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Howling III (Blu-ray Review)

Every couple years, Scream Factory seems to dip its toes into the werewolf franchise pool that is The Howling. They’ve now released the original film in 2 different editions and the batshit crazy sequel that I love, The Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf. Now they are going forth with the third film, frequently subtitled “The Marsupials”. I’m sure if this one does rather well, they may go fourth (wink) with another. Howling III is one I think they’ve had distribution rights for a little while now. And believe it or not, its not the first time its been on Blu-ray. BUT, its the first time being properly presented. The previous Timeless Media “trilogy” release of (III, V and VI…trilogy…okay) had the film in a 4×3 image that had to be a VHS rip. Now we are getting it done right, with a new commentary, interview, old interviews…but the real question is…will any of it make the film any better? Find out for yourself by pre-ordering a copy to have on release day, January 15th.

Film 

The race is on as a colony of marsupial werewolves attempts to outwit and outlast their human counterparts. Long ago, the now-extinct marsupial wolf (a.k.a. Tasmanian Tiger) roamed the Australian Outback. Today, a werewolf colony that has descended from these marsupials has taken over the land. This race of human-like creatures roams the outback, feeding its need. The race for survival is on as the humans struggle to contain these out of control creatures.
Howling III is another wild ride in the werewolf genre for this series. If you thought the previous one was pretty batshit crazy, well, prepare yourself for some more. The film doesn’t make any attempt or even want to be associated with the previous two movies. Philippe Mora, the writer and director of this one (And the second, for that matter), has stated he just wanted to make a straight up standalone werewolf movie. Though, I’m sure there are some diehard Howling franchise fans that are super continuity nerd who have tried to find an “in” to tie this to the previous two films.
Mora’s film is really really strange in both good and bad ways of weird. One contributing factor to it all, is that it is very Australian. No, I don’t mean that just the actors have accents, it drives further than that. If you are anyway familiar with straight Australian movies of the 80s and 90s, you’ll see it right away. The angles, cuts, lenses and more hit just about every stereotypical beat that you’d find in something like the early works of a Peter Jackson and the like. This aesthetic actually works in the film’s favor to give it that bizarre feeling and make the really weird stuff more weird and more acceptable.
If you’re int he mood for a really peculiar horror film that still delivers some blood and make-up effects with just some gross, strange and odd story decisions, grab a case or roll some nice joints and get to Howling III. Its a werewolf film that barely has any full-on werewolves in it, but don’t let that stop it from entertaining you. Oh, and the sweat budget on the film had to be unreal. This is just one that’ll have you scratching your head, confused, impressed by bad acting and hurt your brain in a very good way. If you’re into crappy b-cinema, check the film out (Though I find the second one much better than this and infinitely more watchable). But if you’re looking for some solid horror, seek elsewhere!

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Originally touted as a digital transfer sponsored by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, the packaging on the release now boasts a 4K scan of the original film elements. It comes with a very film stock-like look, with some heavier grain at times. When the film starts it makes the case for “digital restoration” and no mention of 4K transfer, but I’d say more of this film looks like a 4K transfer than it does just a simple digital HD master. Its a little bit soft of a picture and details aren’t the strongest due to a bit of a washed out look, but overall its pretty good and the best you could ask to have done with this movie.

Depth:  Thanks to keeping the grain intact, the film has a pretty solid 3 dimensional look to it that definitely comes into play when the “Australian vision” lens comes into play. If this had tried to scrub up the grain, I imagine it’d be flattened rather quickly. Movements are smooth and natural with no real distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and carry much heavier doses of very noticeable grain (Pretty sure its not noise). No real crushing happens and it actually does well in keeping the information onscreen intact.

Color Reproduction: There are some good reds in the film and at times green can pump through the image decently, but most of the film has a washed out look and doesn’t really lend itself to a nice color pop.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a little washed out, but consistent from start to finish of the film. Details are pretty good in closeups, but smoother or blurrier the further the camera is pulled back.

Noise/Artifacts: N/A

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Howling III comes with a pretty solid stereo track. This mix is plenty loud and has some really good deeper moments in the score and with some of the action effects. Its a balanced mix, not the most layered or deep, but it really gets the job done overall and makes for a fine experience.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are pretty clean and very audible throughout in any moment. Volume is just a hair low on them, but it never is truly an issue.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With writer/director Philippe Mora, moderated by filmmaker Jamie Blanks

Interview With Writer/Director Philippe Mora (HD, 27:23) – The interview includes a bit about his experience directing Howling II and a hilarious anecdote about being sent monkey suits from the Planet of the Apes movies to use for werewolves. He then goes into making a film that had nothing to do with the others and crafting a very Australian horror film.

Vintage Interviews (SD, 18:56)- Taken from the documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! by director Mark Hartley. Has interviews about Howling III with Philippe Mora and Bob McCarron

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:06)

Summary 

Howling III is a pretty crazy film that at least should have points for trying to take the werewolf genre into a different kind of direction. Alas, its one that makes it crazy like it is. The film features a rock-solid audio and video presentation and has some pretty solid bonus features that are more than one could ask for on a film of this nature. Work that was done on bringing this to Blu-ray for this edition definitely yields the price tag the movie carries, but I’m not sure if the film itself does. This is probably for the hardcore Howling fanbase (Do you all yourselves the Howlies?) and Scream Factory loyalists.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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