Howling IV: The Original Nightmare

Review by sbs
released in 1988
Directed by John Hough, Clive Turner
1/5

When the classic Joe Dante film The Howling (1981) came out, people were generally happy with it. One of the people who weren’t happy was Gary Brandner the original author of the The Howling, the novel the film was based on. The adaptation wasn’t faithful enough to the source material. Brandner was the reason Dante wasn’t invited to make Howling II (1985). I haven’t read the books by Brandner (he wrote three in the Howling series), but I understand that the sequels weren’t faithful either.

Somebody wanted to fix that and the first direct-to-video Howling sequel was made, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare. It’s supposed to be more faithful to the novel, but that means it’s more of a remake of the first than a sequel, or just an unconnected new adaptation. At least it has no connection to the Dante’s film, nor the two sequels, except being titled IV.  

Instead of the news reporter Karen, we have Marie. Marie didn’t survive an attack by a serial killer but sha did have a nervous breakdown. She doesn’t go to a weird retreat, just a weird small town. There is a weird sexy witchy woman who seduces her husband, but none of the other quirky and fun characters found in The Howling are here. There is only boredom.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988)

To call the film slow mowing is an understatement. It has the pacing of molasses streaming down a 1°-degree slope. The fact that the first hour doesn’t actually feature werewolves… well it doesn’t help. There are ghosts, but just for a few moments. Some nuns, which are scary. The film is mostly bad actors saying things you don’t care about.  

When we first see a werewolf, at minute 68(…), it looks pretty cool, but the shot is about 2 seconds long. Fifteen minutes later, there is another special effect scene, which involves the melting of a character. It’s pretty cool and it kickstarts the actual werewolf scenes—with less than 10 minutes left of the film’s 96-minute running time. The good news is that the werewolf looks quite awesome with his lower jaw extended way beyond his upper jaw. The bad news is we see him for about a minute and the rest of the werewolf footage are literal dogs with glowing red eyes or extras with a bit of latex on their faces.

According to IMDb trivia, the film’s budget was so low that they couldn’t record audio during filming. I have a hard time believing that, but it is obvious that every piece of dialogue is ADR. ADR is very important in filmmaking. It’s when an actor re-records dialogue lines that, for some reasons, weren’t usable in the original shot. When the whole film is ADR, I think it’s just called dubbing. Especially when it’s done poorly, as it is here. It makes sense, audio mixing is expensive. If they couldn’t afford a boom mic, how could they afford competent post-audio mixing?

The IMDb trivia page also explains that the screenwriter and co-producer Clive Turner took over the post-production phase and did reshoots which he directed, leaving both the director and the special effect artist Steve Johnson deeply unsatisfied with the finished product.

I know how they feel.

The Howling series

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About the reviewer
Stefan Birgir Stefans