Philip Davis - Count Istvan
Victoria Catlin - Dr. Catherine Peake
Elizabeth She - Marylou Summers
Ben Cole - David Gillespie
William Shockley - Richard Hamilton
Mark Sivertsen - Johnathan Lane
Stephanie Faulkner - Gail Cameron
Genre - Horror/Mystery/Slasher/Werewolves
Running Time - 96 Minutes
Back in the 15th century in Hungary, a scared couple murder everyone inside of their castle [including family and servants] as an attempt to murder a disguised werewolf before killing themselves. Unfortunately, a baby is heard crying followed by a howl, proving that their actions were in vain.
500 years pass, and this castle has been reopened. Nine guests have been invited by 'random' by Count Istvan (Philip Davis), thinking they're getting the VIP treatment. What they don't realize is that they're all descendants of the people who had lived in the castle previously, meaning one of them is a werewolf, with the Count intending to murder them all in order to stop the werewolf curse.
Another year, another review for a HOWLING film. Hell, you may get TWO reviews this month for this franchise!
Was that a threat? Sorry, I shouldn't have scared you like that.
Anyway, we all know that this HOWLING franchise was pretty long in the tooth before it got rebooted in 2011 with THE HOWLING REBORN. The first film is a classic werewolf tale. The second film is a pretty terrible film, but an unintentional fun watch with a lot of boobs and Reb Brown awfulness. The third film is just a weird flick that, at least, does something different with the werewolf story [doesn't mean it fully works though]. And the fourth film, a straight adaptation of the novel this franchise is based on, is super dull and not really worth anyone's time.
HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH is another sequel that doesn't follow the timeline established in the other films, being its own entity and presenting the werewolf tale in a more Gothic/Medieval setting. Being based in Budapest, HOWLING V definitely has a European vibe, using a murder-mystery theme to entice audiences into figuring out which of our characters is a dangerous werewolf. Think "Ten Little Indians", but with a lycan twist. Sounds cool, huh?
If it does sound cool, then watch 1974's THE BEAST MUST DIE. It's a much better movie than this one. You'll thank me later.
That being said, HOWLING V is probably the "best" film in the franchise since the first film, meaning it's not WTF? worthy and not a total waste of time. It has an easy enough narrative to follow. The cinematography is pretty good. The film actually has good atmosphere. Unfortunately it fails in every other aspect, but not enough to turn you away like the third or fourth films.
The screenplay is pretty generic. HOWLING V plays out like an Agatha Christie mystery, but without interesting characters, any sort of tension, or even a real mystery that will interest or shock viewers. Seriously, picking out who the werewolf is won't be a problem, as a certain character disappears for much of the film while the werewolf is running loose. The characters are all archetypes and nothing more than that. Anyone expecting decent character development will be greatly disappointed. I honestly couldn't tell you what their names were and what they did for a living. At least they have some quirks that elevate them from being dull, but not enough to eliminate boredom at times.
Characters also did things that just made me scratch my head. One character is pretty much a bitch for much of the film until the final act, where she's suddenly friendly and willing to help the others figure out what's going on. Nothing in the story justifies this change, not making you buy her sudden heroism. As for the Count, why didn't he just kill the werewolf himself if he knew how to? Why have other people in the castle do the work for him? He could have killed everyone one-by-one and gotten his wish. Having to go through such lengths to accomplish a simple goal seemed a bit far-fetched. But I guess we wouldn't have a film, now would we?
I will say that at least the narrative is easy to follow and understand. While the film is a bit dialogue heavy and the characters do a lot of castle exploring, at least I understood who each character was and the reason why each of them was there. The mystery is a bit of a fail, but at least the film tries to make it interesting enough to engage the audience. Plus the story has a decent set up and it builds to a predictable conclusion with a twist. It's not a great screenplay, but I found it more engaging than HOWLING III and HOWLING IV.
The special effects are barely existent here. HOWLING V doesn't have much of a budget, so don't expect any werewolf transformations or a lot of gore. Hell, we barely see any sign of a werewolf. We see peeks of it here and there, looking like someone in a werewolf suit, but the lack of any lycan is very disappointing. I guess some female nudity at times can make up for the lack of wolf action for some, but I wish the beast had more of a presence on screen rather than through exposition.
The direction by Neal Sundstrom is okay. There's nothing really stylish about the film, as HOWLING V is pretty much a point-and-shoot affair. The castle setting does add a Gothic atmosphere at times, especially when characters are traveling underground. There is also some tension during some chase sequences. The real problem is that the visual presentation isn't all that memorable. But at least the editing and atmosphere make HOWLING V somewhat more watchable than a couple of the films before it.
The acting isn't anything to write home about. Nobody wasn't particularly good, but no one was downright terrible. The closest to being the worst was Elisabeth She, but I'm not sure if it was her acting that was bad, or that I found her ditsy portrayal annoying. Still, she's not in it enough to completely derail the film. If you've seen a HOWLING sequel, you know what to expect from the acting.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WISHING I HAD WATCHED "THE BEAST MUST DIE" INSTEAD
- The opening credits featured a cradle rocking. And to think I thought the worst thing to happen to a Van Halen song was when Gary Cherone was the lead singer.
- Marylou, being ignorant, considered playing tennis a hobby and not a profession. Not sure how she came to that conclusion, since I'm sure she also got paid for the amount of balls that targeted her face during those casting couch sessions.
- Since the servants of the castle couldn't speak or understand English, Marylou spoke slower and louder in English so they would "understand". It's nice to know she doesn't have to study to play stupid.
- A professor, who was trapped in a tunnel, was frightened by a werewolf. Who knew being stranded with Gilligan was the safer choice?
- The token black girl was murdered by a werewolf. That might explain why I've never seen Hulk Hogan during a full moon...
- One dude was stuck outside in a maze during a snowstorm before being attacked by a werewolf. I had no idea the Overlook Hotel was in Budapest.
- Jonathan tried to score with Marylou, but failed each time. I think she's still ruining prom nights during this period. Give it time, Jon.
THE FINAL HOWL