Retrospective: Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

Welcome back to part 3 of The Howling retrospective! In this entry, we’re going to tackle the third entry in the series, Howling III: The Marsupials! And just before we get into that, I want to draw your attention to this article, where some idiot claims that R-rated movies are responsible for lower ticket sales. Honestly, I’m not a ratings whore like many people I run into while scouring the Internet, but there aren’t nearly enough R-rated movies. Too often, studios either neuter an R-rated movie into a PG-13 movie and make it feel cheap as a result (see AVP, Priest, Live Free or Die Hard, and I imagine World War Z will end up like this as well), or they’ll just refuse to greenlight it at all (the Halo movie apparently). Honestly, ticket sales are down, in part because of piracy, but mainly because of ridiculous ticket prices and a lack of good movies to see. Personally, I’ll go see any movie in theaters that catches my fancy… but in the last 4 months, the only movie that’s caught my interest was Evil Dead. That’s a pretty terrible record. Hollywood needs to stop cramming all their movies into the summer season, stop playing it so damn conservatively and give theater chains their fair shake… ok, rant over, let’s talk about were-kangaroos.

Not-so-subtly sexual tagline… check.

Philipe Mora, director of the previous Howling movie (which, if you didn’t read the previous retrospective, was bat-shit insane), was unsatisfied with how Stirba – Werewolf Bitch turned out. Apparently, the studio tinkered with it after he was done and probably forced him to do some of the absolutely insane things which happened in that movie. So, as a matter of making amends, he personally financed a third Howling movie to get more control over it, casting largely unknown/no-name actors… and then, for some reason, decided to set it in Australia. Now obviously I have nothing against a werewolf movie in Australia per se, but it’s how Mora handles this decision that’s a bit ridiculous – he decided to incorporate Australian mythology and make a marsupial evolution of the werewolf running parallel to the normal kind. And yes, this means that they have a pouch (although they’re not actually were-kangaroos, thank God). I’m gonna drop pretenses of ambiguity on this one – it’s strange ideas like making the werewolves marsupials that make Howling III any incredibly loony film.

Also, interesting note: Nicole Kidman was originally supposed to be Jerboa apparently. Good for her that she wasn’t, she may never have recovered…

First, let’s look at the acting in the film. The acting is, on the whole, better than in Howling II, with Imogen Annesley (Jerboa) and Barry Otto (Prof. Harry Beckmeyer) putting in decent performances. I also quite liked Burnum Burnum (Kendi). Sure, his performance was kind of flat, but he had a ton of charisma, and made me laugh basically every time he opened his mouth (on purpose, mind you). His crowning moment was in his death too where he puts out this gem:

Jerboa: You’re going to turn into a river Kendi, then a rainbow…
Kendi: No way, I’m just gonna die! *Dies*

That said, it’s still a Howling sequel, and so there are plenty of duds in the acting department – Lee Biolos (Donny Martin) puts in a particularly flat performance as the love interest, and Dagmar Bláhová (Olga) just goes absolutely off the rails at times… as pictured below:

Is it just me, or do the werewolf contact lenses in this movie make everyone look googly-eyed?

While the acting is, in general, better than Howling II, there are some moments where the acting and writing drop far below even that modest standard. There’s a pretty awesome one in the first 5 minutes that goes like this:

Guy 1: Weird shit? I’ve got a weird feeling…
Guy 2: *Crazy emphasis* Indigestion?
Guy 1: No. Fear.

Oh, and then there’s one of my absolute favourite moments in all of cinema, a combination of terrible acting and dialogue in one beautiful package. You have to see this to believe it:

That priest acts more in the last 2 seconds of that video than he did in the 16 preceding it. He’s clearly reading his lines off the back of the seat in front of him. Did they hire him 2 minutes before they shot the scene? Unlike a Youtube video of The Wicker Man remake, that scene is even more random in context. I could go on all day about just that one clip, but we have to move on.

The effect in this movie are pretty horrible. I was hesitant to say they were worse than Howling II, but around the midway point I had to concede that they definitely were. You never really saw any fully-transformed werewolves in Your Sister is a Werewolf, but at least they didn’t look like this:

Even the half-transformed werewolves in Howling II looked better than the ones in this one (and there are A LOT of them):

You can see it in motion here.

And then there’s some just plain ridiculous decisions. First off, Jerboa has a trio of werewolf sisters who dress like nuns. For some reason when they transform they’re completely hairless.

