Bad Moon Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Eric Red
1996, 79 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on July 19th, 2016
Mariel Hemingway as Janet
Michael Paré as Ted
Mason Gamble as Brett
Ken Pogue as Sheriff Jenson
Hrothgar Mathews as Flopsy
Johanna Marlowe Lebovitz as Marjorie
Gavin Buhr as Forest Ranger
Ted’s photo assignment in Southeast Asia was going great until that night a werewolf invaded camp and interrupted his steamy sex with his fine assistant, Marjorie. As the sole survivor, Ted decides it’s best to pack up and head back to the Pacific Northwest to visit his sister Janet and her young son, Brett. She’s a strong single mother looking out for her family and is eager to reconnect with her brother. Ted is wary of dragging them into this mess, but he really has no other option, as he is painfully lonely and afraid of certain changes he is experiencing. Not everyone is happy to see Uncle Ted, however, as the family dog suspects something is not right. Ted spends a lot of time avoiding the perceptive canine and trying to blend in, but the full moon is on the rise and it looks like these two are going to be butting heads over family values.
Writer-director Eric Red (Body Parts) adapts Wayne Smith’s novel Thorn into the family drama werewolf flick Bad Moon with mixed results, the problem being that “family-drama-werewolf-flick” is not really a thing. What starts out promising enough with an over-the-top bloodbath in Borneo quickly hits the brakes to make room for bonding and watching a boy play fetch with his dog. There are a few bonus kills that turn up at the right moments to keep viewers’ attention, but the other stumbling block is the lack of chemistry between the cast members. Red knows the werewolf is the star of the film and does his best to make the dialogue scenes more than just filler, but the human element is lacking and can only be polished so much.
Michael Paré (Village of the Damned) and Mariel Hemingway (Star 80) star as Ted and Janet, two of the least compatible siblings I have ever witnessed in cinema. I know Ted has been away on assignment, but their reunion looks more like a chance meeting of strangers not relatives. Paré broods his way through much of the material and spends an uncomfortable amount of time in a staring contest with a dog. Hemmingway is more concerned with appearing tough and looks woefully out of place when asked to be vulnerable. Eric Red takes many shots at her acting abilities throughout the supplements on this disc, but while she may or may not be a “limited actress collecting a paycheck,” the blame ultimately lands on the director for not coaxing a stronger performance. Mason Gamble (Arlington Road) does a fine job as young Brett, but is never really placed in any physical danger and is forced to win viewers over with his charm. The majority of screen time goes to Thor the dog, and as canines go, he matches his human counterparts.
The werewolf is obviously the reason to check out Bad Moon, and it really is a nice looking creation courtesy of effects legend Steve Johnson (Night of the Demons). The timing of this production coincided with audiences’ fascination with the CGI morphing of two images together as popularized in films like Terminator 2 or Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” music video. Rather than use this new technology to augment Johnson’s work, the decision was made to present the entire transformation centerpiece via digital effects and the results are unfortunately laughable. Whenever the creature is allowed to kill, the movie really comes to life, but there is so much filler that it is hard to believe the entire thing is only 75 minutes long before closing credits. Ginger Snaps, Dog Soldiers, The Howling and An American Werewolf in London are all better bets than this flick, but if you love lycanthropes enough to have read this review to the end, I can recommend you check it out.
Video and Audio:
I was pleasantly surprised by how impressive Bad Moon looks, not having seen it in several years. The previously-released DVD was acceptable if for no other reason than it restored the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio that was missing from the VHS. The film really comes to life in HD, as the Blu-ray reveals a lot of detail in once-murky night sequences and comes into its own during the daylight hours. There are some nice contrast levels and solid blacks while colors and flesh tones are rich and natural throughout.
The disc offers a DTS-HD MA 5.1 as well as a 2.0 mix, with the former the clear winner in terms of activity. Many of the action scenes take place in a wooded environment and the rear channels get a workout whenever the werewolf is doing his thing.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
There are two versions of the film included on this release, the theatrical cut and a “Director’s Cut,” with the latter being more of a “Director’s Edit” in that the only difference is the clumsy removal of the embarrassing CGI transformation show-stopper. The scene is simply yanked without any attempt to bridge the music or sound effects. The result is jarring and the running time is now thirty seconds shorter than the theatrical cut. This deletion is the only fix despite several edits made before release to avoid an NC-17 rating.
Each version of the film receives its own audio commentary with the Director’s Cut featuring a solo performance from Eric Red. The information is welcome and revealing, but all of his comments are obviously being read from a previously written document, making for a less than engaging session.
The second commentary that appears over the original theatrical cut of the film pairs Red with Michael Paré and the two have a lot to say about the production and the way the studio treated the picture. An abrasive moderator over a shoddy phone connection swears a lot and eggs the men on in a less than professional manner, resulting in some of the more colorful exchanges in the discussion.
The material cut from the release version to obtain an R rating consists of a stronger opening sequence of nudity and violence showing our hero cock-blocked by a werewolf. The Unrated Opening Scene (6 minutes) appears courtesy of a low-quality workprint and fans of Johanna Lebovitz will find this a welcome addition to the disc.
Working with kids, animals and special effects seldom make for an easy filming experience and Bad Moon is no exception. Twenty years later, members of the cast and crew, including Michael Paré, Mason Gamble, Eric Red, make-up artist Steve Johnson and stuntman/ werewolf performer Ken Kirzinger sit down to share their memories of the making this picture in the well-crafted featurette Nature of the Beast (35 minutes). There are more than a few choice moments found within, particularly from Red and Johnson, who do not sugarcoat their feelings.
A trio of storyboard galleries shows the planning for The Transformation Sequence (6 minutes), Thor/ Werewolf Fight (10 minutes) and Thor Stares Down Uncle Ted (4 minutes). The boards slowly scroll up the right side of the screen accompanied by music from the film.
The original trailer clocks in at just over one minute and barely leaves an impression, furthering the argument that the studio dropped the ball when marketing this film.