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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Howling V: The Rebirth / Howling VI: The Freaks (1989-1991)

"Live, dead or whatever. Bring it back, that's what you told us. Nothing else except bring it back."
- Mr. Bellamy (Antonio Fargas)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 19, 2004

Stars: Philip Davis, Elizabeth She, Ben Cole, Clive Turner, Brendan Hughes, Michele Matheson, Bruce Payne
Other Stars: Victoria Catlin, William Shockley, Mark Sivertsen, Stephanie Faulkner, Mary Stavin, Nigel Triffitt, Renáta Szatler, József Madaras, Carol Lynley, Antonio Fargas, Carlos Cervantes, Deep Roy
Director: Hope Perello, Neal Sundstrom

MPAA Rating: R for some scenes of graphic horror violence
Run Time: 03h:07m:49s
Release Date: September 23, 2003
UPC: 012236146582
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The Howling (directed by Joe Dante), along with An American Werewolf In London (directed by John Landis), still stand side-by-side as two of the definitive werewolf movies of the last 25 years or so. It is ironic that not only were they released practically on top of each other in 1981, but that they hold up exceptionally well as inventive, exciting, scary and comical horror films, and in this day of sequel-itis, it is almost unheard of that the Landis film miraculously spawned just one sequel, the thematically unrelated An American Werewolf In Paris (directed by Anthony Waller), whose only link to the original was the similar sounding title, in addition to werewolves, of course.

Not so with The Howling franchise, which has given birth to a total of 5 sequels. The quality of these followups has been spotty, with The Howling II and Howling III: The Marsupials, both directed by Philippe Mora, coming closest to the fun spirit of the Dante original. The Howling novels by Gary Brandner are what all of these films are based upon, though in reality the connection is by name only; the film sequels, not surprisingly are built to cash in on the popular name recognition of The Howling brand.

This budget-priced double-feature from Artisan collects the fourth and (so far final) fifth film in the series on one single-sided disc. Neither film is particularly memorable, and it would difficult to even categorize either of them as purely traditional werewolf genre material. There are enough tolerable moments between the two of them to make one average horror film, though the stories are wholly unrelated.

Howling V: The Rebirth (1989)
Directed by Neal Sundstrom

This one starts with a prologue set in 1489 Budapest, as the master of some vast Hungarian castle is finishing up killing his family and staff for what one can only assume is some really valid reason. But considering this is a horror film, it is a safe bet that whatever he was trying to stop wasn't stopped, and the story then jumps ahead five hundred years when a group of travellers are invited by a mysterious benefactor to stay at the very same castle, which has been locked up since 1489. What follows is the usual dispatching of victims by some unseen monstrosity, with the identity of the werewolf being the lynch pin that is the alleged dramatic hook.

Howling V: The Rebirth is not so much a werewolf tale as it is a haunted castle piece (or at least a haunted castle with a werewolf living in it), and the werewolf element actually gets in the way of what could have been an enjoyably campy little haunted castle story. A smattering of nudity, characters right out of Central Casting, and while the castle itself makes for a properly moody environment, the film relies too heavily on the unveiling identity of the werewolf, which any astute horror fan should be able to pick out after the first ten minutes.

Howling VI: The Freaks (1991)
Directed by Hope Perello

The better of the pair on this disc is this Hope Perello (Pet Shop) directed installment that takes place largely in a creepy travelling sideshow that makes a stopover in a dusty, rural town, with expected ensuing frenzy. Coincidentally, a wandering Brit named Ian (Brendan Hughes) with deep, dark, hairy secret has also hit town, and he soon butts heads with the villainous and slightly effeminate carnival boss Harker (Bruce Payne), a man with a real need to put on a truly freaky freak show.

Howling VI: The Freaks also co-stars Starsky & Hutch street hipster Antonio Fargas (better known as Huggy Bear) as chicken-head eating geek, as well as a dandy blood-thirsty beast secreted away in one of the carnival wagons that pops up during the final act.

Like Howling V: The Rebirth, the werewolf angle is underplayed a bit here, but the big transformation sequence occurs about forty-one minutes in, and echoes An American Werewolf In London, at least in spirit. For a low-budget quickie, it's a nicely done sequence, with plenty of agonizing screaming, rippling flesh and skeletal structures undergoing great change. The dark sideshow setting takes precedence over the werewolf subplot, but there is enough campy dialogue and weird characters to satisfy most B-movie minimum daily requirements.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Both films are presented in 1.33:1 full-frame, and of the two, Howling V: The Rebirth is the worst. Blurry colors, light grain, murky blacks all make for a less than tolerable visual experience, an experience that is only worsened by the presence of noticeable nicks and flecks.

Howling VI: The Freaks fares somewhat better by comparison, with more vibrant and consistently natural colors across the board. The print is fairly clean, and black levels are adequate, and certainly on par for a B-movie of this caliber.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The two films are both presented in 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround, and neither is especially memorable, and Howling V: The Rebirth comes up the loser, where dialogue is a bit flat and hollow sounding. Occasional bits of dialogue were a bit tough to decipher,

Howling V: The Freaks, while mostly front-centric, as well, does offer some slightly rear channel bleed during some score passages, the presentation never fully utilized the back channels. Dialogue here is noticeably cleaner, and discernible at all times.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 50 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: You know you're in for slim pickings in the extras department when Special Features are listed as Full Screen Version, 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround, English Closed Captioning and Scene Selection (25 chapters per title). Now those are some quality supplementals.

That's all that's here, by the way.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

This double feature will confuse werewolf purists, as neither film is particularly deep in lycanthropic action despite the occasional snippets of dialogue concerning the subject.

Artisan has budget-priced this disc, and the sideshow setting alone of Howling VI: The Freaks almost makes this worth a rental.


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