The Howling (1981) was based on a book by Gary Brandner and you better believe that Gary wasn’t too happy with how Dante butchered is masterpiece. Thankfully, Brandner owned the rights to the second book in the series, so he could keep Dante’s mittens off the sequel and thus we have Howling II: … Your Sister is a Werewolf, originally titled Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch. There are sequels that improve upon the original, this is not one of them.
It starts with a cutout of Christopher Lee, reading words of warning, just like Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) began with Criswell reading words of warning. It’s always good to emulate the masters, but it’s better to make sure one of the masters you are emulating isn’t Ed Wood.
That opening scene really sets the tone for the rest of the film. You know just by the colors and textures that this is going to have that vibe that foreign horror flicks from this era have—even though it was produced for MGM. Even the score is like something from an Italian horror film. They usually have what I call NES themes, very short beats with one synth whistle somewhere in it. That beat is then repeated endlessly over the course of the film.
It’s a direct sequel to the first film, however, it doesn’t share any actors or characters. The body of Karen (the protagonist of The Howling) is seen, but Dee Williams does not portray it. Here, the focus is on her brother and a friend of hers that also works in the news. It’s not her friend that also works in news from the first film though. At Karen’s funeral, weird people show up, and one of them is Stefan, a werewolf hunter, played by Christopher Lee. The silver bullets that killed Karen live on air were taken out in the autopsy, which means she needs to be killed again.
Yada yada, then the brother, the friend, and Lee end up in Eastern Europe (it’s cheap to film there), hunting the leader of a nudist werewolf cult, Stirba (Sybil Danning)! Turns out, the Soviet Union was filled with punks, werewolves, and New Wave fans with Flock of Seagulls haircuts.
Christopher Lee, who took this part because he had never been in a werewolf film, gives it all like he did in every single one of the 200+ films he was in during his long life. Stefan is no Van Helsing, but he serves us with exposition and weird werewolf facts. Some are immune to silver and need to be killed with titanium and “the process of evolution is reversed” when you turn into a werewolf so that’s why it might look like you are just wearing a leftover costume from Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
While on the subject, compared to The Howling, the makeup and effects here are almost shamefully bad. There are some decent werewolf effects, for example that old one in the cemetery, but it’s mostly a mixed bag of trash. Two fake heads are used, both are good. The werewolf makeup is often just hair hiding the naked human body and fake teeth. That makeup in scenes of sex, threesomes and orgies make the film even weirder.
Howling II: … Your Sister is a Werewolf isn’t a good film, but it has an enduring charm in how bad and weird it is. There are some interesting shots and choices from the director, but I think most of them were used to hide how cheap everything in the film looked. The acting, aside from Lee’s, is borderline shamefully bad—and that’s not just the scenes where they are growling with fake teeth. Even though it’s truly a bad film, its full-on weirdness makes it quite entertaining, at least entertaining enough for it to get a recommendation from me to horror fans.