Originally released as a direct-to-video flick, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare is the fourth installment of the successful The Howling franchise. Driven by the strength of the original 1981 film directed by Joe Dante, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare fails to capture the originality and outright fun of the Dante movie.
Filmed in South Africa, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare centers on Marie Adams (Romy Windsor), a successful author whose vivid imagination led to a nervous breakdown. Her doctor recommends time away from bustling Los Angeles, so Marie and her husband, Richard (Michael T. Weiss), secure a cottage in the village of Drago. Coming along is Marie’s agent, Tom Billings (Antony Hamilton), who harbors romantic feelings for her.
Although now away from Los Angeles, Marie continues to experience strange visions, this time centered on Drago. For example, she sees a nun in her living room, as well as an elderly couple, all of whom seem to be warning her about previous events in the cabin and the surrounding lands. Complicating things further is the townsfolk, who are friendly enough but mysterious. One such townsperson, Eleanor (Lamya Derval), begins to hypnotize Richard, slowly seducing him with her eyes and luscious body.
Marie’s visions begin to grow and seemingly cross over into the real world, particularly with the disappearance of her pet poodle. Marie finds some comfort with a new friend by the name of Janice Hatch (Susanne Severeid), who slowly begins to reveal the reason why she is in Drago. It turns out that Janice is a former nun who is investigating the death of her friend, Sister Ruth (Megan Kruskal).
The final of the reel of the movie ramps up the action, at last revealing the secret of Drago. Suffice to say that the townsfolk are all werewolves who happen to worship Satan. It then falls on Marie and Janice to set a trap for the werewolves so that they can at last end the horrid curse of Drago.
Howling IV: The Original Nightmare is a real slow cooker of the movie, with the bulk of the flick much too talkie. There is very little horror for most of the movie, with the plot focused more on suspense and investigative legwork. It is only during the climax of the movie that the werewolves come into play, and although the special effects are the classic gooey 1980s kind, they come much too late for any real satisfaction.
Hardcore horror fans will find that this movie is a more faithful adaptation of the source material written by Gary Brandner. The idea of werewolves really being demons is an interesting one, but the film fails to take full advantage of it, instead relying on time-worn clichés of worshipers reciting “Satan! Satan!” while the lead werewolf stands within a star of protection.
Director John Hough does what he can with the script by Freddie Rowe and Clive Turner, but the overall editing of the movie comes off as a bit too choppy, with some scenes literally running into each other while others feel disjointed. The acting leads have solid chops, but the supporting cast members come off as wooden and nervous. The film’s low budget does not help it much, although the special effects and some key werewolf transformation scenes are pretty good. However, relying on dogs with red eyes to play the fully transformed werewolves was not a good idea at all.
A real cheap version of Howling IV: The Original Nightmare can be had by purchasing Big Box of Horror. Rock fans may recognize Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues singing the film’s theme song, “Something Evil, Something Dangerous.”