Sunday, March 2, 2014

BAD MOON (1996) movie review

Bad Moon (1996) d. Eric Red (USA)

I’ll admit to having passed up this fuzzy wuzzy flick a few dozen times on the video shelf (remember those?) due to its lackluster moniker and poster art, and probably would have never thought twice about it had it not been for my recent acquaintance with James Newman’s recent terror-ific tome, 666 Hair-Raising Horror Movie Trivia Questions. Since James had seen fit to dedicate no fewer than six, count ‘em, six puzzlers to this DTV title, I figured that if I wanted to get a passing grade in lycanthrope class, I’d better check it out. (To be fair, longtime lycan expert Craig J. Clark had reviewed it on his blog back in 2008, but I don’t know that we knew each other back then.) To my surprise, it proved to be an entirely watchable popcorn flick, with one of the more impressive practical werewolf suits - supervised by f/x ace Steve Johnson - trotted out since the shapeshifting heyday of the 1980s. (However, the less said about the dodgy morphing sequences, the better.)

While on expedition, explorer Ted (Michael Pare) and his hot bod girlfriend (Johanna Marlowe) have a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a bipedal wolf-monster, one that grievously injures Ted while putting him back in the singles dating pool. Recovering from his loss and wounds, he contacts legal eagle sister Janet (Mariel Hemmingway) and asks her to visit, fearing that he’s been cursed by the beast’s bite and seeking some kind of human connection.

She invites him to live with her son (Mason Gamble) and the family German Shepherd, Thor. Even knowing the risks, Ted agrees, determined to remain human as long as possible and armed with heavy tensile steel handcuffs to try to chain the animal fury within.

Adapting Wayne Smith’s novel Thor, writer/director Eric Red’s (best known for scripting The Hitcher and Near Dark a decade earlier) greatest challenge lies in creating a story where the lead character is a dog, but he manages to keep it from turning into a horror-tinged Lassie episode. The acting is fair-to-middling from all involved (except canine star Primo, who is terrific), but 6’5 stuntman Ken Kerzinger, who donned the iconic hockey mask a half-dozen years later for Freddy vs. Jason, makes for an imposing creature and served as coordinator for several of the snazzy stunts.

While it might not prove the quintessential wolfman feature (and I don’t know that it deserved to have more questions devoted to it than, say, Dog Soldiers or Ginger Snaps – only one each, James?), the pace is brisk, the gore plentiful, and the final pawno-a-pawno battle royale between the faithful four-legged guardian and the snarling sibling delivers the hairy scary goods. Worth checking out.