Howling VI proved to be surprisingly interesting and had a quality level which was far better than most of the other movies in the series could boast. As a result, early in the production of the seventh Howling movie, there were plans to make a follow-up to The Freaks, following Ian and the Alligator Boy around eastern-Europe. I'm not entirely sure how that would have panned out, but the production companies, Allied Entertainments Group and Allied Vision (which had produced the previous two Howling movies as well), killed the idea since it likely would have cost a fair bit of money to do properly. Instead, they decided to do a new movie on the cheap - like, I mean the really cheap. Like $250,000 cheap. That's considerably lower than the budgets for The Evil Dead and Mad Max (before even considering inflation), two movies which are well-known for having extremely low budgets. I get the feeling that the production companies were in dire straits because Allied Vision never produced another movie after this one and Allied Entertainments Group only lasted another 2 years. With the super-constrained budget, the producers got back Clive Turner who would direct, produce, write and star in the film. All-told, this movie was on track to be really bad... but even those modest expectations will not prepare you for the movie that they ended up unleashing on the world.
Let's get to one of the biggest problems with New Moon Rising: Cliver Turner went and got a whole town of rednecks to be the "actors" in his movie. I'm not even joking about that, the man was so strapped for cash that he literally went into a redneck town and got the people in it to act as themselves for the movie (they're even cast as their own names). As a result, the cast are all rather uninteresting-looking and older people who I honestly had a lot of difficulty picking out from one another. This also has another major detrimental effect on the movie. Previous Howling movies had usually featured some sort of stylistic theme: The Howling commented on hippy colonies, Your Sister is a Werewolf was filtered through New Wave, The Rebirth was a murder mystery, The Freaks had a freakshow theme, etc. For its theme, New Moon Rising chose country music culture. Now I might be a little biased here, but that doesn't sound anywhere near as exciting or interesting as any of the previous themes were. While that's not exactly a death-knell for the country theme, the fact that Clive Turner treats it very stereotypically is. The movie feels like just a bunch of typical hicks doing hick things in hick town USA. Most egregiously though is the degree to which the country theme is shoved down our throats. The movie features 4 extended scenes of line dancing (with absolutely no justification to waste our time watching them) and at least 12 country music montages (7 of which are in the first 20 minutes). I'm not even talking about the country music on the soundtrack here - I'm talking about moments where the movie basically turns into a country music video. The music is just extremely generic too, and more than half of it seems to have been written by the redneck townsfolk, which doesn't help. That much country in an 85 minute movie is just sickening. In all, even if you really love country music and the intricacies of line dance technique, I get the feeling that New Moon Rising will try your patience.
The budget constraints also mean that the movie looks exceptionally cheap. One of Howling VI's greatest strengths was that it looks quite professionally shot. New Moon Rising looks like a made for TV movie. Similarly, the audio seems to be nearly always recorded on-set. Whenever they rerecord the dialogue or do audio overlays, it's really obvious (because they'll cover their mouths or turn their backs to the camera) or really badly recorded (it sounds like they spoke into a tape recorder or something). The movie also reuses a fair bit of footage from Howling IV-VI. What the hell were they thinking?! Has there ever been a good movie which cut costs by reusing footage? Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is widely mocked for it. One of the worst movies I've ever seen, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, reused all of its own footage shots multiple times. I saw one estimate that they reused 10 minutes of footage, but that sounds kind of high to me. This movie reuses a lot of footage for pointless flashback sequences, but they also reuse werewolf footage from the previous movies so they wouldn't have to buy a new costume. Holy shit, can they do anything right in this movie?
The make-up and special effects in the movie are horrendous. The above image isn't a Jackson Pollock painting or an alternate cover for Metallica's Reload - it's what the werewolf-o-vision looks like in this movie. Clive Turner basically turns the footage totally red, making it almost incomprehensible what is occurring on screen (made even worse by the fact that some of these sequences go on for a good minute). If this is how werewolves see, then they need to see an optometrist for an eye exam. On top of that, the werewolf costume is shit, the worst ever. It's only slightly overshadowed by the transformation sequence, which is an absolute abomination. Prepare to gouge your eyes out when you see this:
That, by the way, is the only werewolf footage in the whole damn film and it comes about 1 minute before the credits roll. Holy hell, I know I defended Howling V on this very point, but at least that movie had some fleeting shots of the werewolf (not to mention that the shots we did see looked quite good). The werewolf which shows up for 1 second in this movie looks so fake that I'm willing to bet that Clive Turner picked it up at a Value Village during post-Halloween discount sales.
The acting in this movie is on par with Howling IV... that is to say, it's horrid. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that the very first lines of dialogue in this movie are absolutely atrocious. They can't even say "Jesus Christ", "Holy shit" and "Mother of God" with any sort of emotion. People say that CGI produces bad acting because the actors don't have anything to emote to, but these guys were standing right there in front of a skeleton prop in the middle of the desert and they couldn't show any more care than they would if someone had said "Good morning" to them for the hundredth time. These are just three random yokel extras, but the other actors aren't much better. Clive Turner stars as Ted Smith... except that he's playing his character from Howling V, who was named Ray Price... it doesn't make a lot of sense, but we'll get to that later. Clive Turner might have the best performance in the movie, not that that's saying much since it's thoroughly mediocre. The real life townsfolk can't even play themselves convincingly, which is just sad. The only other "real" actors who play a big part in the film are a Priest and an Investigator, but I think they might be actually guilty of overacting more than anything. Oh, and Romy Windsor, the woman who played Marie Adams in Howling IV, reprises her character from that film... and true to character, she is the absolute worst actor among the bunch. You've got to at least had it to Romy for keeping things consistent. How in the hell did she ever have a successful film/TV career?
