The Howling III: The Marsupials – 1987 / Director: Philippe Mora
My first experiences with The Howling III stem from late Friday night showings on the telly box. Far from being a good film (there is some good gore) it is subsequently better than any other Howling sequel/follow on (the least said about Howling II and Howling V the better).
But why talk about The Howling III now? Well as it’s mainly an Australian funded and produced feature, it seems only right to mention its lack of cult status within this Ozpolitation month. Where to start with The Howling III (or Howling III: The Marsupials) is a tricky one indeed. For starters it has, much like the other sequels, almost absolutely nothing to do with the two previous entries. But it is possibly one of the most enjoyably silly entries from the series (yep it all went down hill from here).
A change in pace from The Howling II, this feature (which is again directed by Philippe Mora) focuses on a different type of werewolf population (namely the Marsupials of the title) than from the previous films. And with a tagline that goes along the lines of “Just when you thought it was safe to go down under” (ooh err), how could one not want to view this piece of Aussie horror trash?
The plot is convoluted to say the least, but I shall try my best to try and summarise it. Having little to do with the rest of the series (not to mention the books from which they are based on), The Howling III shows that the Australian werewolf packs have evolved from other wolf populations. This entails the females of the pack giving birth to the young, which then stay in the females pouch (much like Australian marsupials).
But these wereroo’s won’t be tied down. When werewolf Jerboa runs away from her pack (after narrowly avoiding the sexual advances of an arranged union) she finds herself in Sydney. Here she meets Donny, a film fan who wishes to cast her in the latest horror film he is currently helping on (which rather coincidently is called Shape Shifters)
During the shoot Donny and Jerboa fall in love, but as while at the wrap party an exposure to flashing lights causes Jerboa to start changing into her werewolf form. Its from here that the narrative really starts to go crazy, moving at a brisk pace by including supposed deaths (Jerboa’s), twisted births, a film within a film moment, a rather strange cameo and some interesting transformations. How this film hasn’t achieved more of a cult status is utterly mystifying. It’s also worth noting that the town from which Jerboa is from has an element of Nilbog about it (for all you Troll 2 fans), by being called Flow (I wonder what that is backwards?).
I mentioned earlier the body horror slapstick moment (although it’s not quite clear whether it’s meant to be or not), well as all kangaroo fans know they all contain a front pouch from where they keep their young. Now imagine that on a woman, only this woman is about to give birth to a very gooey and unsurprisingly grotesque baby joey. I dare you not to be slightly disgusted by Jerboa’s attempt to nurse her newborn werewolf, mainly by licking her abdomen so the baby can crawl into the pouch….yuck!
At no point should any of these moments come together to form a piece of watchable trash. But rather surprisingly it manages to produce just that; a piece of genre trash that you keep wanting to revisit (probably more often then the original Howling). Granted the plot makes little sense at times and seems to leap from one plot point to the next. But it does manage to do what few werewolf films have done in the past (or even the present) and that is by making the audience sympathetic to the werewolves plight. Director Mora shows us, the normal humans, to be the ones who have a problem accepting change or differences in society. And while it might not be as socially significant as it might like to think it is, there are enough elements to separate it from the tosh of lesser-respected werewolf features.
It also manages to include an element of change to the werewolf mythos, by making the beasts different of the Australian variety (why they never followed this up with “Howling: The Dingo’s” is beyond me). It does also contain a few tongue-in-cheek nods to Joe Dante’s original The Howling. Specifically the end sequence where Jerboa changes into a werewolf live on TV. This time it is the use of strobe lighting that causes the change.
Ok, admittedly The Howling III is a bloody stupid film, full of bloody stupid ideas mixed with lashings of bloody weird moments. But the thing is; you will end up liking all of these weird and stupid moments, as without them, The Howling III would be just plain boring. It’s a shame it hasn’t garnered the cult it genuinely deserves.
Have you ever wanted to see aforementioned werewolf nuns? Of course you have! It will give them to you in spades. Ever wondered why Dame Edna is never in more films? It will present that answer to you. And have you ever been curious what a strange mix of Cronenberg body horror and Evil Dead slapstick produces? Well the answer is The Howling III: The Marsupials, and it delivers on this writer’s cult wants and needs. If you’re the same way inclined it might just do it for you too…