Christopher Lee plays an “occult investigator” hunting a ten-thousand-year-old werewolf queen to prevent a werewolf apocalypse.
Howling II is an inept movie. Yet, when you hear it includes a scene where the guy who played Yor and Captain America1 saves Christopher Lee from a possessed dwarf by defenestrating said dwarf, you might think, “How bad could it be?”
The movie opens with a not too bad goth-new wave theme song. Then we’re dropped into the aftermath of a funeral for the first film’s protagonist, Karen. Christopher Lee approaches Karen’s brother, Ben, played by Reb Brown, introduces himself, and informs Ben that his sister is a werewolf. Ben doesn’t take it well.
As Christopher Lee exits the funeral and passes two threatening strangers who sniff the air and paw at the ground.
Cut to a punk club where a new wave band performs the movie’s theme song. One stranger from the funeral mingles by the bar. In the background, Christopher Lee—twice the age of anyone else in the scene—sits wearing a pair of thin sunglasses right out of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
The stranger picks up a trio of biker club goers and leads them to a warehouse where she transforms into a werewolf and attacks them. Here, the film betrays its limited budget, cutting to the same partial transformation sequences again and again. We see a furry arm or leg, but never a whole werewolf.
At least the film maximizes the warehouse location, setting action inside and even outside on the roof.
Cut to some more shots of a solemn Christopher Lee gazing over the Los Angeles nighttime cityscape. Then back to the cemetery, where Lee sits ready to drive a silver stake through Karen’s heart.
An irate Ben heads to the cemetery with Jenny, one of Karen’s friends, to stop Lee. They’re attacked by werewolves upon arrival, but thanks to Lee arming Jenny with silver bullets, this encounter amounts to target practice.
Ben and Jenny reach Lee in the crypt, kill some more werewolves, and learn the queen is in “the dark country”… Transylvania. Christopher Lee says he must leave at once. Ben and Jenny declare they’re going with him.
We’re only fifteen minutes in and I’m wondering if the film had gotten a bad rap. Sure, the effects were flimsy, but the manic energy mixed with Lee’s deadpan delivery made for enjoyable inanity.
But then we arrive in Transylvania and the film loses momentum. Lee disappears for no sane reason. We’re left with Ben and Jenny, who have no chemistry or innate ability to elevate the stilted dialog. They fumble through an awkward love scene, then wander around the village and watch a puppet show.
It’s as though the filmmakers blew their budget on the first fifteen minutes and had to pad the remaining hour and fifteen. Sybil Danning appears as the youthful werewolf queen. She struts around wearing sunglasses and a Masters of the Universe style outfit, but has nothing to do. The movie even recycles the club scene footage in a confusing orgy sequence.
Sprinkled among this dead air, we get moments of inspired inanity, like the aforementioned scene involving the dwarf. Five minutes prior, the dwarf lost his holy earplugs and Sybil Danning’s magical howling made his eyes explode.
Oh, and the howling. This entry embraces the franchise name. All the werewolves howl. Not as werewolves, but as humans. And not with monstrous overdubs—no budget for that—but with their natural voices. Have you heard someone try to howl like a wolf? It’s embarrassing.
Aside from the Eastern European locales—which include a tomb with skull walls—the Transylvanian portion amounts to ten-minutes worth of fun stretched to over an hour.
But, in a gift to fans of bad movies and Christopher Lee completists, the end credits replay all the best parts (some several times) cut together as a music video over the theme song. Might I suggest watching this instead?
- In the 1979 TV movie and its sequel, which also starred Christopher Lee.↩