Thursday, September 27, 2012

Movie Review: Howling 3: The Marsupials

 I love the concept of the werewolf; half-man, half-wolf, harbinger of incredible destructive power and chaos often born as both a gift and a curse.  I have enjoyed werewolf films since Lon Chaney Jr.'s The Wolf Man.  Unfortunately, few werewolf films have lived up to the potential of the concept.  

 The Howling franchise has been interesting.  It introduced the idea of werewolves as not just monsters, but as another species living side-by-side with our own.  The series begins with the first two films being celebrated for their special effects, story, and gore.  The Howling 3 appears to have been a victim of the ratings crack-down on horror films; the special effects are toned-down and there is virtually no nudity and minimal gore throughout the film (whereas both were common place in the last two installments). 

Looks like the pig-mask from Saw.
 My first complaint is that the film feels choppy.  In order to set the stage, the film has to introduce several plot-keys in quick succession; there was once an apex-predator in Australia called a Tasmanian Wolf or Tasmanian Tiger, though it has no actual relation to either animal.  It was a marsupial, meaning that it carried and nursed its young in a pouch, and it was able to open its maw to an unusual extent (120 degrees).  The animal appears to have been extinct since the 1930s, although reports of the creature occasionally are made to this day.  Professor Beckmeyer has been fascinated by the Tasmanian Wolf since he was a boy.

Goofy in a nun costume.
 Meanwhile, Jerboa is a female Australian werewolf who runs away from her clan to avoid an arranged mating.  Her clan lives in the Outback in a primitive manner, complete with a tribal leader who has nearly indisputable authority over the clan.  Jerboa is found by Donny, a young man who happens to be working in a werewolf film called Shapeshifters as a member of the film-crew.  Donny falls instantly in love with Jerboa, and convinces her to join the film as an actress.

 During a party, Jerboa is exposed to strobe-lights and begins to turn.  In a panic, she runs into the night with Donny on her tail (not literally yet), only to see her get struck by a car.  Professor Beckmeyer is called in when the doctors at the hospital discover Jerboa's striped back and pouch.  Before the government can get involved, Jerboa's sisters arrive, claim her, and kill the unnamed attendants holding her.  Beckmeyer, and Donny track Jerboa back to Flow, her home town, with the government hot on their heals.

Even with the hair and the pouch, you'd still hit it.
 It gets even more ridiculous from there.  Like, say you were a military commander and you needed to hunt and kill a predatory human species in the Outback.  How many soldiers would you send in, even special trained soldiers?  Hopefully, your answer is more than two, which was the total contingent of the Omega Team sent in to hunt werewolves.  Or, hey, you're a super-model werewolf who has been to several film-shoots while hiding your identity from the world.  Strobe lights force you to transform, yet it isn't until an awards show that while being photographed on stage that you wolf-out.

 Howling 3 lacks the innovation of the first installment and the over-the-top punch of the second. The story is weak and confusing, the acting is fair, and the special effects are so-so. It is at best an interesting off-shoot of the series. 

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