Why is the one on the left a pig?

Like I said earlier, there are just a lot of really strange decisions made in this movie, and the nuns are barely scratching the surface from the costume design standpoint. At the start of the movie there’s a werewolf tied to a stake, but they’re clearly only half in costume, so I’m not sure if this was intentional or not. There’s also some absolutely baffling decisions made, such as covering the otherwise fairly attractive Jerboa in thick fur, or the fact that female werewolves grow 2 more pairs of boobs when they transform now.

I couldn’t make up this shit…

Moving onto the plot, which is surprisingly way more complicated than you’d think. Typically Howling movies have a fairly straightforward plot, but Howling III goes a bit off the rails. The story is ridiculously excessive, throwing in probably 5 or 6 acts before the credits roll. There’s also all sorts of narrative dead-ends and pointless stuff thrown in which bogs things down even further (those nun werewolves for example). Honestly, the movie is just paced terribly – it was hard finding the screenshots for this film because most scenes don’t last more than a minute or two, and so I was having to skip through with a fine comb to find exactly what I was looking for. It also has the side-effect that the movie is just incredibly boring at times, especially after the first 40 minutes or so. The werewolf carnage is pretty rare too, with only one decent attack in the whole thing. Strangely enough, this also means that this is the only Howling with a PG-13 rating.

Anyway, the plot’s pretty nuts. Jerboa runs away from her hometown of Flow (Flow…? Wait a second…) because her step-father tried to rape her, and he’s a werewolf. While sitting on a bench, this happens:

Despite the fact that basically anyone who would hire you for a movie on the basis that you are “beautiful and wild looking” is casting for a porno (her first scene involves a monster gang rape… that wasn’t a joke), Jerboa accepts and she and Donny fall in love and have sex. Somehow, Donny doesn’t find it odd that Jerboa has more body hair than he does (it was the 80s), but soon she transforms and gets captured by scientists. However, she gets broken out by her nun sisters and taken back to Flow (there’s something subtle about that name…). Meanwhile, a Soviet ballerina named Olga is in town and it turns out she’s a werewolf. The scientists, Olga and Donny head to Flow, but then they make a startling discovery…

Holy shit, no way!!!!

Jerboa gives birth (more on that later) and then she and Donny run off into the wild as the military captures the people of Flow. After a convoluted series of events, Olga and Prof. Beckmeyer run off to live in the wild with Jerboa and Donny. The military come chasing after them, but Kendi kills a shitload of them, but stops when he gets stabbed and dies… just kidding, his freaking skeleton attacks another group of soldiers, but he’s finally put down. However, those 2 guys get killed by another werewolf, who only dies because one of these soliders sleeps with a rocket launcher… anyway, eventually everyone decides to stop living in the wild and go back into civilization. Donny becomes a famous director and Jerboa becomes a famous actress (and for some reason, Beckmeyer doesn’t know about this), but at the Academy Awards, Jerboa turns into a werewolf. The end. Umm… wow. Did I mention that the movie’s just over 90 minutes long? That’s a lot of convoluted crap to fit in there, and while it can be done (Scott Pilgrim anyone?), Philipe Mora DOES NOT manage it at all.

Do you remember how I said the werewolf threesome in Howling II was one of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen in a movie? Well I think the #1 honour might have to go to the birthing scene in Howling III. First, Jerboa strips down into her fur suit and then suddenly this little puppet starts crawling out of her vagina.

I wish I was joking.

The damn thing crawls up her pubes, while she’s all smiling and happy, like this is supposed to be a touching moment… it’s not. It’s gross and extremely awkward for all involved. Anyway, the damn thing crawls up her body and goes straight into her damned pouch. ARGH, it’s awkward just describing it.

And while the newborn baby’s hardly endearing, it gets even worse as it grows older. Look at this fugly thing:

Ugh, kill it! Every time that thing showed up on screen, it’s supposed to be a cute, touching moment, but the baby’s so fugly looking that it made me retch. Some people believe all babies are cute, but this one needs to be put to the torch.

So that’s Howling III in a nut-shell. He’s an absolutely insane movie, but even then it somehow manages to not be quite as bad as Howling II was. It has a lot of ambition, it just executes pretty much everything it aims for completely incompetently.


Be sure to come back soon for part 4 of this retrospective: Howling IV: The Original Nightmare!

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