Blu-Ray Review- Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: July 14th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Few would argue with the fact that Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf is the very definition of a bad movie. One could also argue that this is the very reason why it’s so incredibly enjoyable. Absent from this sequel are the stylish storytelling, horrifying werewolf effects, and creeping suspense of Joe Dante’s original film. But what exactly does Howling II offer up for Horror fans? Horror legend Christopher Lee hamming it up with every line delivery, Sybil Danning’s incredible body and less-than-stellar acting abilities, random out-of-sequence editing that completely confuses the viewer, and an 80’s rock soundtrack complete with synthesizer and title-referencing music that is just about as cheesy as can be. It’s an endlessly enjoyable hodge-podge of self-referential humor, over-the-top performances, and terrible screenwriting. For B movie fans (those who get an insane kick out of MST3K style humor), Howling II is right up your alley!
The film attempts to pick up directly where Dante’s original left off, with the funeral for Karen White taking place and her brother Ben (Reb Brown) in mourning. Soon a mysterious man named Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee) appears and attempts to convince Ben that his sister’s death was more complicated than he realizes, and that his sister was, in fact, a werewolf. Though Dee Wallace is entirely absent from this sequel and the actress that replaces her will never be confused as her doppelganger, we’re soon introduced to the completely ridiculous “lost” footage of Karen’s violent death. Pay no mind to this sequence being completely different than the ending of the first film. No mind at all. Ben and Karen’s former colleague Jenny (Annie McEnroe) are soon not only convinced of his sister’s affliction, but of the entire underground existence of werewolves that threaten the human race. Stefan soon convinces Ben and Jenny to travel all the way to Transylvania to battle the queen of the werewolves, the incredibly sexy Stirba (Sybil Danning). This task, of course, turns out to be more difficult than any of them could imagine.
Howling II is one of those rainy day B movies that bad film aficionados can appreciate on so many levels. It’s also one that requires time to fully appreciate its awkwardness and charm. I remember seeing the first Howling as a teenager, absolutely loving it, and running straight back to the video store to get the sequel. Saying I was disappointed by what I saw that night would be an understatement when compared to the first film. But then something strange happened…I rented it again. Perhaps it was my burgeoning manhood craving countless playbacks of Sybil Danning’s best moments. Whatever the case may be, I’ve since been able to appreciate the film on that “next level”, savoring every moment of pure ridiculousness. With that being said, Howling II on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory comes highly recommended.
Rest assured Horror fans (and bad movie aficionados); Howling II looks fantastic on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory! The natural film grain is plentiful, colors look accurate for the time period, and digital manipulation is entirely absent from the print. It should, and does, look like film. Scratches and slight damage occasionally rear their head, but they are few and far between. Facial features and fine object detail, while not the strongest I’ve seen for the decade, look quite clear here in High Definition.
The 2.0 DTS-HD audio track is a solid one, regularly balancing dialogue, background effects, and the cheesy score in fine fashion. There is a lack of power and depth to the overall experience, which is to be expected, but when paired with the great video, it makes for a finely presented experience.
Scream Factory has given Howling II a fantastic array of bonus features that will surely make you bark at the moon with joy. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentaries (2) – Scream Factory has provided fans with two commentaries on this brand new Blu-Ray edition. The first commentary features Director Philippe Mora and the second has composer Steve Parsons and Editor Charles Bornstein. Both commentaries are informative for fans of the film and franchise!
- Leading Man: An Interview with Actor Reb Brown- This brand new HD interview from Red Shirt Pictures features actor Reb Brown and runs nearly 14 minutes. It’s an absolute blast hearing from Reb, who was a club bouncer and training to be a Sheriff when he was noticed by casting agents and hired as a contract actor at Universal. Reb comes across as a delightful man, more football coach than Hollywood actor, and offers up some insightful stories regarding his career and the making of Howling II.
