Wednesday, 13 June 2012



Perhaps it's too late and too slow, but recently I've been forming a theory as to why so many horror movies stink. It's to do with the idea that teenagers aren't particularly interesting characters and don't make for good protagonists. Granted they tend to look prettier than older people do, and a horror movie that has hot teenage girls running around in bikinis is guaranteed to score better box-office returns than an identical one with middle-aged women running around in bikinis. But the best screen presences tend to have history and experience, and in teenkill horror films the older characters tend to be more dramatically fascinating than the pretty teens. Ronee Blakely and John Saxon have a deeper story than Heather Langenkamp and Johnny Depp in A Nightmare On Elm Street, for example. I don't know that this holds true in all cases - obviously the grownups can be boring and useless as well - but a few years on the clock should make for better characters and better drama. Casting a movie entirely of 17-year-olds is like electing them to government: what the hell do they know about anything? What do they know of the real world?

I was reminded of this while watching The Howling Reborn, a long-past-the-sell-by-date resurrection of a brand last seen reduced to square dances and puns back in 1995. High school nobody Will (Landon Liboiron, a more interesting name than anything on screen) has the usual pre-graduation tropes: attracted to mysterious Eliana (Lindsey Marie Shaw) but too scared to do anything about it, picked on by the cool guys, and a comedy ethnic best friend who does all the Basil Exposition stuff about werewolves, which comes in handy as Will's unnatural destiny coincides with an imminent blue moon....

It's bilge, obviously. No-one seems that perturbed by the discovery of a corpse in the lavatory (or, if that was spirited away by the werewolves, the disappearance of one of the athletic alpha kids). Much of the early half of the movie is the usual school stuff: the bullying, the crushes, the geeks and the jocks, simply keeping your head down and getting through it all. (Oddly, there's no actual studying, lessons or exams.) But our hero gives us a portentous voiceover about life and destiny and philosophy that sounds absurd when spoken by a 17-year-old, unless the whole thing's a flashback from his adult perspective, in which case the movie should be set in about 1980. Eventually there's some unimpressive transformation effects - more than 30 years on and the same scenes in An American Werewolf In London, and indeed the original The Howling, still haven't been bettered - and a climactic battle which is basically two people in werewolf costumes lamping each other in a dimly lit corridor.

Presumably the thinking was that high school werewolves are hot right now with the ongoing Twilight series, but why try and resurrect a largely forgotten franchise from the VHS era to leap onto that bandwagon? Even taking into account the already low standard of Howling sequels - even the atrocious Australia-based Howling III with a Dame Edna Everage cameo - The Howling Reborn is desperately poor, though not quite as poor as Clive Turner's staggering New Blood Rising (retitled Mystery Woman in the UK for absolutely no reason). Of absolutely no interest at all.


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