Color, 1989, 120 mins. 17 secs.
Directed by Agustí Villaronga
Starring Maribel Martín, Lisa Gerrard, Enrique Saldana, Lucia Bosé, David Sust
Cult Epics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
After shocking even the hardiest moviegoers with his deeply impressive and disturbing debut feature, In a Glass Cage, director Agustí Villaronga shifting gears dramatically for his follow-up, El niño de la luna or Moon Child. Here he moves more into terrain akin to David Lynch by way of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Richard Stanley as we open with a hallucinatory vision of an elderly woman telling a young boy, David (Saldana), that he has the ability to use the power of the moon.
From there the story proper follows David on a mysterious, mystical journey some time after World War I as he's adopted by the strange Victoria (The Blood Spattered Bride's Martin), a black glove-wearing scientist who works at a shady institution studying "powerful minds" under the control of a forbidding directress (The Legend of Blood Castle's Bosé). The sprawling estate turns out to be a grueling clinic where he's told that any powers he has mustn't be kept only for himself, with numerous psychic tests (a la The Fury) putting him in competition with a motley crew of other children. David's lunar fixation leads him to uncovering some of the organization's secrets and striking up a rapport with the older Georgina (Gerrard of the cult band Dead Can Dance), whom he informs from one of his visions that she will be impregnated by mating with another boy there, Edgar (Sust), to become the mother of a "moon child." One night David observes that ritual coming to pass with Georgina confined beneath the full moon, which leads to a rapidly developing pregnancy. David, Georgina, and Edgar develop an elaborate scheme to escape, but the organization pursues them through a picaresque string of adventures into Africa where two of the escapees will meet their destiny.
Apart from the nudity-filled mating sequence (Gerrard in particular is pretty bold), this could easily play like a peculiar family adventure film about a kid on the run from the powers that be. As usual Villaronga injects it with a unique visual style filled with icy gray, blue and beige tones, which nicely mirrors the whole moon theme of the story. It's a little disorienting seeing both Sust and Günter Meisner returning here after their leading roles in In a Glass Cage, though they play very different roles here and take a back seat to Saldana (not the world's greatest child actor, but he manages to get the idea across) and Gerrard. Surprisingly, Villaronga also got Dead Can Dance to compose the score for the film, a blend of ambient electronics and African instruments that serves as an interesting footnote to their album recorded the previous year, The Serpent's Egg.
For some reason Moon Child has been extremely difficult to see over the years, with a very brief VHS release in America haunting the shelves of more adventurous video stories in the early '90s before it dropped out of sight entirely. The dual-format Blu-ray and DVD set from Cult Epics is a very welcome revival for this title, which marks their second release after In a Glass Cage. (Hint hint: 99.9 and El Mar would be great ones to do next!) The packaging doesn't specify what the source was for the transfer but it looks quite beautiful with fine film grain in evidence and nicely rendered night scenes that are far more pleasurable to watch than the murky tape edition. Be warned that the opening montage was evidently edited on standard definition video and given an intentionally distressed look, so don't panic; the film proper looks just fine once that passes. The film can be played with DTS-HD MA stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish options with English subtitles; the standard stereo mix will likely be most viewer's preference as it sounds more robust and represents the original theatrical mix of the film, but try both and compare. The main extra here is a new interview with Villaronga (14m59s), who speaks in English about the influence of Aleister Crowley's book of the same name, science fiction and psychic phenomena, the involvement of Dead Can Dance, and his plans for the future after his latest film. He also has the most adorable way of saying "retired." The theatrical is included along with one for In a Glass Cage, plus a lobby card gallery and a "Score by Dead Can Dance" option that compiles all of the music from the film into one handy 52m35s reel. Since the original tapes were lost by the producers years ago (after they decided a soundtrack album wasn't necessary!), the music is pulled from the film itself complete with dialogue and sound effects. Apparently that's as good as it'll get, but hearing the music in one place is also a testament to the crucial role it plays in the film.
Reviewed on April 24, 2018.