Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 21st: Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

When three villagers turn up dead in the town of Leovich in Siberia, Russia, the National Intelligence Agency in Russia declares that the murders were committed by Werewolves. The President of The United States (Michael Pate) brings Harry Beckmeyer (Barry Otto), a sociology professor at the University of San Andreas, and his old friend Professor Sharp (Ralph Cotterill) to Washington to help explain the Russian's claims that Werewolves exist.
In Australia, Werewolf Girl Jerboa (Imogen Annesley) runs away from her abusive tribe and makes her way to Sydney, where Donny Martin (Leigh Biolos) gets her a role in Jack Citron's (Frank Thring) new movie, Shape Shifters Part 8. Donny and Jerboa fall in love, but when Jerboa is rushed to the hospital after a car accident, her true nature is discovered and Beckmeyer and Sharp are brought in to study her.
Since his grandfather captured a female Werewolf on tape in Australia in 1905, Beckmeyer has long been fascinated with Werewolves and, learning that Jeroba's tribe is descended from the long-extinct Tasmanian Wolf, intends to perform experiments on these Werewolves, particularly cruel tribal leader Thylo (Max Fairchild) and Russian Ballerina Olga Gorki (Dasha Blahova), while the leaders of the world, acting on the Vatican's declaration of all Werewolves being inherently evil, unleash a plan to exterminate all Werewolves.
Yep, it's time to delve back into the world of The Howling. Where we last left off, I had just survived the horrors of Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf, a film so wretched even Christopher Lee and Sybil Danning's breasts couldn't salvage it. I won't go into detail about that film again (I prefer not to relive that experience, thank you), but it was a world-shattering disaster of epic proportions. And that's putting it nicely.
The only thing more shocking than Howling II is that, a mere two years later, Philippe Mora, back in the director's chair in addition to handling the screenwriting duties, gave horror fans Howling III: The Marsupials. Why, in the name of all that is good and decent in this world, would anyone want to kick this dead, rotting horse again? Or more importantly, what could Mora possibly do with the storyline post-Stirba, Werewolf Bitch?
The latter will never be answered, because Howling III is a sequel in name only. Other than the title and being about Werewolves, this film has no connection to its predecessors. That's right; two movies in, the series gets unnecessarily rebooted. Considering what Howling II established, that's actually a good thing. By ignoring all that ludicrous Stirba bullshit, Mora has wiped the slate clean for a return to what Joe Dante created in 1981. Unfortunately, Howling III is everything but a worthy sequel. In fact, it's even worse than that last debacle I sat through. Oh boy, here we go again.
How could this possibly be worse? Let's start with the production values; dear god. As much as I hate Howling II, I wouldn't say it was poorly made. Other than those nonsensical transitions, Howling II was at least well-made from a technical standpoint. To be fair, I was impressed Howling III was shot on location in Australia, but Mora never takes advantage of this gorgeous setting. Nothing about the locations makes you feel like you're in Australia; this could have been set anywhere and it wouldn't have made any difference. When we're on sets, everything looks cheap and quickly thrown together. According to my research, this was made for $1,000,000; I've seen dozens of well-made, sophisticated films made on a fraction of that budget.
Mora's a terrible director, but his directing is Oscar-worthy compared to his writing. These various storylines are loosely connected in the worst possible ways. We start with Russian werewolves, only to drop them in favor of the Australian variety. Sure there's Olga, but she had no part in those earlier attacks; it's a mere coincidence that she's Russian AND living in Australia. Thylo brings Olga to his clan, but there's no discernible reason why Thylo needed to hook up with an outsider. Why does the President of the United States need a sociology professor to tell him about Werewolves? America hated Russia in the '80s; why would he take such a ridiculous claim seriously, only to then quickly dismiss Beckmeyer's theories on Werewolves and send him packing to Australia? Why would Jeroba, a real-life Werewolf trying to hide from her sisters, make a high-profile horror movie about Werewolves? Only the thinnest of strings are holding this plot together, albeit barely; that string breaks more times than I'd care to remember.
Howling II had a horrid cast, but it was amusing, out of context, to see Dracula and Captain America fighting Werewolves; Howling III doesn't even have that cheese value in its cast. Let's start with Imogen Annesley; apparently, the filmmakers considered casting Nicole Kidman, who at the time was just another struggling actress. I'm not her biggest fan, but Kidman as an Australian Werewolf would've at least got a chuckle out of me. Annesley does nothing but deliver her lines with no emotion and try to look exotic, but I don't find her anywhere near as stunning as everyone in the film thinks she is.
Barry Otto is a four-time AFI (Australian Film Institute) Award nominee for his works in films like Strictly Ballroom, Bliss and Cosi. Other than Howling III, I only know him as Frank Castle's cohort Shake in The Punisher with Dolph Lundgren. Well, everyone's allowed a bad performance here and there, because Otto gives just that; what's frustrating is that it feels like Otto could've been in that "so bad, he's good" level of acting, but he restrains himself too much here. Given his character's storyline, Otto needed to be more of the mad scientist, rather than mild-mannered hippie. Everyone else will be leaving this movie off their resume; Leigh Biolos is a dry love interest for Jerboa, Max Fairchild is unevenly goofy and sinister and Dasha Blahova's facial expressions will make you howl in agony.
That being said, I'd like to point out that this is not a straight-faced horror movie. Mora is clearly trying to make a satirical horror film; there's various references to pop culture, Jerboa is acting in a horror movie sequel, she and Donny go to see a Werewolf movie, It Came From Uranus, drag queen Barry Humphries makes a cameo appearance, and when the President learns that Beckmeyer has fallen in love with a Werewolf, he's relieved to hear it's a female Werewolf. Furthermore, I'd like to remind everyone that The Howling satirized self-help gurus and the conventions of Werewolf movies.
Where Howling III fails with its satire is in the execution; it's overblown and overtly in your face. John Sayles' satire from the original film was subtle and genuinely funny. I find nothing humorous about the characters watching a movie called It Came From Uranus; it sounds like a Jackass skit. Whereas Sayles worked his satire into the story, Mora just drops the main storyline to be satirical; there's no integration of the horror and the humor here. I will give Mora this, though; I laughed when the President expressed relief that Beckmeyer was dating a female Werewolf. Other than that, none of this satire is even clever, let alone funny.
As for the Werewolf effects, Mora makes those Howling II effects look great by comparison. At least Howling II was smart to keep those shitty rubber things poorly lit; most of these Werewolves are in broad daylight, which only makes it worse. Everything looks horribly rubbery and fake; one Werewolf even looks like its mouth was made out of cardboard. The transformation scenes are ludicrous; you see Werewolves with ridiculously huge snouts and claws, Ballerina Werewolves in Red Tutus, Aboriginal Werewolves in tribal makeup, and Marsupial Werewolves. Yes, I sad Marsupial Werewolves. With pouches. Oh. My. F%$^&$. God.
I think the above picture perfectly captures everything that is wrong with Howling III: The Marsupials. Philippe Mora tried to return to the dark, satirical horror from Joe Dante's film, but replaced the dry wit, snappy dialogue and clever jokes with stupid sight gags, long-winded dialogue scenes and characters who make decisions even characters in Scary Movie would never even think of. I knew this was going to be bad, but at best I hoped for something so outrageously bad it would be amusing; instead, I got something even worse than the last movie that I hated. To quote the very last title card in the credits, Adios Amigos. 0 out of 5 Stars.

Next Up: October 22nd: American Psycho (2000)

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