As bad as the acting is, the script is the real killer here. I think that part of the reason that the townsfolk and Clive Turner put in such poor performances is because she script is just awful. If you remember Ray Price's dialogue in Howling V (which Clive Turner co-wrote), his character tended to always have a punchline on hand. The difference here is that his jokes actually were rather clever in Howling V, and that he provided most of the comic relief himself. In New Moon Rising, basically everyone is written like Ray Price, and their jokes are abysmal. Check out this horrid assault of rapid-fire puns:
Jim: [You're] from Australia?
Ted: I flew most of the way!
Brock: Your arms tired?
Ted: Only when I flap them!
Jim: That could give ya "arm-ritis"!
Ted: That's alright, I just had a bout of "hip-ititis"!
Jim: Yeah? A little bit further down your leg, you'll probably get "knee-monia"!
Brock: Hell, I'd be more worried about "smallcox"!
Ted: Well, I'm pretty lucky there! I've already had "dicktheria"!
Beyond the awful dialogue, the "plot" of the movie is just plain terrible - so bad that I'm going to have to split it into multiple paragraphs to cover the strands of awful which permeate it. The first of these issues is the main storyline itself, which is frankly less coherent than the home movies I made in high school with my brothers (in which we made up everything on the spot). The main plot is just plain boring: Ted Smith comes to town and hangs around a bar. Oh, and a werewolf will kill someone once in a while, but apparently line dancing deserves more screen-time than werewolves do. I can barely tell you any real details about the plot, in part because it is chocked full of so much useless filler. Why does Clive Turner think we care about synchronized drinking? Why does he think we care about a granny playing the spoons enough to show it multiple times? Why does he think we care about 3 grown men zipping their flies up and down while they sing a ditty? Why does he think we care about F--KING LINE DANCES?
Turner's script also just plain fails to set out to create the very basics of a mystery story (something which it seems to want to do). For example, it seems that Turner wants to create some ambiguity about whether Ted is a werewolf, but the man completely bungles this by having Ted get attacked by the werewolf about halfway through. Furthermore, in a mystery you should have good characters to create a certain amount of suspicion about "whodunit". In New Moon Rising, the characters are so incredibly ill-defined that I don't think I could tell you more than a couple of their names. It's so bad that I don't recall ever seeing the woman who turns out to be the werewolf until she reveals herself at the end (although I'm sure she was there the whole time... and that's made even worse because it was my 2nd time seeing the movie, so I should know who the werewolf is...).
There's also a second plot strand in which a priest and a private investigator discuss the werewolf killings, but it's integrated with such incompetence that it's actually quite laughable. The pair only talk for about 10 minutes, but Clive Turner chops up the footage so that the pair have been talking for 3 days straight (when they very clearly have not). Their whole purpose basically amounts to spewing exposition at the viewers and to pad out the runtime. There's also the question of how they know the things they claim. For example, the priest says it takes 3 years for a werewolf to mature and gain new powers... conveniently, it has been 3 years since Howling V occurred although that doesn't cause either man to have any sense of urgency. There's also retarded plot contrivances, such as Clive Turner deciding that werewolves can possess people now because he couldn't get Elizabeth Shé back to play Marylou. Of course, sometimes their dialogue is just plain hilarious, such as when the priest claims that Ray Price/Ted Smith became the fall-guy in Howling V because "he was the only Australian". For one thing, that's not even what happened in Howling V and since when do people conspire against Australians? Well, aside from Games Workshop anyway. The convenience of their parts is also really jarring because the investigator is skeptical the entire time, but then out of the blue he does a 360 and is suddenly the one lecturing the priest on the business of werewolves.
The other major fundamental flaw in the script is that Clive Turner tries to connect Howling IV-VI together. While that's a difficult undertaking considering how different and unconnected each of these films is, if it can be handled well then it's a potentially good thing. Of course, since this is Clive Turner we're talking about, of course he failed on an epic scale. There's the part about Ray Price/Ted Smith that I already mentioned which doesn't make any sense... but it's even worse considering that he died. Like, you even see his dead body on-screen. I even screen-capped it to prove it:
Are you telling me that getting attacked by a werewolf (which, I must mention, killed 7 or 8 other people in the same movie with no problem) and lying in a blizzard for a few hours with no way of leaving isn't fatal? Couldn't Clive Turner just have made up a new character for himself? Then there's other problems where Marie Adams says that Ted Smith is a werewolf because Clive Turner played a werewolf extra in Howling IV... not that you can reliably ID a werewolf, but that's besides the point. That's just a useless connection which just confuses things even more. Then there's the really stupid connections, like saying that a VHS tape of Howling VI was a home video taken at the circus... which makes no sense because not only is this "home video" edited, well shot and feature multiple camera angles, but it's taken from the vantage point of the bloody werewolf, not the audience. The only clever connection is using the Elizabeth Shé cameo in Howling VI to work her into the movie, but the rest of Turner's attempts are one failure after another.
Bottom-line: this movie features no blood, no violence, no suspense, no horror, no cool effects... nothing. There is not a damn thing worth recommending in this movie. And I've had to watch it twice. That's more times than I've watched Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Tokyo Story, and various other assorted classics. The movie was so bad that it killed a production company and ended the Howling series' profitability as a direct-to-video franchise. New Moon Rising is by far the worst movie I've ever seen, beating out such esteemed contemporaries such as Birdemic, The Room, Troll 2, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus and Teenage Zombies. THIS MOVIE IS GARBAGE, AND GARBAGE BELONGS IN THE GARBAGE BIN!!!*
Be sure to come back soon for the final entry in this retrospective: The Howling: Reborn!
*Just to stave off any confusion, I am not LittleJimmy, but my retrospectives series were largely inspired by LittleJimmy's fantastic "What Happened to the Alien and Predator Series?" videos. I cannot recommend watching them enough.