TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BAD MOON (1996)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

BAD MOON (1996)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1996 Werewolf flick is a sadly overlooked movie when folks talk about this particular horror sub-genre. It opens effectively in the jungles of Nepal where photo journalist Ted Harrison (Michael Paré) and his lover (Johanna Lebovitz) are attacked by a vicious bipedal wolf creature. Ted is bitten but survives and moves back to Seattle to be close to his single mom sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and her son Brett (Mason Gamble). This proves a mistake, as Ted now transforms into a wolf-like creature at night and the only thing standing between the lycanthrope and his sister and nephew is the loyal family german shepherd, Thor (Primo).

Film is written and very well directed by Eric Red (writer of Near Dark) from the book Thor by Wayne Smith. Bad Moon is a very tense and effective thriller that sets up an interesting situation as dog Thor is the only member of the family to first know Ted is a werewolf, but is mistakingly blamed by authorities for his actions. While there are victims of Ted’s wrath/hunger, such as an obnoxious con-man (Hrothgar Mathews) that hassled Janet earlier, the film focuses on the growing tension and suspicions between Ted, Janet, Brett and, of course, Thor. The werewolf attacks are surprisingly vicious and Bad Moon has some very effective and abundant gore. Not only are Ted’s attacks quite gruesome, as is the vicious opening sequence, but his climactic battle with Thor is quite bloody…and that is no spoiler, as the whole film is setting up this fur-flying confrontation. The only drawback with the make-up FX is Ted’s fanged alter ego is shown quite a bit and in full view and the suit is somewhat rubbery. Also, it is obviously a stuffed and fake stand-in for Thor during some of the battle moments. It takes away a bit from the illusion of reality, but not enough to hurt this intense and effective chiller all that much. It’s got a brisk pace, at a trim 80 minutes, and by opening the film with a bloody attack right off the bat, it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The characters are likable, including Ted at first and this helps the audience to care about them and thus the proceedings. Shame this flick never caught on in it’s initial release.

The small cast are very good and help make this more intimately staged werewolf flick work all the more better. Michael Paré is effective as Ted in that he is both tragic and a bit villainous. He is both aware of his transformation and tries to protect others against it, while not above letting Thor take the blame for his killings. Paré shows he had star potential. Mariel Hemingway is good as Janet. A lawyer by profession, she’s tough and smart and very protective of her son, even if it means seeing their loyal…and wrongfully accused…dog separated from her family. Young Mason Gamble is very effective, with his Brett being a bit of a tough kid and not one to scare easily. He has good chemistry with movie mom Hemingway and an interesting dynamic with his uncle, as he begins to suspect something is up with Paré’s Ted. As for Thor, four legged actor Primo does a wonderful job creating a character with barks instead of dialogue. The animal is very expressive and is a strong hero, playing basically the character no one believes when evil is afoot. Makes this film work and work well.

Overall, this film sadly underperformed in 1996 when released and it is a shame. It’s not perfect, but is a tense and gory little movie with a solid cast, especially it’s canine star. The film adds an interesting dynamic by giving it’s werewolf a four legged thorn in it’s side and adds an interesting element as the family dog takes the fall for werewolf activity. It builds to a violent and effective confrontation and doesn’t spare the the blood spurting and savaged limbs, despite a family element to it’s story. Not a great movie, but one that should be included when talking about the werewolf sub-genre in general. If you haven’t seen it, Bad Moon is streaming free on Tubi and available from the great folks at Scream Factory on blu-ray.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) full moons.

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HOWL (2015)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

howl

bars

HOWL (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Okay British horror has a young train guard (Ed Speleers) presiding over a late night passenger train heading out of London on a stormy night. While traveling through some dense woodland, a minor accident strands the train and it’s small group of passengers and crew, in the middle of nowhere. Being stuck in the woods is the least of their problems, as they soon find themselves stalked by some kind of vicious and hungry predator, one only heard of in fairy tales…and horror movies.

