Color, 2007, 78 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Eric Red
Starring Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré, Mason Gamble
Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Warner Bros. (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Competing with the theatrical cut of Army of Darkness as the shortest studio horror film of the '90s, Bad Moon must count as a missed opportunity. A loose adaptation of Wayne Smith's novel, Thor, which narrated events from the title dog's point of view, this shaggy werewolf tale would seem a lot more unique if Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf (and its movie adaptation, Silver Bullet) hadn't already beat it to the punch. What we get instead is a slickly produced and fast paced little programmer, more interesting than your average slasher flick but a tougher sell beyond the die hard monster crowd.
In the surprisingly graphic prologue, Ted (Paré) finds his Nepalese expedition screeching to a halt when his camping tent tryst with a naked local is interrupted by a marauding werewolf. After the beast tears up his conquest for the evening, Ted blows its head off with a shotgun, but not without receiving a couple of nasty scratches in the process. Flash forward to the sylvan wilds of British Columbia, where Ted's sister, Janet (Hemingway), lives in a trailer with her son, Brett (Dennis the Menace himself, Mason Gamble), and their dog, Thor. Uncle Ted arrives for a visit and behaves very suspiciously. For one thing, he vanishes into the woods every night, only to return in the morning looking very haggard indeed. Also, some mysterious deaths in the area trigger suspicions that Ted may not be entirely on the level here. And, as Thor no doubt wonders, why does Ted keep handcuffing himself to a tree at night?
Though often clumsy in execution (the whole moon thing, for example, is never remotely explained in a logical manner), Bad Moon has some good points. The short running time keeps things going at a fast clip, the dog ("Primo") is actually a pretty engaging screen performer, and it's always fun to see a werewolf stomping through a house and ripping people to shreds. The effects range from pretty good (mostly the initial transformations) to painfully awkward, but at least the film moves fast enough to gloss over some of the goofy animatronic wolf head shots. Director Eric Red (Body Parts and The Hitcher) shows a keen eye for creating atmosphere out of visual basics like forests and confined rooms, while the elegant scope framing is well judged and gives the film a great visual veneer that compensates for the obvious budgetary limitations. Warner's budget-priced DVD does justice to the film's visual palette, with striking colors and excellent definition. The 5.1 audio mix is also better than anticipated, with some strong directional effects and some hefty ambient support for the score by horror regular Daniel Licht. The disc also includes a trailer for the film's extremely brief theatrical run, along with a grab bag of other trailers from Morgan Creek. However, a better option is the later Scream Factory Blu-ray, whcih presents the standard theatrical cut as well as a slightly extended director's cut with a substantially bloodier opening sequence, the latter option also featuring a new Red commentary. Red, Gamble and Paré also turn up for a new retrospective featurette, "Nature of the Beast," along with special effects make-up artist Steve Johnson And stunt coordinator Ken Kirzinger; Red and Paré also team up for a separate commentary on the theatrical cut. Also included are the trailer, another gruesome version of the opener from Red's workprint, and three storyboard sequences.