Bad Moon (1996)
Director: Eric Red
Cast: Michael Pare, Mariel Hemingway
Werewolf movies are a tricky bunch, same as the characters in these films, the werewolf film seems to be cursed at the box office where they rarely make their money back. And I’m not talking about vampire films that include werewolves like the Underworld and Twilight franchises, I’m talking about films where the werewolf is the central character. Hell, even when they are actually good they fail! For example The Wolfman (2010) starring Benicio del Toro was an excellent werewolf movie in my book, yet it bombed horribly. In fact, if we get down to it, there hasn’t been a true blue successful werewolf film since An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Howling (1981) ripped into theaters and wowed everyone with their excellent make up effects. Maybe that’s the reason why we haven’t had a successful werewolf movie. Nobody has been able to top what was done in An American Werewolf in London (1981) in terms of makeup effects. But most of the time, werewolf movies simply aren’t that good. For example An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), made the mistake of replacing practical transformation effects with bad CGI, plus the comedy angle just fell flat. Of course, there have been exceptions. Teen Wolf (1985) made a hefty profit, but that was because its budget was a measly 1.4 million and it starred 80’s ‘it’ boy Michael J. Fox. There was also Silver Bullet (1985), which made its money back because it was based on a Stephen King novel. But putting these exceptions aside, werewolf movies are rarely successful. The film I’ll be reviewing today, Eric Red’s Bad Moon (1996), is a good example of the werewolf curse. Was it one of the good ones?
I’d say that it had potential, but failed to perform. The main problem I had with Bad Moon is that it was too damn simple. A photo journalist named Ted gets scratched by a werewolf while on an expedition in Nepal. Sadly, while Ted only gets a nasty scratch on his chest, his girlfriend gets ripped to shreds! When he returns to America, he lives an isolated life in the middle of the forest, trying to forget it all. That is until his sister visits him and tells him that he should move in with her for a while. He agrees, because he comes to the conclusion that maybe family love might cure him from the werewolf curse, which of course makes no sense at all! You’re putting your sister and her son in jeopardy! But whatever, I chalked it up to wishful thinking. Point is that his sister has a dog named Thor, and Thor detects Ted’s werewolf condition. Um…there really isn’t much more to say about the plot because there isn’t much conflict, a quality sorely missing in this film. We needed more complexity to the story; the movie is just too damn simple. The thing is that the book on which the film is based, a novel called ‘Thor’ by Wayne Smith, actually offered an innovative concept. It tells the story from the dogs’ point of view. Now I realize you can’t really make an entire movie that way, but I find the director could have exploited this angle a bit more.
Speaking of the dog, he’s gotta be the cutest freaking German Sheppard ever. ‘Primo’ (the dogs name in real life) steals the movie from Michael Pare and Mariel Hemingway who offer some of the most wooden performances ever. There’s no chemistry between them whatsoever, the whole brother/sister thing was not played off in a convincing manner, and I normally dig Michael Pare’s movies! If this was meant to be a movie about family, then they should at least have shown a strong familial bond, which just doesn’t happen here. In a way, this movie was supposed to be like the Poltergeist franchise, where family love is at the center of the whole thing. Sadly, Michael Pare’s character Ted doesn’t even come off as likable. Which of course is a huge mistake, we’re supposed to sympathize with the guy. Eric Red should have emphasized Ted’s despair and anguish a bit more; we needed a scene or two of him in true mental and emotional anguish, the director should have given us time to warm up to Ted and his family. As you can see, we simply needed more character development, we needed to complicate things. And it’s not as if they didn’t have any screen time to do it, the film only runs for a measly 80 minutes.
What else ails this film? Well, the big draw with werewolf films are the transformations, which should try and top everything that has been done before, or at the very least be good. Here’s the thing with Bad Moon, the werewolf looks cool and the creature itself was pulled off rather nicely, when completely transformed the werewolf looks imposing, only a little wooden and robotic with its facial movements. Eric Red obviously wanted to build up the suspense with the creature because we don’t see a werewolf transformation until we are way into the films third half. So we’re left expecting a cool werewolf transformation, and we kind of get it. The practical side of it actually works, sadly, somebody decided to include a few scenes of the worst computer generated effects in the world, so we get this horrible morphing transformation, by the way, I’m really glad they don’t use morphing anymore! Morphing works on certain situations but not for hairy, muscle bound creatures like the werewolf. So yeah, morphing effects aside, the werewolf transformation isn’t all that bad. Also, the gore effects are actually quite good on this one, gotta give it that!
Everything builds up to a confrontation between Thor and Ted. If this film was going to be centered around the whole Thor vs. Ted thing, they should have built up on that a little more. Sadly, the film feels a little half assed, it could have been so much more. I think the film simply didn’t embrace its strengths which is a sad thing because usually, Eric Red makes fantastic films with strong performances. Case in point, the script for The Hitcher (1986), which Eric Red wrote or Jeff Fahey in Body Parts (1991), which Eric Red both wrote and directed. Hell, Eric Red wrote freaking Near Dark (1987), one of the best vampire films from the 80’s! Now these are films with strong characters! This is the reason why I was stumped that Bad Moon had such weak characters! Normally this is Eric Red’s strength! But whatever, every filmmaker deserves a dud in his repertoire and Bad Moon was Eric Reds. It’s worth a watch, it's far from being the worst werewolf movie ever made, but it’s nothing memorable either.
Rating: 3 out of 5