From the Archive – The Howling VI: The Freaks (1991)

Howling

 

Directed by Hope Perello
Starring Bruce Payne, Brendan Hughes, Michele Matheson

An English drifter, Ian, wanders into a little town in America on the trail of a travelling freakshow. He helps the local Preacher repair his fence while romancing the man’s daughter, checks out the exhibits of the freakshow, then goes all hairy at the full moon.

It turns out that the man who runs the circus – Harker (Payne) – killed our nice drifter’s family and left him with a nasty case of lycanthropy. Before he can get his revenge however, it turns out that Harker can trigger the change with a chant, and young Ian is outcast from the town and locked in a cage at the freakshow. He escapes, has sex with the girl, kills most of the freaks and then takes out Harker with the aid of fellow abused freak, the Amazing Alligator Boy (who is pissed because Harker killed his pet cat, which doesn’t quite rival whole family killed).

Oh; and Harker is some kind of blue-faced vampire thing, and explodes in sunlight.

Ian and Alligator Boy stagger off into the sunrise. The End.

What’s wrong with it?

Oh, where to begin? Well, the characters are unengaging, the actors – so-called – can’t act and the special effects aren’t special. The werewolf looks less like a ravening wolfman than a pissed off guy in a monkey suit, and the vampire is strangely blue. The rest of the freaks just aren’t very scary – a dwarf, a geek and a hermaphrodite; gosh, how terrifying.

What’s right with it?

While certain whys and wherefores are ill-explained, the basic plot is sound and if the script isn’t gold, it at least steers clear of any major howlers, if you’ll excuse the pun.

How bad is it really?

Well, for the sixth movie in the Howling series, it’s really not that bad; it’s just no damn good either.

Best bit

Okay, so there’s this scene where Harker forces Ian to turn into the wolf and gives him a cat to dismember for the enjoyment of the audience, but he just pets it and lets it go. Call me a big sap, but I was moved.

What’s up with…?

  • Ian tracking the circus for years to avenge the murders of his family? He can’t have been trying too hard; it’s not like the carnival is exactly shifting it or anything.
  • The werewolf being much lamer than the one in the first movie? Well; I guess it’s a budget thing.
  • The blue vampire who kills discriminately but for no reason? I mean, we know he’s a vampire, but for all the folks he kills no-one ever seems to turn up drained. The blueness is never explained, and despite his penchant for random slaughter he just KOs the preacher.

Ratings

Production values: Low. As noted, the special effects are all naff makeup, and the werewolf transformation is one of the less spectacular exponents of the breed. 14

Dialogue and performances: Well, Brucey is the definite acting highpoint here. I’ll let you deal with that in your own ways; I recommend a soothing cuppa. 15

Plot and execution: The plot is straightforward enough, but the execution is cack-handed at best. The film isn’t hard to sit through, but it is hard to keep your attention on it. 16

Randomness: Impressively little, once you get past the freakshow concept and its attached baggage of mutant carnies. 8

Waste of Potential: Well, it’s not as good as The Howling, but it’s better than the other four. 9

Overall 62%

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