- Queen of the Werewolves: An Interview with Actress Sybil Danning- This 17 minute interview has the still gorgeous Sybil Danning sharing her behind-the-scenes stories regarding the making of Howling II. Sybil is honest and forthright about her career, starting out as a model in Germany and making her way to Hollywood to star in films. Hearing Sybil discuss being a tomboy as a child and utilizing her imagination to “become” various characters growing up was especially enjoyable. Sybil’s stories about having dinner with Christopher Lee while being watched by the KGB is also a highlight! Great stuff!
- A Monkey Phase: Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler- This featurette runs 15 ½ minutes and features fantastic interviews with the makeup guys behind the film. Both artists discuss the beginnings in the industry and films they worked on before joining the team behind Howling II, the unique special effects and challenges for their team behind the scenes, and much more.
- Alternate Opening-The alternate opening for the film runs 10 ½ minutes and features just a few alternate takes on specific scenes mostly consisting of some trimming of Christopher Lee and company talking after the funeral. There is really not too much of a difference here as I was straining to figure out exactly what had been cut or edited between the two.
- Alternate Ending- The alternate ending runs roughly 9 ½ minutes, and much like the aforementioned alternate opening, doesn’t offer very much as far as unique differences. A few shots are extended or trimmed compared to the theatrical cut. Both versions luckily still feature Sybil Danning tearing off her clothes.
- Behind the Scenes- This behind-the-scenes montage offers up some fun outtakes with the special effects crew and Director Philippe Mora work and runs nearly 4 minutes.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for the film lasts just over a minute in length and gives viewers a good general idea of the B-movie mayhem they’re in for with Howling II.
- Still Gallery- Just over 8 minutes of behind-the-scenes photos and production stills that play along to the rockin’ 80’s theme from the film.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for the film on its cover, which is one of my personal favorite 80’s posters. You definitely get the feeling of the silliness of the film (red lipstick and sunglasses) with the art included here. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, a listing of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside the case is the disc as well as some nice reversible artwork that fans can choose to display instead of the poster art.
Few would argue with the fact that Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf is the very definition of a bad movie. One could also argue that this is the very reason why it’s so incredibly enjoyable. It’s one of those rainy day B movies that bad film aficionados can appreciate on so many levels, but also requires repeated viewings to fully appreciate its awkwardness and charm. The Blu-Ray presentation from Scream Factory is fantastic, with great video and audio that makes for a well-rounded presentation in High Definition. But it’s in the bonus features where Scream Factory will truly delight fans, with plenty of great interviews and featurettes with the cast and crew. Though disappointed with my first viewing as a young man, Sybil Danning kept bringing me back for repeat viewings. I’ve since been able to appreciate the film on that “next level”, savoring every moment of pure ridiculousness. With that being said, Howling II on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory comes highly recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Love at First Bite/Once Bitten
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: February 10th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 96 Minutes/94 Minutes
Before I even discuss the movies themselves, can we take a moment to applaud Scream Factory’s efforts to mix things up a bit when it comes to catalog releases? Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Horror distributor is releasing this double feature for 1979’s Love at First Bite and 1985’s Once Bitten (not to mention Vampire’s Kiss/High Spirits as well). Their willingness to cater slightly outside the genre circle with these Horror comedy-romances speaks highly to both their business savvy and knowledge of their fan base.
Love at First Bite– In this 1979 comedy, bronze statue George Hamilton portrays Count Dracula, who along with his trusted Renfield, is forced to vacate his castle to make room an Olympic Training facility. Believing that New York model Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James) is the reincarnation of his one true love, he soon arrives in the Big Apple searching for her. Subsequently, her Psychiatrist Jeffrey Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin) happens to be the grandson of Dracula’s nemesis: Van Helsing. Though it’s certainly not a laugh-a-minute affair, as a Horror fan, it’s the type of comedy that brings the perma-smiles throughout. It’s corny, cute, harmless, and unequivocally stuck in its place and time.
