Saturday, October 27, 2012

DVD Review - Howling IV: The Original Nightmare

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
Director: John Hough
Starring: Romy Windsor, Michael T. Weiss, Antony Hamilton, Susanne Severeid, Lamya Derval
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
ASIN: B00023BM4S
Release Date: June 15, 2004
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Rated R 

Unlike the previous films in the series, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare was released to direct-to-video (aka VHS) in 1988, originally released by Warner Bros., but Echo Bridge Home Entertainment now owns the rights to it.

I've only seen a handful of the Howling movies out of the eight movies that have been made so far, the last one, Howling Reborn, came out last year. I recall seeing this movie advertise on a local channel in the early 90s and of course my mom let me watch it probably just so I would stop pestering her about it. The movie had commercials, so naturally it would be edited for broadcast television. For the actually movie, I only remember bits and pieces of it until I finally bought the DVD a few months ago for only five dollars.

For anyone who has actually read Gary Brandner's The Howling novel, you'll know that the first movie barely went by it, but Howling IV: The Original Nightmare is the only movie that almost completely goes by the book except that the names have been changed and there is no rapist in it. The film was made for fewer than two-million dollars. It won the 1988 Golden Chainsaw award for Best Direct-to-Video Feature from Fangoria, but it received mostly negative reviews from fans due to the small amount of time the werewolves appeared.

The movie opens up with author Marie Adams (played by Romy Windsor) meeting up with her agent, but right there and then she has strange visions about a nun and a werewolf. She screams like a madwoman and ends up in the hospital. The doctors recommend to her husband Richard (played by Michael T. Weiss) that she should take a break from her writing and get away from the city.

Soon enough, Richard and Marie are leaving Los Angeles and they go to a small town called Drago, where they rent a small cabin. On the very first night, Marie hears a peculiar wolf's howl coming from the woods.

They go into town the next day and explore and antique shop owned by the strange Eleanor (played by Lamya Derval), whom happens to take a liking to Richard. Later when they return to the cabin, Marie goes for a walk with her small dog. The dog gets loose and runs further into the woods. She later finds what looks like the remains of her dog, but when Richard goes to find it, he only finds a toy.

Marie visits, Mrs. Ormstead, a neighbor and the owner of a local store, and she informs Marie that the previous couple who stayed in their cabin had mysteriously disappeared. While walking back to the cabin, Marie once again has visions of a nun and for a brief moment she thought the nun was before her, but it turned out to be only Eleanor in a cape. When she finally returns to the cabin, she has more strange visions this time of a man and a woman, possibly the previous couple who stayed in the cabin. She tries to tell Richard, but he doesn't believe and storms out to spend time with his new "friend" Eleanor.

A woman, Janice Hatch, shows up at the cabin claiming to be a fan of Marie's writings, but she turns out to be an ex-nun searching for her friend, Sister Ruth, who disappeared the previous year, but later returned talking about the devil and hearing the howls of wolves. Ruth later died for unknown reasons and Janice has come to find out what happened to her. The two women work together to uncover the startling truth about Drago’s residents.

The majority of low-budget horror movies, especially the ones that go direct-to-video or now of days go straight to the DVD five-dollar-bin, have bad acting, but in the Howling IV the acting is decent. I'm aware that some of the die hard Howling fans don't care for the lack of werewolves, but it didn't bother me one bit. I like the Gothic atmosphere throughout the movie. Yes, there a few slow moments, but it helps build up the mystery of what is going on with the town of Drago, even though we all know that there has to be some kind of werewolf involved. There is not a lot of violence in the movie compared to today's horror flicks. If it wasn't for the brief nudity and language, the movie could easily pass as PG-13! Howling IV is not the greatest werewolf move, but it is one of the better Howling sequels.

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