Horror, Werewolf, Western

Blood Moon (2014)

Comments Off on Blood Moon (2014) 27 August 2015


Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment

DVD Release: September 1, 2015 (USA)

Director: Jeremy Wooding

Not Rated

Review by Shawn Spear

The low budget Blood Moon has a solid premise on which to base a horror-western werewolf story, but it falls short on execution.

In the film, a mysterious drifter named Calhoun hitches a ride with a group of stagecoach travelers on their way to Denver—among them, a young couple, a nervous preacher, and a sultry widower. They stop in an abandoned mining town and find the body of a saloon owner torn to shreds by…something (Grizzlies? A pack of wolves?). While holding an impromptu memorial, the preacher is murdered by two outlaws, who herd the group into the saloon at gunpoint and hold them hostage. Then, coming from somewhere in the forest, an ungodly wolf-like howl is heard. Calhoun and the captives realize they have an even bigger problem, and must struggle to free themselves before the ensuing attack of a werewolf—or as it is called in this film—a “skin walker.”

Aside from the fact that he’s elegantly dressed in a fur collar coat, ascot and Stetson hat—and could probably pass for a 70’s pimp—Calhoun (Shaun Dooley) is a stoic, stogie chomping, Man-With-No-Name-type straight out of the Dollars Trilogy handbook. But in the film’s first scene, as he awkwardly (and inappropriately) twirls his gun after putting down a wounded horse, it is clear that Dooley doesn’t have Clint Eastwood’s acting chops or screen presence. It’s an unfair comparison, perhaps, but unavoidable given how hard Dooley tries to be like him.

Like Dooley, the rest of the cast of relative unknowns ranges from passable to mediocre, but in fairness, the script isn’t the strongest vehicle to show off any talent, or lack thereof. It has a fair share of clichéd dialogue (“Why don’t you women go to the kitchen and rustle up some vittles,”) and a couple underdeveloped subplots, such as with a tangential sheriff character and his native-American spiritualist associate.

Furthermore, while there are story elements planted near the beginning of the film that cleverly pay off later, there are a few important ones that don’t. Calhoun’s back-story is revealed—or at least hinted at—fairly early on; he’s a former preacher who turned his back on God to avenge the murder of his family. It’s an interesting bit of character development, but hardly serves any purpose since it’s not used to begin a character arc or help the story in any real way. Less forgivable is how, in the same scene, they establish Calhoun’s “legendary” quick-draw, where he can, as explained by an outlaw, “Draw, shoot a man, and holster his gun before [victims] even have time to take a breath.” Worn out cliché aside, the buildup of Calhoun’s skill is for naught as they inexplicably fail to show him put it to good use—even in the film’s climactic battle.

Script and acting problems notwithstanding, the film benefits from top-notch production design, especially when you consider that they must’ve been working with a shoestring. The sets—which include an entire ghost town—are detailed and realistic, as are the costumes and makeup (aside from a wig or two). Most surprising is the common use of practical makeup and gore effects. And the werewolf itself—except for the occasional CGI rig for wider shots—appears to either be a stuntman in costume or a huge puppet. Whatever it is, it’s impressive and convincing.

While the production design is the best part, it isn’t all there is to like about Blood Moon. There are a few scenes when director Jeremy Wooding and cinematographer Alan Wightman effectively create foreboding atmosphere. Wooding takes a Ridley Scott Alien-like approach of showing the monster only in brief glimpses until the very end—a technique that has since become pretty standard in horror films—and it pays off with one or two scary moments.

It is evident that the filmmakers of Blood Moon love genre films. Though limited by a modest budget, they made an honest attempt at a good one. While the script could’ve used a few more drafts, and the cast a few more rehearsals, all the elements were in place. The attempt should be admired. Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions, all that will frighten the audience is bad writing and eye-rolling clichés.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


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