In the early 1980’s, the werewolf enjoyed a brief renaissance in horror. While zombies and vampires have enjoyed renewed peaks of popularity in the 2000’s, the lycanthrope hasn’t fared as well. Outside of some well made indie efforts, big screen werewolf adaptations, including Wes Craven’s Cursed and The Wolf Man remake, flopped. Back in 1995, Eric Red’s Bad Moon came and went with little fanfare. One look at its cover artwork and no one would blame you if you thought it came out in the 80’s. But as home video companies like Shout Factory now make their way through 90’s libraries, Bad Moon has a chance to get a second look from horror fans.
During a work trip in Nepal, photojournalist Ted Harrison fights off a vicious attack by a werewolf. Though he survives, Harrison is now afflicted with the curse of the lycanthrope. After several failed attempts to find a cure, Harrison returns home to visit his sister and her young son, hoping to find some peace with family. But his curse increasingly puts his family at risk as he slowly loses control over his urges. Now only the family dog, Thor, stands between Uncle Ted and his family.
Bad Moon’s Werewolf Effects Mostly Hold Up
Make-up artist Jack Pierce put the werewolf on the map with his work in The Wolf Man. Horror fans waited forty years for Rick Baker and Rob Bottin to revolutionize The Wolf Man’s effect in An American Werewolf in London and The Howling, respectively. Let’s face it – if you’re making a werewolf movie, you need a convincing werewolf. And for the most part, Bad Moon impresses with its practical effects. Contrary to expectation, director Eric Red doesn’t hide his monster in shadows either. Straight out of the gate, Red gives audiences a good glimpse of his werewolf. While the effects have aged a little, and one transformation scene shows more than it can convincingly pull off, Bad Moon’s ‘wolf man’ impresses.
And for the most part, Bad Moon impresses with its practical effects.
Arguably, Bad Moon’s biggest test comes in its big final act. Like 80’s Stephen King adaptation, Silver Bullet, Red brings his werewolf out of the shadows into a fully lit room. Though Silver Bullet suffered for it, Bad Moon fares much better. The practical animatronic effects don’t pull you out of the moment – they hold up to scrutiny. It helps that Red shocks with a bit more of a harder edge to his werewolf violence. Good editing and make-up effects make the movie’s lycan kills stand out. Overall, Bad Moon’s werewolf scenes make it a much better than expected horror movie.
Stiff Performances and Unconvincing Family Melodrama
If Silver Bullet dates itself with underwhelming werewolf effects, it benefits from good performances and touching character dynamics. Conversely, Bad Moon feels lopsided when the sun comes up and its werewolf hibernates. Over the course of her career, Mariel Hemingway delivered some memorable performances. Unfortunately, Bad Moon doesn’t feature one of those performances. By and large, Hemingway looks bored in the movie. Veteran Michael Paré puts a little more into his character, but it’s a stiff performance that often underwhelms. Of course, Bad Moon burdens Paré with an uneven characters and some of the movie’s sillier moments. At times, it’s hard to decide if Paré’s ‘Uncle Ted’ is a ‘tragic victim’ or just a ‘monster’. And when Paré marks his territory to one up the family dog, it comes off as a forced introduction of humour to the movie.
…Bad Moon occasionally feels like it missed something in translation.
Aside from uneven performances, Bad Moon’s family dramatics never feel compelling. Red adapted the movie from Wayne Smith’s novel, Thor. Apparently, Smith’s novel more prominently examines Uncle Ted’s visit from family dog Thor’s perspective. When Bad Moon focuses on the protective family dog, it’s a much more interesting movie. While I wouldn’t quite describe it as tension, these scenes do give the movie a quiet mood unlike other werewolf movies. And Thor the dog is a much more sympathetic character than his human counterparts. Certainly, Bad Moon occasionally feels like it missed something in translation.
Bad Moon An Uneven But Still Better-Than-Expected Werewolf Movie
Bad Moon feels like two different movies in one. As a werewolf movie, Bad Moon delivers some surprisingly grisly deaths with good practical effects. Though it’s not necessarily scary, the movie hits enough of the expected sub-genre notes to engage for most of its runtime. On the flip side, Bad Moon tries to add a compelling family drama that’s unconvincing and feels disconnected from the movie’s better parts. In spite of these weaknesses, Eric Red keeps his movie chugging along at a good pace. Don’t expect The Howling, An American Werewolf in London or, say, Dog Soldiers. But Bad Moon deserved better than its original fate.