12 March 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Freakshow of horror
The first 'The Howling' film is by far the best of the franchise, while it had imperfections there was a lot to like about it at the same time and for me it's the only one to be good. As a franchise, generally 'The Howling' series is not a particularly good one and the sequels were way off the quality of the original. The following three sequels especially were true to this, only the fourth film attempted any fidelity and even then it took itself too seriously while 2 and 3 were cheap overloads of camp.
'Howling V: The Rebirth' still wasn't particularly good but it was surprisingly watchable and the best of the series up to then and the best possibly of the sequels. Actually take back saying that it was the only 'The Howling' sequel to rise above mediocre at best. This film, 'Howling VI: The Freaks', also just about does rise above being that standard, after rewatching it, while also being wildly uneven and less than great. This is still nowhere near close to the quality of the first film, but like 'Howling V: The Rebirth' compared to the previous three sequels there are improvements here and fewer issues compared to the previous sequels (not as big quality-wise too).
Although not looking incredible as such, 'Howling VI: The Freaks' is still one of the better looking sequels. There is some stylishness and the setting is suitably eerie. The standout on the visual front is the really quite terrific make-up, the best since the first film, which was both inventive and creepy. The church transformation scene is one of the best transformation sequences of the franchise in my mind too, the film's most creative moment. The music is haunting and doesn't compromise the mood or is not used predictably.
One improvement over the previous sequels, and this is including 'Howling V: The Rebirth' is the acting. Found the acting ranging from subpar to awful in the previous sequels and it was not always a strength even in the first film. Here it is better than average, with the best performance coming from a menacing Bruce Payne, clearly enjoying every second playing the film's most interesting character without going over-the-top. Found myself interested in the characters and not being bored or annoyed by them. There are some unsettling and atmospheric moments with the film boasting the most original concept of the franchise, some of the script is thought-provoking and like the fifth film it isn't as aimless or as padded as the previous three sequels, it does feel like something is happening. The clash of the werewolf and freaks scenes are staged reasonably well, with a fun climax, at least there wasn't any goofiness.
Limitations do show in the budget though. The special effects are occasionally decent but on the most part they are pretty shoddy, with an odd looking werewolf. Due to very unimaginative and sometimes static direction, apparent in some dull stretches and the camera work not being as expansive or varied as it could have been, some of the film has a drab look. The script has moments but could have had more personality injected into it, a little wit would have helped so that it didn't come over as overly-serious.
Because that was a problem here in 'Howling VI: The Freaks'. Did appreciate that it didn't get excessive on the campiness or silliness like the second and third films did, but like the fourth film it took itself too seriously, even for a film that had a more serious subject. Some of the pace could have done with more tightening and the tension and suspense could have come more consistently. The film could have done with trying a little less too hard, some great ideas here but also too many and not all fully realised. Also with doing more with the basic concept, with more werewolf and a little less focus on the freaks despite them being well characterised, it's all to do with balance, more freshness and surprises wouldn't have gone amiss because a lot of the storytelling is pretty ordinary and predictable considering the concept.
In conclusion, could have been better but by 'The Howling' sequel standards like the fifth film this was watchable. 5/10