Full, crescent, quarter...each is a Bad Moon for Ted Harrison. By day, he's a photojournalist visiting family in the Pacific Northwest. By night, he transfigures into a horrific half-human - a werewolf. Dead men tell no tales, so Ted's sure he alone knows about his vile double life. The secret, however, may be out. The family dog Thor, devoted to defending the household, has his suspicions.
Writer/director Eric Red (The Hitcher, Body Parts) delivers a new infusion of thrills with this red blooded shocker. Michael Pare portrays Ted, hiding his accursed condition from his sister (Mariel Hemmingway) and nephew (Mason Gamble). What better way to hide it than to create suspicion that the local killings are the work of another - especially if that other is the family's all-too-wise German shepherd!
Timing is often an overlooked aspect as to whether or not a film sinks or swims at the box office. One minute a particular genre or sub-genre is hot stuff and every studio and independent in the business is trying to capitalize on the trend. The next minute, what was hot is tragically not, the audience's interest never piques, and the film goes relatively unnoticed for years before it's rediscovered. This is the case with Eric Red's 1996 werewolf thriller 'Bad Moon' starring Michael Paré and Mariel Hemingway. While a decent film, 'Bad Moon' feels about ten years too late to enjoy the fun of the 1980s werewolf revival.
Ted Harrison (Michael Paré) is a photojournalist working on a piece about native people in Borneo. He and his girlfriend Marjorie (Johanna Marlowe) were just about to head back stateside and plot their next adventure when everything goes wrong. As the two are making love in their tent, a gigantic werewolf rips through the thin fabric tent, grabs the poor woman, and tears her to pieces right in front of Ted. Ted is able to reach his shotgun and blow the creature's head off, but not before it scratches his arm.
Month's later, Ted has returned home to the scenic and secluded Pacific Northwest. After several months of isolation, he's starting to lose his grip on humanity. When some hikers near his camper turn up torn to pieces by a wild animal, Ted takes his sister Janet's (Mariel Hemingway) invitation to come stay with her and her young son Brett (Mason Gamble). On one hand, Ted doesn't want to expose his only family to the terror that comes out of him every time the moon appears, but on the other hand, this stay with family may be the key to finding a cure for his condition. As Ted struggles to hold onto what remains of his humanity, Janet and Brett's German Shepard Thor knows Ted's animalistic nature and will do everything to protect its family.
Based on the novel 'Thor' by author Wayne Smith, 'Bad Moon' feels like it should have been released in 1986 rather than 1996. It has more in common with its cousins 'An American Werewolf In London' and 'The Howling' than it does with 1997's disastrous 'An American Werewolf In Paris.' At its core, 'Bad Moon' is a stripped-down bare-bones werewolf thriller. On most levels it works, the idea for a solid little thriller are securely planted, but the final film never really comes together in a fully satisfying way. Perhaps the biggest problem facing the film is character focus. Ted, played extremely well by Michael Paré is a man losing his humanity and becoming something else entirely. At first, as a human, he's able to control the beast by chaining himself to trees deep in the forest before the moon comes out. But as he transforms over and over again, the beast takes over his human side. It's a brilliant course for character development but it's unfortunately undercut by the fact that we get to spend too little time with Ted as a human to care too much about his downfall.
Another aspect holding 'Bad Moon' back from greatness is that we spend so much time with woefully miscast Hemingway as Janet and her little son Brett. Understandably we are supposed to care about these characters given their proximity to a deadly werewolf in their backyard, but they're so one-dimensional that it's difficult to worry about them. Mariel Hemingway is a decent actress don't get me wrong, but her turn as a protective mother in a horror film that isn't actually supposed to be about her just doesn't work. While her introduction scene playing a strong lawyer standing up to a conman is somewhat convincing, that strength and intelligence and commitment to the character fail to show up when it counts the most. It also doesn't help that while Ted is a primary character, the film is actually about the dog Thor. The dog is actually the main character, it's the one that figures out Ted's dark secret and sets about protecting his family, not Brett, and certainly not Janet. Perhaps if the film had been about 20-30 mins longer than the anemic 79-minute run time, some of these character issues could have been fleshed out a bit better and the film would have been more satisfying as a result. It's hard to feel any terror or suspense when you're given so little time to actually care about the characters.
While 'Bad Moon' is most certainly flawed, it absolutely nails the practical effects mark. That partially animatronic, part man-in-a-suit werewolf is fantastic! The face is able to convey a full range of subtle expressions, just enough for you to believe that deep inside the human part of Ted is still fighting for control. On top of that, we get some pretty fantastic gore effects. That opening sequence reminded me of the tent kill from 'Jason Goes To Hell.' While not quite as gory or graphic, it's certainly an interesting way to open a movie! The rest of the film may not be as gory or grotesque as those opening moments, the effects work does hold up and aside from an ill-advised transformation sequence, is void of any digital nonsense.
