Daily Archives: April 21, 2017

Bad Moon (1996)

*. There’s a basic problem that horror films dealing with classic movie monsters have to deal with. How long do you want to wait before the protagonists figure out what it is they’re up against?
*. This is a problem because the audience, in almost every case, knows what’s going on right from the beginning. They already know this is a vampire/werewolf/zombie movie. So part of the fun is seeing how long it takes the hero to cotton on to what’s happening.
*. But you don’t want to stretch it out too long. After a while an audience will get exasperated, and start muttering at the screen “Damn it, Janet. Your brother is a werewolf. That’s his problem!” Better to err in the other direction, as in the movie Late Phases where Ambrose knows just from hearing some growls and screams next door that he’s up against a lycanthrope. Off to the gun store to buy some silver bullets! And Ambrose is blind!
*. This basic problem is front and center in Bad Moon because the audience, and the family’s dog, Thor, already know that Uncle Ted (Michael Paré) is a werewolf. So it’s frustrating that Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and her son Brett (Mason Gamble) take so long to figure it out. It’s not as though there weren’t enough clues, including Thor’s animosity toward Ted. And while I know in the real world a werewolf probably wouldn’t be everyone’s first guess as to what’s going on, this is a werewolf movie!
*. It’s interesting though that Thor doesn’t pick up on Uncle Ted being a werewolf right away. He initially jumps into his arms and doesn’t give any indication of having suspicions. It’s only after a bit of detective work in the woods that he pieces things together.
*. Sticking with this same line of thought, it’s kind of disappointing that the reveal comes by way of Janet discovering Ted’s werewolf diary, which is read in a voiceover. That’s pretty cheesy, even for fare such as this. But then even that doesn’t convince her as to what’s going on, and she blames Thor for the killings! By this point I imagine a lot of people were throwing things at the screen. “You should have listened to the dog, Janet.” Damn it.
*. Nothing says you’re a heel quite as well as rolling a toothpick in your mouth, does it? It’s a conventional bit of film shorthand, which makes you wonder what people who do it in real life are thinking. I guess it’s just a bad-ass image they’re trying to project.
*. That’s quite a jump Brett (or his double) does off the roof of the house when he’s escaping the house at night. As I mentioned in my notes on Bullitt, it’s unglamorous stunts like this that impress me the most.
*. Hm. So Ted thinks that by “spending time with his family” his lycanthropy might go into remission. Well, I guess if all else has failed . . .
*. The werewolf? Looks pretty good. The transformation scene, however, is weak. Lame early CGI.
*. The novel this was based on, Wayne Smith’s Thor, was apparently told mainly from the dog’s point of view. Obviously this wasn’t going to work for a movie, though they try and do a bit in that way with the doggy POV shots. Unfortunately, that still left them with a situation where the most interesting and compelling character is the dog. It’s a small cast, and the three leads are pretty much just types: the boy, his mom (who is just defending her boy, same as Thor), and the cursed uncle.
*. The centrality of the dog, however, is really the movie’s only claim to our attention. Aside from that, this is a very conventional werewolf movie, obvious in almost every respect. There’s the bit where they introduce the book on lycanthropy with all the old woodcuts of werewolves (though this plays no part in the story at all), there’s the jump scare that turns out to be a nightmare that Janet wakes up from, there’s the caricature asshole of Flopsy who we know is going to be werewolf fodder right from the moment of his introduction.
*. Then there is the matter of tone. I think they never settled on this. It seems as though it should be a sort of YA horror-comedy along the lines of Fright Night or Silver Bullet, but there’s nothing funny going on and the sex at the beginning feels out of place. What we’re left with is a simple werewolf vs. dog story that plays out very predictably. It might have worked as a TV-movie, but bombed on the big screen. It’s a good marker of the doldrums the werewolf genre had hit in the ’90s. Something was going to have to change for this classic monster to stage a comeback.

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