Despite the simple premise, this werewolf flick has four writers attached, including Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday, Game Of Thrones). But, it’s veteran special make-up effects man turned director, Paul Hyett that lets us down somewhat, as he fails to give the film any real intensity or suspense. The film does have some atmosphere, but with a savage beast lurking just outside the train cars, you’d think we’d be feeling a lot more dread or tension. The film is directed very by-the-numbers and is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. The cast of stereotypical characters are all very bland, too, so we never really get endeared to anyone and our strongest reaction is to the wolves themselves and in hating selfish douchebag, Adrian (Eliot Cowan), who is the standard ‘sacrifice others to save himself’ character. Not to mention commonsense things like, don’t they keep track of their trains in England and so, therefor, why doesn’t anyone at HQ notice one of it’s trains has stopped in the middle of nowhere. The good points are that the werewolves are not only interestingly designed but well-rendered and look pretty cool onscreen. They make an impression and Hyett does give their attack sequences some ferociousness and there is plentiful, top-notch gore to represent their carnage. It’s a shame Hyett couldn’t keep the intensity going as the werewolf scenes succeed in what they set out to, but then the film settles back down into it’s less impressive motions until the next one, or till the moderately involving but predictable climax. There is some moody cinematography by Adam Biddle and an appropriate score by Paul E. Francis, but it doesn’t elevate this film above the mediocre flick it is.

In conclusion, the movie wasn’t terrible, just not nearly as involving as it should have been considering the setting of isolation and what’s lurking about. The werewolf scenes worked very well and had a viciousness to them, yet the scenes in-between were flat and concerned un-involving, common stereotype characters. The make-up and gore effects were top notch and the scenario itself was suitable for a fright flick had director Paul Hyett been better at managing the scares and intensity. Worth a look if you like werewolf flicks, but don’t expect another Dog Soldiers or Late Phases. Also stars Shauna Macdonald from The Descent and Sean Pertwee from Doomsday and ironically, the far superior Dog Soldiers.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 full moons.
howl rating

 

 

 

 

bars

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WER (2013)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

Wer

bars

WER (2013)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Wer is a fascinating and sometimes gruesomely intense twist on the werewolf film from The Devil Inside’s William Brent Bell. The film takes place in France where a vacationing American family is savagely attacked by what appears to be a large animal. The sole survivor (Stephanie Lemelin), though, describes a very large hairy man as the culprit. Police quickly arrest local resident Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Connor) as the suspect. Gwynek suffers from Porphyria, a rare disease that can cause excessive body hair and other symptoms which are believed to have inspired the legends of werewolves and vampires. Enter human rights lawyer Katherine Moore (A.J.Cook) who plans to prove that Talan is just being used as a scapegoat. As her team (Vik Sahay and Simon Quaterman) investigates the case, they not only find a conspiracy to want to see Talan convicted, but a more shocking possibility there may be some truth to the ancient legends after all.

I really enjoyed this movie. Not only does director and co-writer…along with Matthew Peterman…William Brent Bell deliver a really fresh take on the traditional werewolf movie, but a suspenseful thriller and a gruesomely bloody horror film, too. The script is smart and keeps us guessing till the reveal about halfway through and then turns up the gruesome action once the film switches gears and becomes a more traditional monster movie…though one we aren’t really expecting. The use of the rare Porphyria as it’s focus and the implication that it has effects we are not aware of, is very cleverly handled and helps make this tale of lycanthropy more unique. There are also some really intense action sequences with some delightfully gruesome gore to satisfy the need for some more traditional elements. The film only stumbles just slightly when another character contracts the disease from a bite and there is an over-the-top battle royal between the two infected. It’s fun, but seems just a little out of place when compared to the rest of the film…on the other hand, who doesn’t like a good monster fight! Overall, though, the flick combines the horror and crime investigation elements nicely with a touch of conspiracy thriller thrown in. On a production level, the gore FX are good for the most part, though there is a lot of CGI which doesn’t look completely convincing and there are some really effective FX to illustrate the infected’s strengths and abilities.

The cast are all convincing. A.J. Cook is sexy and strong as Katherine. She truly believes in Talan’s innocence and when things start to spiral out of control, she conveys the woman’s shock and regret very well. O’Connor gives his Talan a humble sadness that makes you want to believe his innocence and also cuts an imposing figure that makes you have doubts. Vik Sahay is good as the cocky and arrogant Eric, as is Quaterman as animal specialist and Katherine’s former flame, Gavin. Rounding out is Sebastian Roché as Klaus Pistor, a hard nosed cop who may have ulterior motives to believe Gwynek’s guilt.

Wer is a really inventive and very intense horror flick. It breathes some new life into the time honored werewolf sub-genre and was well-directed from a cleverly written script. It’s got a pace that moves quickly, but not too fast and keeps us guessing till it’s ready to spatter the screen with some impressively bloody action. A really enjoyable flick that gets far too little attention than it deserves.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 full moons.

wer rating

bars