1981 was the year of the werewolf at the movies. It saw the release of such films as An American Werewolf in London, Wolfen, and, of course, Joe Dante’s The Howling. To this day, people love the mix of horror and Dante’s unique comic sensibilities. When it came time for the 1985 sequel, there was no Dante involvement and the quirky sense of humor was replaced with, well, sex. We’re off to Transylvania for Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf.
This film picks up right where the last one left off. We are attending the funeral of reporter Karen White, played by Dee Wallace Stone in the first film. If you recall, she transformed into a werewolf on live TV during the final scene of the first film. In attendance are her brother Ben White (Reb Brown) and a fellow reporter, Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe). After the service, Ben is approached by a mysterious man named Stefan (Christopher Lee) who informs him that his sister is a werewolf who will remain undead due to the fact that the silver bullet that killed her was removed during the autopsy. Later they all head out to finalize things, so to speak, and encounter several other werewolves trying to stop them.
It seems that tons of werewolves are starting to emerge due to the upcoming resurrection of a werewolf queen called Stirba (Sybil Danning), so the trio decides to head off to Transylvania to put a stop to things. There they encounter a village full of weirdos, all of whom seem to be in on the fact that werewolves are at a castle in the woods having werewolf orgies. Among them are two minions in particular, Vlad (Judd Omen) and Mariana (Marsha Hunt) who like to climb into bed with Stirba and bark and snarl. Eventually the forces of evil kidnap Jenny, so Ben, Stefan, and his team of werewolf hunters have to storm the castle and save the day.
So, here we have a horror movie where the horror element was clearly not the top priority of the filmmakers. This movie exists because somebody decided they wanted to see some werewolf sex. In fact, I would say that this film basically conflates the idea of transforming into a werewolf with orgasm. Lengthy sequences dwell on Sybil Danning and her two minions wriggling around, clawing and drooling on each other. It’s laughable at first and then it becomes extremely uncomfortable. Make no mistake, this film is all about giving Sybil Danning another chance to shed her clothes. Just look at the end credits if you have any doubt about that. The credits roll over clips from the film we just watched. One shot in particular of Danning ripping her dress open to expose her breasts is repeated in the end credits seventeen times!
I will say that Danning is a good choice to play a sex-crazy werewolf queen. Not necessarily because of acting abilities, but because when it comes to the ladies of 80’s B-movies, this is her all over. There is a certain level of fun that comes from the outrageous outfits that Danning wears in this one. She especially gets high marks for the weird metallic space suit with thigh-high boots. It looks like something that may have been picked up at the KISS garage sale. By the time we get to the end of the film, orange lighting is coming out of her fingertips and bright lights spin around her head. This level of 80’s cheese is not without its charms.
Speaking of 80’s cheese, the werewolves in this movie even have their own new wave band! These guys look like the Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Goes to Hollywood fell in love and had a baby. They sing a song called, oddly enough, “The Howling,” and then they sing it again…and again. Be prepared for this earworm to torment you for a few weeks after viewing.
The big problem here, though, is that the story doesn’t really go anywhere. We spend an awful lot of time just waiting for the werewolves to stop their little love-ins so the werewolf hunters can spring into action. There’s even a moment where Christopher Lee sends Jenny and Ben off to their hotel to wait while he goes back to the church…to wait!! Now, to the film’s credit, when we finally get to the werewolf attacks in the final sequence, it’s a decent enough battle. It takes so long to get there, though.
Technically speaking, we do get some good werewolf makeup effects. Are we at the level of Rob Bottin’s work in the original film, of course not. However, the werewolves are ultimately pretty effective. All the effects budget must’ve gone into fur and fangs, though, since the other gore effects peppered throughout the film are lame. There are masks used here that look like they may have come from the Halloween aisle at Walgreens. It’s weak to say the least.
Howling II is the only film in the series, which now numbers eight films, to be a direct sequel the original. It takes things in a bizarre direction, but not in a good way. Heck, the third film, which gives us a marsupial werewolf woman as the lead character, is more original and entertaining than this one. Howling II is only innovative in that it repeats the film’s big nude scene seventeen times in the end credits. Remember how all those VHS copies of Fast Times at Ridgemont High got worn out right where the Phoebe Cates pool scene is? Guess that didn’t happen with copies of Howling II. Of course, I doubt it was rented as much as Fast Times was.