I always forget about this movie when I’m discussing werewolf movies and/or making a list of them for a review, and I know why too. I never particular cared for it when I first saw it. The story I mean. Every year we seem to get a least one new werewolf movie and I believe I have Bad Moon mentioned in one or two reviews, but only recalling it in an abstract way when I had to list a few werewolf films. I haven’t seen this movie since it hit cable back in the late 90s, and I’m glad I had a chance to revisit it with Scream Factory’s spiffy new blu-ray release, because now I can finally put it in some kind of perspective. That’s right, people, since this is a werewolf review it’s time again to mention The Howling (1981) and An American Werewolf In London (1981), the two greatest werewolf movies ever to grace a cinema screen.
I’m still not all that enamored with Bad Moon’s story, but what makes it repeatedly watchable now is the cinematography, the acting, the actors, the gore and (drum roll please) that cool ass werewolf design by Steve Johnson!
Fangoria covered the movie in issue #158 and it was the first Fang I read after I got out of the hospital (2 weeks laid up with a shattered kneecap and a fractured femur) after nearly dying in a head on car crash back in October of 1996, a week before Halloween. It’s a no-brainer why the werewolf made cover boy and my first reaction was—“Wow!” Weighing this against Landis’ and Dante’s movies I would put Bad Moon on the list as the third best werewolf movie ever made, and to distill it down further to the two main reasons why, well, the werewolf obviously, and that gruesome prologue, which shocked me just as badly as when I first saw Jack Goodman killed on the moors during that fateful night when his buddy, David Kessler, was bitten and became the first American werewolf to run riot in downtown London.
Based on the novel Thor by Wayne Smith, director Eric Red decided to add a prologue to his movie version to show us how Ted (Michael Pare) became a werewolf. He and his girlfriend, Marjorie (Johanna Marlowe Lebovitz), were in Borneo vacationing in the jungle when out of the random goddamn blue an actual werewolf attacked them in their tent while they were having sex. Ripped right through it, pulled her off him, tore the side of her face off and savaged her viciously. Tore her arm off even, but that was never filmed explicitly. In an extra feature on the disc you can see the uncut prologue (it involved more sex, more nakedness from Lebovitz, and a tad more gore) and even there it was never filmed from the proper angle, but you’ll see the werewolf pull something away on the other side of her and geyser of blood come out. Freeze frame the scene a nanosecond before he smashes her to the ground (do this in the actual movie because this extra feature is sourced from a VHS tape and you can’t see it as clearly) and you can see some evidence of a missing arm. It was even mentioned by Red in that Fangoria issue that it tore her arm off. Ted tries to save her but is bitten and flung away like a ragdoll. All he can do is crawl to the shotgun nearby and blow it’s head off. I mean that literally, he blows the werewolf’s head right the fuck off!
Aside from being mildly traumatized from this scene thus making it one of the things I would always remember of the movie when it did happen to cross my mind, I liked that it was a tad “odd,” for lack of a better word. I mean they’re in a jungle and a werewolf attacks them. I don’t know about you but I don’t normally associate lycanthrope with jungle settings, but the way it was filmed and set-up made the whole notion of being savaged by a werewolf in the tropics an interesting angle to add to a movie. I also liked the fact that encounter is never explained, it just happened, a chick died and now this guy has to contend with being a monster now. My theory has always been that the werewolf feels incongruous to its surroundings because, maybe, he wasn’t a native. Maybe there was someone else vacationing in the jungle, or doing research, and Ted and Marjorie just had the rotten luck to be in his vicinity when he changed.
And speaking more about our monster this werewolf is bipedal, you get a good sense of how big he is when he’s shaking Marjorie around in his jaws. As with most of the best werewolf flicks Bad Moon changes up the rules. Here you don’t need a full moon to trigger a transformation. Any cycle of the moon will do, and you don’t need silver bullets to kill one. In the final act the werewolf takes a bullet from a revolver right in the back of the head and doesn’t die, so I’m guessing it depends on the quality of firepower you have at your disposal. A shotgun, as I’ve already mentioned, does the trick nicely, a handgun not so much, I guess, unless maybe it was an automatic or something. The head of the werewolf is a very convincing animatronic puppet that is convincing and detailed and in one scene, in a bedroom, under direct light, it kind of reminded me of one of Rob Bottin’s wolves from The Howling. I guess that makes sense since FX artist Steve Johnson states he worked on Howling and American Werewolf. I never knew that.
