As a monster the werewolf is never going to win over its more glamorous cousin the vampire, in popularity and sheer volume the vampire movie has the werewolf beat fangs down, but I will always have a soft spot for the werewolf, you’ll never see them sparkling or brooding over schoolgirls. As a result I’m always a bit thrilled when I’m able to catch a werewolf movie I’ve never seen before, but unfortunately most of the ones I’ve not seen are also not very good, case in point Bad Moon by director Eric Red.
Bad Moon is based on the book Thor by Wayne Smith, but the movie really has little to do with the source material. I can understand not going with the book’s original title, the dog is named Thor, as it could confuse people into thinking the film is about either a Norse god or a Marvel superhero, but aside from it being about a visiting uncle who turns out to be a werewolf there isn’t much else in common with the book. The biggest difference is that the book is told from the point of view of the dog and unless the filmmakers were to go with goofy ass narration from the dog this probably wouldn’t have worked, but sadly ditching that premise also removes what made the book unique and so good. In the book Thor considers himself a member of the family pack, with the human mom and dad being the alphas while the two children are below him in the pecking order, and when Thor senses the evil within a visiting uncle he is confused as to how to protect his pack from this strange new threat. Aside from Thor being a German Sheppard, and a werewolf/uncle visiting his family, there isn’t much from the book that makes it to the screen. For one thing the family dynamic is gone as now it’s just a single mom and her son in danger, and the film seems confused as to whether we should be sympathetic to the creepy uncle turned werewolf or if were are supposed to want to shoot him in the face for being an evil bastard.
We are first introduced to the werewolf as we see photo-journalists Ted Harrison (Michael Paré) and his girlfriend Marjorie (Johanna Marlowe) making camp in the wilds of Nepal, the two head for their tent for a somewhat passionate lovemaking session, ignoring the Nepalese guides who can awkwardly hear everything, but then again sound must work differently in Nepal because when a werewolf attacks and kills one of the guides the two American idiots in the tent hear nothing. Sure having sex kind of focuses your attention but the blood curdling screams outside your tent should at least register a little, but eventually Ted notices a horrific shadow on the side of the tent and realizes the danger their in. This is a little too late as the werewolf then shreds the tent open and proceeds to then shred Marjorie as well.
Ted is savagely clawed by the werewolf (he’s never bitten so this version of lycanthropy diverges wildly from popular mythology even though later he claims that it’s a bite that causes the change), but he’s able to reach his shotgun and he blows the werewolf’s head clean off. Like in An American Werewolf in London silver is not required kill a werewolf, but then the film starts getting dodgy with the full moon rules. Later in the film visiting Uncle Ted is sitting on the couch with his nephew Brett (Mason Gamble) as they watch the 1935 classic Werewolf of London, Ted laughs at the idea of a full moon being needed to trigger the transformation stating that, “Maybe there’s different kinds of werewolves but it’s my experience any moon will do the trick.” If we let slide the whole “my experience” bit, a thing that the mom (Mariel Hemingway) doesn’t catch as a red flag that her brother may be a tad nuts, this film constantly shows us that it’s a full moon, in fact this world apparently has full moons that last for days and days, so what the hell is he talking about?
Note: The film Werewolf of London doesn’t even have a werewolf that is triggered by the full moon, which makes Ted’s ridiculing of this trope even dumber.
It’s fun when a film can play with the tropes of a genre, and making up your own rules to popular monster mythology is more than welcome, but you at least have to remain consistent with those rules. We see Ted running off into the woods at dusk to chain himself to a tree, but because he was delayed by having a starring contest with the dog he is too late, and he transforms into the werewolf before properly securing himself. Yet at another time we see Ted heading into the woods when the sun has pretty much already set, which means he should already be sprouting hair and trying to eat his sister.
Inconsistent lycanthropy isn’t the only magical thing in this movie, there’s also Ted’s incredible teleporting trailer. Brett and his mom drive out to Timberline Lake to visit Ted at his trailer, where Brett finds a book on werewolves that looks as if it was borrowed from Rupert Giles, but stranger than that is the question, “How did this trailer get here?”
When Brett’s mom invites Ted to visit, telling him he can park his trailer in the backyard, we once again ask, “Just how is he going to get it there?” At no point in this movie do we see Ted with a vehicle.
Then during a live news broadcast from Timberline Lake, which tips off the mom that something dangerous is going on when the reporter mentions five hikers savagely being killed, but even more startling is that Ted’s trailer is clearly parked at the crime scene behind the reporter, despite the fact that’s supposedly still parked in her backyard.
The actual werewolf design in this movie is decent, but when we finally get to see the transformation they went with a mixture of the pumping air bladders from The Howling and the early morphing technology from Michael Jackson’s video Black or White video. To say the end result was less than convincing is being generous. What also failed to work in this movie are the performances; Michael Paré goes from tortured sobbing to moustache twirling villainy and it’s ludicrously goofy, and then you have Mariel Hemingway’s comatose delivery of almost every line which raises such questions as, “How did she ever have a career, and was Superman IV: The Quest For Peace actually her best work?”
Hemingway is certainly not helped by the script which in one moment tries to show us how she is a sharp lawyer able to see through a traveling conman’s scam but then later, when she is snooping around Ted’s trailer, she finds gruesome photos of his dead girlfriend and a diary chronically his horrible battle with this strange disease that causes blackouts and that he hopes where medicine fails the love of family will cure, and this barely seems to raise a red flag with her. And Ted seriously hopes to cure lycanthropy with love? Clearly stupidity runs in this family, but this scene raises a few more questions…
• Where did that photo of the dead girlfriend come from? Did photo-journalists Ted take it, if so he is one sick bastard, but if not is he just carrying around a crime scene photo of his murdered girlfriend? Either answer leads us to believe Ted is very messed up.
• Later the mom straight up asks him, “Where is Marjorie?” and he tells her that she’s in Seattle. So she now knows he is purposely concealing the fact that is girlfriend was brutally murdered, and yet she doesn’t confront him about it or at least ask him to get the fuck out of her house.
• The journal she found mentions that her brother is blacking out and waking up covered in blood that is not his own. I don’t care if the local police told her that the five dead hikers were killed by an animal, they died in the vicinity of a man whose girlfriend was savagely killed, and Ted apparently wakes up covered in other people’s blood. That’s enough reason to ask anybody to, “Get the fuck out!”
Of course the mom isn’t the hero of the film, that would be the dog, but because the dog has been super suspicious of Ted all along the asshole uncle provokes the dog into biting him so that the mom is force to call animal control, and then Brett will have to sneak out at night to rescue his best friend while his idiot mom investigates the woods alone and unarmed. The Darwin Awards were invented for people exactly like her.
Bad Moon does have some really fun werewolf moments, the gore alone will keep most fans of the genre happy, but the fact that we have less empathy for Brett and his mom than we do for any of the Friday the 13th dead teenagers does not help. Director/screenwriter Eric Red took a fun and original werewolf story, turned it into a standard monster film and then populated it with fairly uninteresting characters. This is a movie I can only recommend to die hard werewolf fans. If you want to watch a werewolf movie that is so bad its good check out Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, it’s vastly more entertaining.