Now, this Blu-ray release of 'Bad Moon' from Scream Factory comes with both the Theatrical Cut and Director's Cut of the film. The difference between the two is negligible. Running about 30 seconds shorter, the Directors Cut offers up some more nudity and gore at the opening but drastically trims down the digital morphing transformation that occurs in the third act. Fans of the Theatrical Cut will know what I'm talking about. In the Theatrical Cut, this sudden intrusion of very rough around the edges digital junk is a frustrating occurrence in the film because there are so many amazing practical makeup and gore effects throughout the rest of the film. Director Eric Red notes his disappointment with it and attempted to "fix it" in his Director's Cut. Sadly his "fix" is to trim a large chunk of the footage without adjusting the score timing or sound effects so it looks and sounds more like a sudden skip in the film. It may not be as bad as it once was, but it can still be more than a little distracting. Taken as a whole, both cuts of the film work in their own ways. 'Bad Moon' was never a great movie, but it's still a pretty decent one. I was never a big fan of the film, I only ever thought of it as pretty good, but after this recent viewing, I've come away with a new appreciation for this late 90s gem.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Bad Moon' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory. Pressed onto a Region A BD50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case. The Disc opens to an options menu allowing users to choose which cut of the film they want to see. From there, each cut is given a static image main menu with its own subsequent special features.
Both cuts of 'Bad Moon' arrive on Blu-ray with a pleasing 2.40:1 1080p transfer. Evidently a recent scan, the image displays a good amount of natural, stable film grain. Detail levels are strong throughout, and night scenes don't appear overly noisy. Colors are cool and favor earth tones with deep greens and natural blues. This transfer doesn't appear to have been pushed into the dreaded Teal/Orange range. I no longer have my original DVD for comparison but, this does look how I remembered it albeit in a far better resolution. Flesh tones and primaries also appear natural, and red bloody gore effects have plenty of pop to them. Black levels are pretty strong throughout with a nice inky presence and without any crush issues. That said, I feel like this image is a bit flat looking at times, depth never really establishes itself as well as one might expect. There is a sense of dimension, but not very deep. Aside from the lack of depth, the image is clean without any age-related damage to speak of.
Both cuts of 'Bad Moon' arrive with two audio tracks, an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Honestly, depending on your setup, you can't really go wrong with either mix. If your setup can handle the 5.1, it's a solid effort and doesn't fall into the soft sounding dialogue trap that so many other surround upgrades fall into. Both tracks display a great sense of dimension and space with a great use of forest backgrounds and atmospherics. That said, the 5.1 mix sounds a bit fuller and better balanced than the 2.0 mix - especially during the loud and bombastic climax where there are sounds of a dog barking, the werewolf roaring, a kid and Mariel Hemingway screaming, and the accompanying sounds go destruction and chaos that brings. Imaging is balanced for both, as are levels, I never felt like with either track that I needed to adjust my volume to accommodate for highs and lows. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. All around both mixes are very good, but if I had to chose, I'd say the 5.1 is the better of the two, but only ever so slightly.
Audio Commentary: Director Eric Red flies solo for this very informative audio commentary. He covers pretty much every aspect of the film from reading the screenplay to casting to the effects work and his decision to cut a huge chunk of that morphing sequence. If there is an issue with this track is that it sounds like he's reading from a book he wrote. It doesn't feel very spontaneous, but it's still a very good listen.
Audio Commentary: This commentary features Michael Paré, Eric Red, and John Fallon. It's a decent commentary, but also John Fallon is a bit irritating and vulgar as he sets up the questions. It is nice to have Paré and Red in the same room to play off each other.
Available From Both Menus:
Nature of the Beast: The Making of 'Bad Moon': (HD 35:17) This is a very good, very informative collection of interviews with the cast and crew of the film that covers a lot of detail from how Writer/Director Eric Red became involved with the film to casting Michael Paré to the special effects work.
Unrated Opening Sequence: (HD 6:07) Sourced from a VHS workprint, it establishes the location and it also gives Ted's girlfriend a little more character before jumping immediately into a sex scene, which is quite a bit more graphic in this cut, as is her death!
Transformation Sequence Storyboards (HD 6:30)
Thor/Werewolf Fight Storyboards: (HD 9:40)
Thor Stares Down Uncle Ted Storyboards: (HD 4:15)
Trailer: (SD 1:06)
'Bad Moon' is a werewolf movie that belonged in a different decade. As a lower budget 90s horror film, it was overlooked and forgotten. The film may not be the greatest entry in the werewolf sub-genre, but it holds its own and is a decent piece of entertainment. Scream Factory has done a great job assembling a solid Blu-ray release for this film. The A/V quality is pretty fantastic and the extra features are informative and should keep fans busy for a couple of hours. At the end of the day, 'Bad Moon' from Scream Factory is a recommended release.