Review: Bad Moon (1996)
Director: Eric Red
Writers: Eric Red (Screenplay), Wayne Smith (Novel)
Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré, Mason Gamble, Primo (as Thor)
“Why only the full moon? Why not any moon!” – Uncle Ted
Ted (Michael Paré) is bitten by a werewolf on an expedition in the jungle and his girlfriend is torn to shreds. Fast forward some time later and Ted’s sister, Janet (Mariel Hemingway), invites him to stay with her and son, Brett (Mason Gamble) and their German shepherd Thor. Ted stays in his trailer and when it gets dark he goes for a run…and stays out all night. Thor becomes suspicious of Ted and, ultimately, very protective when he senses that his family might be in danger.
“Bad Moon” is a very smart werewolf flick and they are few and far between. Werewolf films have always been littered with tragic characters who have been doomed to a lowly and lonely existence and this one is no exception. Ted tries to restrain himself but, although never made crystal clear, seems to embrace to a point the wild beast he turns into and lets it loose with mass casualties involved. He tries to cure himself and as a last resort turns to hope that some kind of family love can make the difference.
The flick knows where it’s strengths lie and pushes forward with the family angle, the struggle between Ted and Thor for dominance and some very fine werewolf mayhem in pretty much record time; 79 minutes with credits. The always reliable Paré gives a good and composed performance as Ted and through much suggestive acting and facial expressions gives him depth and dimension. He’s one of those actors you feel should have enjoyed more success in movies. Mariel Hemingway is quite good as his sister as well.
Eric Red (writer of “The Hitcher”) has a good feel for pace and moves the film along nicely without it feeling too rushed. This isn’t a very layered story but it’s central premise is quite strong and the film has a few very decent set pieces that deliver everything a horror fan could want. In fact; the film shows so much of the werewolf that it becomes absolutely critical that the special effects and make up department step up their game. And they do! The creature looks positively gorgeous and the practical effects are top notch while the CGI is severely lacking but thankfully there’s little of it.
Then there’s the dog! Three were used throughout shooting and the performance is what ultimately seals “Bad Moon” as a success. Paré and Primo (and two others in smaller doses) actually pull off a decent clash of wills and the showdown between German shepherd and werewolf makes for a thrilling conclusion to what is mostly a first rate horror movie.
The werewolf mythology was basically created in Universal’s “The Wolf Man” (1941) and continued with the rules established there throughout the years and in a few Hammer horrors in the 60’s and 70’s; the rules being that the man turns on a full moon, silver bullets will kill it etc. The 80’s brought the werewolf back in style with at least three bona fide classics (“The Howling”, “An American Werewolf in London” and “Silver Bullet”) but the 90’s didn’t have a lot of them in multiplexes. “Bad Moon” basically came and went without much fanfare but has gradually built up a reputation over the years and deservedly so. It plays loose with the mythology (no full moon required and regular bullets will do just fine) but it’s a tight film with great effects, a great looking creature (the best I’ve seen), good acting, good cinematography and a polished look and it’s nicely atmospheric.
The film is available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory under it’s subsidiary division called Scream Factory. It looks and sounds just fine in 1080P and it’s got a few very decent extras; among them a commentary by the director and a Making of doc featuring interviews with Red, Paré, Gamble, special effects artist Steve Johnson and stunt co-ordinator Ken Kirzinger (who played Jason Vorhees in “Jason X”). It’s well worth a look and features some good stories behind the scenes.
Why physical copy?
I always encourage the acquisition of physical copies as I dread the day when films will only exist as files on computers and through streaming services. The companies that put the effort into making the discs, create new artwork or reproduce the originals, issue booklets and much more deserve all the financial support they can. Therefore I will always mention the Blu-rays or DVD’s (and yes; also if I review something streamed through Netflix or the like) even though I gain nothing from it personally.