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, Patrick Field, Jimmy Nail, Steven Bronowski
18 | 1hr 31min | Horror
Budget: $1,000,000 (approximately)
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, a movie which eschews logicality in favour of a visceral experience of shallow exhibitionism.
For a start, where else would you find the legendary Christopher Lee — here playing a quirky variation of the classic vampire killer — wearing punk shades outside a grubby pop concert as female werewolves cavort half-naked? It is rumoured that the horror icon was so overwhelmed by 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.
As well as bringing some much needed class to proceedings, Lee acts as a kind of juxtapose for a movie drenched in garish ’80s fashion while grounded in the Gothic imagery of communist controlled Czechoslovakia, which, while offering wonderful 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. Such a performace, as zany as it often is, has to be commended.
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.
Also known as Stirba Werewolf Bitch, Howling II is a weird marketing exercise in the ludicrously avant-garde, but it is also a horror movie, with a respectful, if largely misjudged nod to the traditions of old. 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.
I recall seeing the trailer for Howling II when I was very young — so young that I was actually terrified by the bizarre fever dream that was exorcised on the editing floor. What I saw exactly I fail to recall. Free from general perspective and unable to fathom even a meagre sense of the movie’s style and tone, I was utterly baffled, so much that Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf found itself a dark little corner in my memory.
Some things never change.
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 orgy 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.”
There are some comically explicit scenes here, the kind that are sure to delight those with a penchant for the vividly grotesque. There are also some laughably camp practical 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.