I’m fascinated by the concept of “shape-shifters” in fiction and in nature. Any organism that has more than one form, goes through a metamorphosis, or can assume any form is always a pleasure to behold and study. Insects were my first introduction to this concept. Crab spiders can alter their color depending on the type of flower they’re on. A lot of exotic species of praying mantis’ blend in perfectly with their surroundings because they’ve got body parts shaped like flower petals. And chameleon lizards are notorious for being able to alter the color scheme of their bodies. In movies the first shape-shifter to grab my attention was werewolves and that happened when I first saw Werewolf Of London (1935) as a kid and learned of this lore of a person bitten by one is doomed to transform into one every full moon.
Of course werewolves became infinitely more terrifying and interesting when The Howling and An American Werewolf In London both came on the scene in 1981 and I’m still waiting for someone to either equal or surpass these two movies. Until that day comes there have been some pretty good entries since then, Ginger Snaps, The Wolfman remake, Dog Soldiers, and Project Metalbeast come quickly to mind. This year we’ve only had two other noteworthy werewolf movies and that was Late Phases and the action comedy Wolfcop. Where does Blood Moon fit in? I thought it was good, but not a keeper.
Not often to we get a western werewolf movie so that in and of itself makes Blood Moon noteworthy. The beast that’s the central supernatural menace isn’t even referred to as a werewolf. Back in these parts and these parts being Colorado 1887 it was the lore of the skinwalker you’d most likely have heard during your travels. Navajo warriors who have been banished from their tribe for learning the forbidden art of shape-shifting, or so Indian girl, Black Deer (Eleanor Matsuura), explains to Wade (Jack Fox), Sheriff of Lassiter. She goes on to tell him skinwalkers are at their strongest under a “blood moon” and a blood moon is happening now. But what the hell does this have to do with anything? Well, just that day outlaws Hank (Corey Johnson) and Jeb Norton (Raffaello Degruttola) robbed the town’s bank and iced a fellow and Wade needs to track them down. He needs Black Deer’s help with that but the blood moon is making her skittish.
In another part of the movie we’re introduced to Calhoun (Shaun Dooley) our enigmatic hero , who may or may not be the ex-preacher who sold his soul to the Devil to make him the fastest draw around so he could avenge his murdered family. Along the way he hitches a ride on a stage coach after he had to put his horse down and ends up meeting Deputy Marshall Jake Norman (George Blagden), who’s related to Wade, but is on his honeymoon with wife Sarah (Amber Jean Rowan), Marie Cooper (Anna Skellern), a saloon owner, Londoner Henry Lester (George Webster), a reporter from the UK doing an article on the west and a Father Domonic (Kerry Shale).
The coach is heading to Denver, with a brief “layover” in Pine Flats to get fresh horses and its in Pine Flats where all these characters (except for Father Domonic, he’s shot dead) are forced to hole up in this hotel and defend themselves against this marauding skinwalker. To make things even more dicey, the Norton brothers just so happened to flee here too and for a while they’re the main bad guys, tying every one up, threatening rape and death, before the skinwalker takes over and starts offing characters right and left.
I will say the western part of this werewolf western is expertly re-created and populated and makes for a damn good tale. It was filmed solely in the UK and at times you can hear a British accent or two creep through but for the most part everyone is believable as their character and the locations are too. It’s the werewolf part that keeps it from being a great movie and a keeper. It’s clear most of the money was spent to give us a plausible old west, but not enough was thrown at the werewolf. It looks good in some shots but in others where the camera hangs on to give you a real good look it’s far too static. A slight snarl is all you get in one shot to break up the low-budget effect. It doesn’t ruin the movie by any means, for I was glued to it right to the end, it’s just too low-budget to keep the movie from being all that it could have been.
On September 1st Uncork’d Entertainment releases it on DVD-R only here in the states.
UPDATE (10/20/15): Available right now for $9.88 is a different version. This one comes through eOne/Phase 4 Films and can only be found in Walmart. However it’s not listed on their site or is it even available on Amazon, but I’m sure all that will change in the next several months. Right now it feels like a Walmart Exclusive, and you wouldn’t know it exists unless you saw it on the shelf in the store. The eOne version has different cover art, isn’t a DVD-R, like Uncork’d’s, and to me the transfer even looked a little better. Don’t worry all the extras from the DVD-R have been ported over.
The “gunslinger variant” is the eOne/Phase 4 Films DVD and the “claw variant” is the Uncork’d DVD-R. The DVD comes with a slipcover, no clue if the DVD-R one does since I only reviewed a screener.
As of this update this flick has now won me over and I give it my full DVD News Flash Seal Of Approval!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 2.35:1 anamophic widescreen—2.0 English Dolby Digital/5.1 English Dolby Digital—English subs only
- Audio Commentary With Director Jeremy Wooding, Scriptwriter Alan Wightman and Actor Shaun Dooley
- Creature Feature (6:38)
- From Kent To Colorado (7:52)
- The Crew Speaks (4:21)
- SFX & VFX (7:20)
- Stage Coach (5:12)
- Mud Moon (4:28)
- The Gore (4:21)
Extra features do make a difference for me if I’m dealing with a movie like this that’s good but not a keeper or one I just didn’t like at all upon initial viewing. The featurettes and the insights into what it took to get this flick made did indeed make me like it a little bit more. I’ll make a mental note to revisit it in a year or two and see if I can get into my collection.
In the first featurette we do learn the character of Calhoun is a creature hunter and that director Jeremy Wooding plans to follow this up with a sequel, one he hopes will have a higher budget. Yes, this time I hope he gives whatever creature he plans on using a more organic vibe.