When it gets close to Halloween, film geeks and horror buffs hold their own personal horror film festivals. Friends bring obscure scary movies and trying their best to frighten the viewers. It’s a great idea, one that allows people to watch something beyond the standard Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street fare that cable channels play round the clock. In recent years some straight to DVD films try to bank on the mainstreaming of horror. Some of these films, like Human Centipede and Trick ‘r Treat*, have broken through and gotten acclaim from audiences and scholars of the genre. This year, The Howling: Reborn hopes to do the same.
While it borrows its name from the 1981 Joe Dante cult classic The Howling, Reborn works as a straight up reboot, so no prior knowledge of the franchise’s previous installments are necessary. Landon Liboiron (of TV’s Terra Nova) is Will Kidman, a high school senior who enjoys blending in with his classmates and crushing on the beautiful Eliana (Lindsey Shaw of TV’s 10 Things I Hate About You) from afar. After he attends a party where disturbing creatures attack the guests, Will learns of his family lineage as a werewolf, and his presumed dead mother happens to be leading the pack. Will must face his mother as well as his own beastly nature while trying to save Eliana from the wolf pack’s hungry jaws.
To be honest, this movie is a lot better than I expected it would be. The trailer makes it seem like a weird Twilight knock off show with the usual teen-horror lens that makes every human look pale and gives all the sets a bluish-black hue. There’s also the obvious “what’s happening to my body?” metaphor that teen werewolf stories usually take hanging over the film’s head. Thankfully, Reborn never really goes down that route, and the cinematography is only momentarily distracting.
Once you get settled in to the story it moves along at a nice pace, and since it has divorced itself from the Howling continuity it doesn’t spit in Joe Dante’s face. It’s a nice little thrill ride, well constructed and amicably acted. Shaw and Liboiron have some sweet chemistry, but I think that’s more due to Shaw’s adorableness. She’s got charisma to spare, so anyone would look good when paired with her.
The creature effects are serviceable. Nothing to write home about, but nothing off putting or terrible either. It’s no American Werewolf in London, but it’s also no American Werewolf in Paris (those clips are NSFW, btw!).
This isn’t as hardcore or terrifying as Centipede or Trick ‘r Treat, though, and that’s why I can only halfheartedly recommend it. For horror snobs, this won’t cut it, but for teens at a sleepover gore-fest, this’ll fit the bill. And when those teens see this, hopefully they’ll check out the original.
*Trick ‘r Treat is perhaps my favorite horror film of the past decade, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s a mere $5 on Amazon