Field, Jimmy Nail, Steven Bronowski, James Crawford, Jirí Krytinár, Ladislav Krecmer, Jan Kraus, Petr Skarke, Igor Smrzík, Ivo Niederle, Ed Kleynen

18 | 1hr 31min | Horror

Budget: $1,000,000 (approximately)


Review

Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf is as nonsensical as it sounds, but not half as bad as people tend to make out.

Okay, it is wholly ridiculous: a heady blend of MTV pop culture, New Wave eroticism and classic Hammer Horror, but unlike hundreds of other efforts floating around in the ‘bad movie’ afterlife, you’ll be hard pressed to call it boring. In fact, it is positively spellbinding in its presentation, a movie which eschews logicality in favour of a visceral experience of shallow exhibitionism.  

For a start, where else would you find the iconic Christopher Lee – here playing a variation of the classic vampire killer – wearing punk rocker shades outside a grubby pop concert as female werewolves cavort half naked? It is rumoured that the horror icon was so overwhelmed with the the poor performances of his co-stars that he would wander around the set wishing for the floor to open up and swallow him, but it is that stark disparity between the classically trained and woefully inept which helps make the picture so strikingly unique.

Christopher Lee New Wave

Chris adorns a heavy disguise as he attempts to sneak off the set.

As well as bringing some much needed class to proceedings, Lee acts as a kind of juxtapose for a movie drenched in 80s fashion, while grounded in the Gothic imagery of Communist controlled Czechoslovakia, which, while offering wonderful sites and locations, threw director Mora the curveball of having a government assigned assistant who knew nothing about the nature of filmmaking. We also have Sybil Danning, who is wonderfully awful as the movie’s titular antagonist, spending much of the film’s running time half-nude or covered from head-to-toe in hair.

The plot is suitably preposterous: After a newsreader is killed by a gunshot wound, cult investigator Stefan Crosscoe (Lee) seeks out her brother with video evidence that she was in fact a werewolf, and vows to impale her with a titanium stake before the next full moon. That will signal the tenth millennia of the birth of head werewolf Stirba (Danning), and although Ben (Reb Brown) swears to kill Crosscoe before he reaches her sister’s coffin, he and girlfriend Mariana (Hunt) soon see the light and head to Transylvania to save the world from the dawn of the werewolves.

Howling II Striba

Striba would have her outfits mailed to the dungeons of Transylvania courtesy of Gorgio Armani.

‘Howling II’ is a weird marketing exercise in the ludicrously avant-garde, but it is also a horror movie, with a respectful nod to the traditions of old and a strong affiliation with the pop culture of its time. One of a plethora of movies to capitalise on the popularity of John Landis’ Rick Baker designed Thriller video,  there are some rather wonderful special effects here considering the movie had a tenth of the budget of Landis and Baker’s other Oscar winning collaboration An American Werewolf in London.

Can this movie be considered a horror classic? Judged on the basis of its own inimitable style . . . perhaps. Hardly groundbreaking in cinematic terms, but oddly unique, ‘Striba – Werewolf Bitch’ may not be for everyone, but creepy pagan rituals and werewolf orientated puppet shows are positively eerie, while treacherous midgets in obscene papier-mâché masks are reminiscent of the infamous shock finale of Don’t Look Now. 

Oh, and a werewolf orgy is something you don’t see every day.

Howling Orgy

Cast members would insist on being airbrushed following their appearance in Howling II.



Best Kill

After Deafening Ben’s midget guide with her high-pitched wailing, head werewolf Striba turns up the decibels as red electricity shoots from her fingertips, causing the midget’s eyeballs to explode in their sockets.

Most Absurd Moment

Where to start…

Okay. During a bizarre castle-bound sacrifice in Transylvania, ageing werewolf overlord Striba regenerates by sucking the life out of a young woman’s mouth, transforming her into a sultry, big-breasted hottie as an odd collection of half-naked women, werewolves and medieval knights howl their appreciation. Striba then leaves her melted victim to partake in a kinky werewolf threesome for the purposes of expanding their species.

Most Absurd Dialogue

During the movie’s opening scene, Christopher Lee’s Stefan Crosscoe stands floating in outer space and reads from a manual for the occult. How he keeps a straight face I will never know.

Stefan Crosscoe: For it is written: the inhabitants of the Earth have been made drunk with her blood. And I saw her sent upon a hairy beast and she held forth a golden chalice full of the filthiness of fornications. And upon her forehead was written: “Behold I am the great mother of harlots and all abominations of the Earth.”


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There are some comically explicit scenes here, the kind which are sure to delight those with a penchant for the grotesque, as deft editing and savvy use of lighting keep the more schlocky visual elements to a minimum. There are also some laughably camp special effects to keep proceedings lighthearted, while Lee’s disdain and unwillingness to relinquish his superior skills in the face of so much implausibility is in itself worth the price of admission.

Cedric Smarts


 

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