The Howling Franchise, Ranked Worst To Best | Screen Rant

Book adaptation The Howling spawned the longest werewolf-based franchise in horror history, and here's how the entries rank from worst to best. When it comes to movie monsters, there are two usual suspects everyone thinks of first: vampires and werewolves. This is also true of larger pop culture, as evidenced by the number of stories involving vampires fighting werewolves, co-existing with werewolves, or sometimes even becoming romantically involved with werewolves. The latter trope is most associated with the Twilight series, but that's far from its only use.

Sadly, one area where both sides are far from equal is the quality of their cinematic output. From Bela Lugosi's Dracula to The Lost Boys, and Interview with the Vampire, there are lots of vampire movies looked upon as classics. Unfortunately, outside of Universal's 1941 classic The Wolf Man, the only werewolf movies generally seen as being stellar are The Howling or An American Werewolf in London, which both actually released in 1981.

Related: Why The 1980s Had So Many Werewolf Horror Movies

It's disappointing nothing has come along to challenge the supremacy of those 1980s hits, but considering how good The Howling was, it's no surprise sequels happened. Some fans certainly wish they hadn't though, as The Howling franchise has one of the worst reputations in horror fandom, competing with the likes of Hellraiser and Children of the Corn for having the most awful follow-ups. It's time to see how the Howling installments stack up.

While much of the franchise is bad or at least meh, there are only two real contenders for the absolute worst entry. The Howling: New Moon Rising once had a lock on this spot, before the 2011 release of The Howling Reborn. This direct-to-video movie is terrible in about every possible way, and one of the main reasons is that the story is nearly nonexistent. The sequel pulls a Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, and pads its running time with footage from Howlings 4, 5, and 6, attempting to connect their storylines and even bringing back a few characters for new scenes. Connecting oneself to other bad movies is hardly a great idea though.

The Howling Reborn is the most recent entry, although it's entirely unconnected to the prior films and might as well be its own thing. This one is squarely aimed at the teen demographic, with its central character struggling with both puberty and his turn into a werewolf, as well as a need to protect his beloved from other lycanthropes. The many seasons of Teen Wolf is an example of how a story like this could work, but here, it really doesn't, leaving boring melodrama on the menu. Howling Reborn inches past New Moon Rising by being more competently made, and having slightly better - if still not good - performances.

The franchise is a very loose-knit group, and as another example, here's Howling 4: The Original Nightmare. Instead of having any connection to the films, Howling 4 instead serves as a more faithful adaptation of the Gary Brandner novel that inspired the original movie. That said, it in no way comes close to the excellence of the 1981 Joe Dante directed film, instead feeling like a watered-down rehash with worse acting, less production value, hilarious looking werewolves, and long stretches of boredom. A movie with werewolves in it should never get boring, but a sad number of later Howling movies do.

Related: Twilight: What'd Happen If A Vampire Bit A Werewolf (Or Vice Versa)?

Howling 3: The Marsupials, both filmed and set in Australia, is also very bad. What elevates it above previous entries in this ranking is that it's at least bad with a side of really weird. In this one, the werewolves are actually the good guys and are pursued by evil human authorities and scientists. They've evolved to carry their young in Kangaroo-esque pouches, and as can be seen above, now look quite strange themselves. While certainly not a good movie, Howling 3 is at times the fun kind of bad and is filled with odd scenes. The biggest knock against it is the lame decision to go for PG-13 rated horror.

Part 6 marks the point where the sequels stop being actively awful and just become middling with a few decent moments. Howling 6 sports a decent premise, with a depressed and misunderstood werewolf being forced to find solace in an American Horror Story style carnival freak show. However, he must soon contend with his new boss, who turns out to be an extremely malevolent vampire in disguise. The vampire design, as pictured above, is actually pretty cool, and Passenger 57 actor Bruce Payne makes for a good villain. Howling 6 is a fine one-time watch, but is nothing that will stick with most.

Howling 5: The Rebirth is on par with Howling 6 in quality, but edges it out due to a rare instance of a werewolf being used as the killer in a murder mystery setup. A group of strangers is invited to the re-opening of a Hungarian castle, and before they can spend too much time enjoying themselves and wondering what the deal is with the place, it's discovered that one among their number is a werewolf. There's less werewolf action in this than most Howling movies, but the mystery plot keeps things interesting and the final scene has a fun reveal.

Blessed with one of the best subtitles in horror history, Howling 2 tough to rank. Plotwise, it's probably worse than Howlings 5 or 6. Howling 2 is, bluntly, a really stupid movie. The thing is, for a certain type of horror viewer, it's the best kind of stupid. Clocking in at a lean 87 minutes, it features numerous scenes that are almost impossible to watch without either a huge grin or confused stare on one's face, many of which feature Christopher Lee in perhaps his strangest role. The sequel continues where the original left off, but not entirely, as the public doesn't seem to know werewolves exist. The story sees the brother of Dee Wallace's Karen go with Lee's Stefan and Karen's co-worker Jenny to Transylvania, to take on an ancient werewolf queen named Stirba, played by Sybil Danning, who's apparently allergic to clothes. For lovers of "So bad, it's good" cinema, Howling 2 is worth a watch.

While most franchise rankings are topped by the original, rarely is there a case like this, where the original stands not only head and shoulders above everything after, but stands atop snow-capped mountain peaks beyond them. There isn't much left to be said about The Howling, which features a great, likable lead in Dee Wallace's (Critters) Karen, some of the best work of director Joe Dante's storied career, a great werewolf design, the best transformation scene this side of An American Werewolf in London and a very memorable ending. The Howling howls louder than anything else in the franchise, by a mile.

More: Andy Muschietti’s The Howling Remake Could Revive The Werewolf Movie



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