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Howling II Blu-Ray Review

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

Howling II (Scream Factory)

Howling II (Scream Factory)

The Film:

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.

Video Quality:

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.

Audio Quality:

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.

Special Features:

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.

The Packaging:

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.

Howling II (reverse)

Howling II (reverse)

Howling II (interior)

Howling II (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

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.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Ginger Snaps Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Ginger Snaps

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: July 22nd 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 108 Minutes

Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory)

Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever.”

Pairing the cycle of the werewolf with the puberty experience of a teenage girl, Ginger Snaps is truly a horror film unlike any other. In the cookie-cutter town of Bailey Downs, sisters Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle & Emily Perkins) stand out from the rest of their high school peers. They’re morbid obsession with death, suicide, and all things macabre doesn’t fare too well for popularity, and both girls are several years late experiencing their first period. None of this seems to matter too much to their loving mother, or anyone else for that matter, in this bland, boring town. The only break from the mundane comes from the occasional family dog being torn apart by a mysterious beast that lurks in the woods.

Seeking revenge on a female classmate who wronged them, Ginger and Brigitte head through the woods one night, intent on killing the girl’s dog and making it look like the work of the mysterious beast. The girls quickly realize they’re in trouble when the beast, a werewolf, stops them in their tracks, dragging Ginger through the woods with Brigitte attempting to fight it off. Scared off by the girls, the wolf is killed in a car accident, but Ginger appears mortally wounded as Brigitte drags her back to their house. Surprisingly, Ginger’s wounds heal in a matter of minutes, but something is different about her. Thinking at first that her mood swings and sudden hair growth could be the side effects of her first menstruation coming on, the sinister truth of Ginger’s transformation will change their lives forever.

Somewhat overlooked and underappreciated at it’s time of release, Ginger Snaps has gone on to develop a fervent cult following. It’s not your average teenage Horror film, and certainly not your average werewolf picture. The teen angst feels real and genuine, it’s darkly funny with memorable dialogue, and the town may remind you of your old stomping grounds and the reasons why you left it all behind.

The acting here is top notch as well, and though she has the less flashy role, Emily Perkins in particular nails her character’s inhibited nature and increasing worry for her beloved sister. Their complex relationship makes the film unique, and even though the cause of their rift is an element of fantasy, there are obvious parallels to the real-world problems of teenage girls everywhere. Ginger Snaps remains a brilliant little Horror film after 14 years, and it was an absolute treat to revisit on this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory presents Ginger Snaps in High Definition for the first time on this latest Blu-Ray release, and they’ve done a fine job! The transfer exhibits very accurate color timing and impressive fine object detail in everything from clothes, facial features, and even the gory stuff (notice the clarity of the white hairs growing out of Ginger’s wounds). Film grain looks natural and authentic, and this print is relatively free of anomalies. I was in High School when Ginger Snaps was released theatrically, so I had a good laugh noticing the clothing from the time period look so accurate on this HD print.

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track included is a solid upgrade! Dialogue comes through clean, with little to no background distortion or hiccups during the runtime. The score sounds terrific and is evenly balanced throughout your system to provide a very rich and dynamic track. Well done!

Special Features:

Scream Factory has once again gone above and beyond to make their Collector’s Edition releases very special for the fans. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary (2)- There are two audio commentaries on this disc, one from Director John Fawcett, and another from Writer Karen Walton. The team that eventually brought us Orphan Black provides us with some detailed and informative commentaries discussing the film, screenwriting process, pre and post-production, and their careers in film.
  • Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth, and Fur- This is the absolute standout special feature on this release, running over an hour long, it includes incredible insight into the making of the film, it’s themes, and production. From location scouting to Ginger Snaps’ legacy, to casting and feminism in film, there are a variety of topics explored in this wonderful documentary.
  • Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films- From Aine Leicht and Kristy Jett, this featurette runs nearly half an hour and features Jett, Rebekah McKendry, Heidi Honeycutt, and Axelle Carolyn discussing the concept of puberty in horror films. These lovely ladies recall their first experience watching films like Carrie and Ginger Snaps, how they related to them, and their impact on horror culture. The conversation is engaging throughout, and even the tangents the group tends to go on are thought provoking. This was a wonderful idea for a featurette, and fits quite nicely with the tone of the film.
  • Deleted Scenes– Presented here in three separate ways, you can watch the deleted scenes by themselves, with commentary from John Fawcett, or with commentary from Karen Walton. The 25 minutes worth of deleted scenes presented here are quite fun, some existing as entire stand-alone segments, and some that were merely trimmed from existing scenes in the final film.
  • Featurette- This short featurette is a catalog promo for the film presented in standard definition, possibly featured on an earlier DVD release. It features the cast and crew discussing the film, why people should go see it, and other anecdotes all while clips from the movie play throughout.
  • Cast Auditions & Rehearsals- Roughly 18 minutes of auditions and rehearsals with Katharine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, and select other cast members. This is a fun watch, especially seeing the interplay between the two leads develop.
  • Creation of the Beast- This is a fun behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the werewolf utilizing practical effects.
  • Being John Fawcett- A short, fun little video shot by John Fawcett of him and the actresses goofing around during pre-production.
  • Theatrical Trailers- Various trailers used throughout the theatrical campaign for the film.
  • TV Spots- Various television spots used throughout the theatrical campaign for the film.
  • Production Design Artwork- A quick but fun look through some of the production design logos associated with various items or products throughout the film: cigarettes, alcohol, logos, magazines, etc.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory features impressive newly commissioned cover art from artist Joel Robinson. The colors look great, the likenesses are perfect, and the full moon background and werewolf design on the bottom look fantastic. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, and technical specifications for this release. On the inside of the case you will find both the Blu-Ray and DVD discs with a nice picture of Ginger and Brigitte. As always on their collector’s edition releases, the cover art is reversible, and features the original theatrical poster design for the film.

Ginger Snaps (reverse)

Ginger Snaps (reverse)

Ginger Snaps (interior)

Ginger Snaps (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Overlooked and underappreciated during it’s theatrical release, Ginger Snaps has gone on to develop a fervent cult following. It’s not your average teenage Horror film, and certainly not your average werewolf picture. The teen angst feels genuine, it’s darkly funny with memorable dialogue, and the parallels to the real-world problems of teenage girls are cleverly alluded to. The picture quality is very good, with natural color timing and impressive fine object detail, and the audio delivers the dialogue and scares with full force. The special features are the standout aspect on this release, including a wonderful documentary and featurette made specifically for this edition. Ginger Snaps remains a brilliant little Horror film after 14 years, and this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory is the definitive home video release.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre

Ginger Snaps: Collector's Edition (Artwork: Joel Robinson)

Ginger Snaps: Collector’s Edition (Artwork: Joel Robinson)