Brendan Hughes - Ian
Michele Matheson - Elizabeth
Sean Gregory Sullivan - Winston
Antonio Fargas - Bellamey
Carol Lynley - Miss Eddington
Jered Barclay - Dewey
Bruce Payne - R.B. Harker
Gary Cervantes - Sheriff Fuller
Genre - Horror/Werewolves/Vampires
Running Time - 102 Minutes
Ian (Brendan Hughes) is a British stranger in a farming community in Canton Bluff, drifting from town to town. Even though the local sheriff (Gary Cervantes) is suspicious by Ian's presence, the town's pastor Dewey (Jered Barclay) comes to his aid and offers Ian a job to fix up the local church. Dewey can't pay Ian with money, but offers Ian a place to stay and food to eat. Ian helps Dewey out with the church, making Dewey glad that he'll once again preach for the fellow townsfolk.
One night, H.B. Harker's (Bruce Payne) "World of Wonder" carnival enters Canton Bluff. Ian, realizing the carnival holds a freak show, feels he's found what he's been looking for. Even though Dewey's daughter Elizabeth (Michele Matheson) has fallen for him, Ian keeps her at arm's length due to a dangerous secret he's been carrying. The secret is revealed during a full moon, when Ian transforms into a werewolf and scaring the town.
Harker recognizes Ian from somewhere, gathering his fellow carnies to capture him. Seeing that Ian is a werewolf, Harker uses him as his main attraction to the freakshow. Displeased by Ian's reaction to being one of his freaks, Harker reveals to him that he's a vampire who travels from town to town to feed. Harker's actions, however, have led the town to believe that Ian has been responsible, leading to many wanting Ian killed. Fighing for his freedom, Ian and Harker clash as the battle of werewolf versus vampire settles the score.
Just like with HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH, I decided to check out HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS since it was the only one in the franchise I hadn't seen. HOWLING V wasn't a total waste of time, so I was hoping HOWLING VI was more of the same and less like HOWLING III and HOWLING IV. And lucky for me, HOWLING VI was actually better than HOWLING III, IV, and V combined! I'm not saying it's good or anything, but at least it's a film that tries to be a decent werewolf flick even with its evident flaws.
I appreciated the fact that the werewolf character, Ian, is the hero of the story and a very sympathetic person to follow. Sure, his secret is easy to figure out. And as a werewolf, he can't do all that much in terms of fight or break out of shackles that even Olive Oil could escape. But watching Ian help build the town he's become accustomed to, afraid to fall in love because of his curse, and want to help others like him feel normal while he struggles with his own "inner freak" makes you like the guy and want to see him succeed at the end. It also leads to some decent character development with the characters Ian interacts with, including the "Alligator Boy" who befriends Ian and leads to a great scene involving Ian [in werewolf form] pressured to eat the Alligator Boy's cat. I also liked how the other freaks would bully and laugh at Ian, as if there's a hierarchy of freaks in this carnival world. It also makes the villain, Harker, more evil as he's the total opposite of Ian, embracing his inner vampire and wanting to use Ian as some sort of pet to do his bidding. The "werewolf vs. vampire" trope has been done to death, but it's done in an interesting way here that actually creates tension and decent storytelling.
Flaws? There isn't really enough of the "versus" deal that makes the final act more climatic than it actually is. But at least the script tries to tell a decent story, which I can appreciate, even if it won't set the world on fire. Also, the film is way too long for its own good at 100 minutes. There are a lot of filler scenes, such as Ian building a church or flirting with the pastor's daughter. There are even daydreaming scenes that reveal fears in Ian that really don't add much to the story, creating a better flow if taken out. Plus, the fight between Ian and Harker didn't last long enough for my taste, needing more time and focus on this aspect to really mean something. And the film just ends suddenly, not really leaving you satisfied by the conclusion.
The special effects are pretty okay. I thought the make-up for the Alligator Boy looked great, as you were really convinced by his nickname. Harker's vampire look has this SALEM'S LOT vibe going for it, which looked great considering the budget. The werewolf look and transformation were an improvement over the last couple of sequels, but there wasn't enough of it to really impress. He looked more like TEEN WOLF than THE HOWLING. But at least we see a werewolf in this film and he does something on camera, so I can't really complain too much about it. Considering the money they had to create these looks and effects, I thought it was pretty decent and probably the best effects since the first HOWLING.
The direction by Hope Perello, however, was very bland. It's really just a point-and-shoot affair with decent editing and not much tension or suspense. Plus the added filler ruins the flow quite a bit. I thought the direction in HOWLING V had more atmosphere and mood. HOWLING VI was just visually flat for me.
The acting is pretty darn good in this one. Brendan Hughes gave a very good performance as the hero of the story, Ian the werewolf. I bought his fear, confusion, and conflict throughout. Bruce Payne, aka Julian Sands the Sequel, also does a great job as the villianous Harker. Payne has presence and charisma that makes his scenes worth watching. Michele Matheson is bubbly and innocent as Elizabeth. Always good to see Antonio Fargas in a role that's against what he's known for, even though I wish he had more of a presence. The other actors played their roles well. HOWLING VI has the best acting since the first one, which surprised me. I liked the cast here a lot.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE CHANTING "ONE OF US, ONE OF US, GOOBA-GOBBLE, GOOBA-GOBBLE"
- A mature Elizabeth was told to act her age, since it would be more fun. Traci Lords wouldn't have had her career if she took that advice at the same age.
- Two performers, with eye make-up like Alice Cooper, strangled each other to welcome customers to a carnival. Welcome to my nightmare...
- Winston hates being known as the Alligator Boy. Some ideas do deserve to be flushed down a toilet and kept a secret in the sewers.
- Bellamey bit off the head of a chicken for his act. Don't worry - it's only a stereotype if the chicken was fried.
- Harker doesn't respect Ian for keeping his other self inside. He likes freaks. Superfreaks. The kind you can't take home to mother.
- Ian refused to eat Winston's cat. When it comes to pussy, even freaks believe in bros before hos.
THE FINAL HOWL