Once Bitten– This 1985 comedy stars a young Jim Carrey as Mark Kendall; a desperate High School kid in L.A. who just wants to get laid. With his girlfriend’s rejections and ongoing desire to wait until she’s ready, a fed-up Mark and his friends decide to hit up the local club scene in search of easy sex. There, Mark meets The Countess (Lauren Hutton), who whisks him away to her mansion for a seemingly good time. Mark is bitten (and fooled into thinking he finally had sex), but has not been completely “turned” into a Vampire yet. His increasingly odd behavior begins to worry his friends and girlfriend, and the Countess pursues desperate measures to finish what she started. Once Bitten, sadly, hasn’t held up too well over the past 30 years. It’s a somewhat fascinating film for Jim Carrey fans to see the young actor hamming it up, but that’s likely the only reason you’ll keep watching. There is some fun chemistry between Lauren Hutton and Cleavon Little (as The Countess’ assistant), but other than that, this is a mostly yawn-inducing 80’s effort.
Let’s begin with Love at First Bite. The print utilized here is a clean one (given the period stock), sporting natural film grain and an authentic color palette. The black levels are surprisingly inky and solid, with only the occasional white speckling or debris visible periodically throughout the film. Once Bitten looks even better, with fantastic grain structure and color reproduction on display. Both films look surprisingly good in High Definition.
The 2.0 HD mono tracks works well for both movies; supporting dialogue and intermittent music and background sound design appropriately. Neither audio track is going to “wow” you with sheer power necessarily, but they get the job done for the respective films they accompany.
Scream Factory has given this blood-sucking double feature select bonus features for fans to peruse, and only for Love at First Bite. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for Love at First Bite.
- Radio Spots- Select radio spots that played throughout the theatrical campaign for Love at First Bite. I love when Scream Factory includes these gems on their releases, as they truly serve as a nostalgic time machine of sorts for genre lovers and Horror fans.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory mimics their past double feature releases with the original theatrical poster design for each film along with the double feature logo centered at the bottom. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for each film, a short list of special features for each, technical specifications, and select production stills from the films. Inside the case are two Blu-Ray discs as well as more production stills on the reverse wrap.
I have to applaud Scream Factory for mixing things up with this Comedy-Horror double feature for Love at First Bite and Once Bitten. Their willingness to cater outside the genre circle speaks to both their business savvy and knowledge of their cult-classic loving fan-base. Love at First Bite is a cheesy delight that offers up some light laughs and a perma-smile that’s hard to shake, while Once Bitten is pure 80’s mediocrity that serves as a “curiosity” for those that want to see a young Jim Carrey shine, but offers little beyond. Nevertheless, this is a fun double feature release with great video and decent audio, but one that does admittedly run a little light on the special features. This release still easily gets my recommendation as a fun horror-comedy marathon for a rainy evening.
Blu-Ray Review- The Battery
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: September 16th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Just when you thought the Zombie subgenre couldn’t possibly have anything else original to offer, along comes The Battery. Filmed in just 15 days on a shoestring budget, unlike many independent horror films, The Battery doesn’t look or feel “cheap.” In fact, the film features surprisingly stunning cinematography and fine performances from filmmakers/actors Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim.
In The Battery, we meet Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), two former baseball player buddies just trying to survive the day to day hopelessness and despair that is the zombie apocalypse. Ben is the more resourceful and useful of the two, having learned the skills he needs to survive (killing zombies, fishing, etc.), while Mickey would rather sit around listening to music on his headphones and killing time scratching off useless lottery tickets. Mickey wants to sleep indoors where he feels they will be safer from the zombie hordes, while Ben opposes this idea, feeling they are safer when they’re constantly moving and able to easily escape their surroundings. The film is not structured in your typical fashion, with its non-linear narrative focusing more on the relationship between the Ben and Mickey than any specific events that occur. They laugh and joke, they argue, they fight, and makeup. This is what friends do, after all. Even the events that do occur during the film, such as the prospect of joining other survivors they come in contact with over walkie-talkie’s, is more of a source for conflict between friends than a crucial “tipping point” in the plotline.