After Ted gets his life ruined in South America he ends up paying a visit to his sister, Janet (Mariel Hemmingway) and her son, Brett (Mason Gamble), up in the wilds of Canada. He lives out of in a trailer down by a local lake and has been there for three months before he even calls her and tells her he’s back home. During that time various hikers and people have gone missing and the ones found are in no condition to tell anyone what happened to them. There in pieces and in such a way the local cops believe there’s a grizzly on the loose. During an initial visit by Janet and Brett to Ted’s trailer we get a glimpse into what he’s been doing for a full year since the attack. Lots of vials full of blood and liquids, a book about werewolves and some gruesome photos of Marjorie’s dead body, which leads the viewer to believe Ted’s lycanthrope is pushing him into a psychopathic state.
Thor is the name of their dog and in the novel and as I understand it events are told entirely through Thor’s perspective. Once Ted returns Thor senses something wrong with Ted right off the bat and isn’t sure how to deal with it. Ted does. Ted feels threatened by Thor and Thor eventually sees Ted as the werewolf when he follows him out to the woods one night and sees the beast handcuffed to a tree. Oh, now, it’s on. Ted must get rid of Thor. At least Ted stayed sane enough to bait Thor into attacking him and making him look like a crazed dog, rather than just killing him outright. This notion is also backed up by the death of a nutbag who visited the family earlier looking to bait the dog into attacking him so he could sue Janet. His body turns up later and it’s assumed Thor must have have killed him when he came back one night to kill the dog. He didn’t. Ted got to him first and made an awful mess out of him.
Believe it or not this movie has a happy ending. Naturally with these kinds of flicks, the ones that center on pets, they generally end up dead. Thor does not. Ted does though. I wish the movie had an epilogue. After Thor tears out Ted’s throat the following morning, the movie cuts to a dream sequence, then to real life and the family is all together and happy. So is Ted’s body just rotting out in their woods? Did Janet go look for him? Did anyone miss Ted? Probably not since not one else but the family interacted with him.
Warner Brothers released Bad Moon three previous times on DVD. In 2000 in the wrong aspect ratio, in 2007 as part of a 4-film collection and then re-issued in 2014 as a DVD-R through Warner Archives. Both the 2007 and the 2014 releases were in their correct aspect ratio. On July 19th Scream Factory (Shout! Factory’s genre sub-label) releases it on blu-ray for the first time!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 English Dolby Digital stereo—English subtitles only
I’ve only ever seen this movie full frame and in that Fangoria issue there’s a shot of one of the werewolf’s victims getting his head squeezed in it’s jaws and blood bursting everywhere. I always thought that was a cut scene when in fact seeing it on TV framed out all the blood. Seeing it 2.35:1 widescreen that shot was there, but only for a nano second. I had to pause it to get it to match the picture in the magazine, but it was there. Full frame all you see are the wolf’s jaws. This new blu looks gorgeous!
Extras included . . .
- Nature of the Beast: Making Bad Moon ()
- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Eric Red (Director’s Version Only)
- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Eric Red And Actor Michael Paré (Theatrical Cut)
- Unrated Opening Scene From The Director’s First Cut (Sourced from VHS) ()
- 3 Storyboard Sequences ()
- Original Theatrical Trailer
This blu-ray includes a two versions: a director’s cut and the theatrical cut. The director’s cut is unique in that there’s footage taken away rather than added. You see Eric Red hated the CGI used in the the transformation sequence, some of it’s not bad, but overall he’s right, it’s like SyFy channel crude, so he went back and cut all of it out except for the two pieces that looked fine. I’m actually fine with that and from now on I’ll watch that version rather than the theatrical.