Having said that, it kind of goes without saying that The Battery is not your typical Zombie film, or Horror film for that matter, but it’s a surprisingly enjoyable and unique film in the genre. I hope typical Horror fans that are looking for relentless action, zombie guts, and hordes of undead mayhem are able to look deeper, and enjoy this thoughtful little gem. The chemistry between Gardner and Cronheim is what makes The Battery so special, allowing for significant exploration of the friendship dynamic set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. There are also some incredibly funny moments that occur, I mean where else are you going to see someone masturbate to a zombie? Did I mention the music is insanely good? It’s just another reason to sit down with a cold one and enjoy what’s in store between Ben and Mickey. This is a fine film, and I’m glad Scream Factory has unleashed it to the masses as part of their ever-growing collection of the macabre treats of celluloid.
Even given the budgetary constraints, this is a fine looking transfer from Scream Factory. Colors are bright and bold, highlighting the lush green grass and hot summer days in which the film takes place. The film has a gritty and often intentionally unfocused look to it, which comes across beautifully in High Definition. Detail is especially clear, with facial features and foreground objects exhibiting a very lifelike presence. This is a solid presentation of the film for the format.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is fairly good, delivering a dialogue heavy presentation without any anomalies to speak of throughout. This isn’t going to put your system to the test or wake the neighbors, but it’s especially well balanced where it needs to be, with the subtle background noises of the wilderness and occasional gunfire and splatter effects coming through clean and clear.
Scream Factory has provided fans of The Battery with an array of bonus material for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary– Jeremy Gardner (writer, director, actor), Adam Cronheim (producer, actor), and Christian Stella (Director of Photography) discuss the film in great length here, with hardly any silent spots throughout this audio commentary. If you’ve already watched the Tools of Ignorance documentary, much of this is rehashed, not that it hurts. These guys are very fun to listen to and hearing about their adventure making this film is worthwhile.
- Tools of Ignorance: The Making of The Battery– O. hannah films provides a documentary piece that is pretty much the same length as the film itself. The cast and crew is really likeable, and this documentary sheds light on the early days of the filmmakers including their first short film efforts, writing and financing The Battery, and much more. These guys truly made their dreams come true, and their heart is in the right place. Great stuff!
- Trailer- The original theatrical trailer runs almost exactly 2 minutes and features a fun soundtrack for the film, highlighting some of the unique camera setups, and the unique direction the crew decided to take with this indie Horror offering.
- Outtakes- Nearly 12 minutes of outtakes from the film. Lots of random test shots, goofs, and production footage from behind the scenes of the film.
- Rock Plaza Central at the Parlor- Running nearly 11 minutes, this short featurette has O. hannah films spending a weekend with Rock Plaza Central’s Chris Eaton and Don Murray as they rehearsed to play live for the first time in several years. They make sandwiches, play acoustic guitar in the kitchen, among other things. This is some beautifully shot raw footage of the band practicing.
- More from Scream Factory– Original theatrical trailers for other modern titles from the Scream Factory catalog including: Beneath, Dead Shadows, and Chilling Visions: Five Senses of Fear.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features newly-commissioned artwork from artist RP “Kung Fu Bob” O’Brien, as well as reversible art that features the original theatrical poster design. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, production stills, a list of special features, and technical specifications. Inside the case is the Blu-Ray disc complete with more artwork (see photos below).
The Battery is not your typical Zombie film, or typical Horror film for that matter, but it’s a surprisingly enjoyable and unique entry in the genre. This is about friendship and the challenges that we face when things go awry in our lives, and less about gory zombie hordes ripping apart the masses. The chemistry between Gardner and Cronheim is what makes the film so special, allowing for significant exploration of the friendship dynamic set against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory exhibits a fine presentation of the great cinematography, with bright solid colors and fine object detail highlighting the transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio highlights the dialogue and music well enough, while never necessarily pushing your home theater to the limits. The special features are once again well assembled and impressive, with a great documentary on the making of the film that is nearly as long as the movie itself. The Battery is a funny, dark, and inventive Horror entry that comes highly recommended for those of you willing to try something a little different. This is a fine film, and I’m glad Scream Factory has unleashed it to the masses as part of their ever-growing collection of the macabre treats of celluloid.