Release Date(s)1996 (July 19, 2016)
Studio(s)Morgan Creek/Warner Bros. (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
Bad Moon was directed by Eric Red, whom genre fans will recognize as the writer of both Near Dark and The Hitcher. It was shot on location in Vancouver, utilizing mostly old-school mechanical and prosthetic special effects. It was released in November of 1996, but didn’t stand much of a chance; not just due to the changing climate of horror movies at that time, but also due to the poor initial reception it got from both audiences and critics.
Based upon the novel “Thor” by Wayne Smith, Bad Moon tells the story of a single mother named Janet (Mariel Hemingway), her son Brett (Mason Gamble), and their German Shepherd named Thor. When Janet’s brother Ted (Michael Paré) comes to their secluded home in the wilderness to spend time with them, they aren’t aware that Ted was previously attacked by a werewolf during a trip to Nepal. Once he settles in, he begins to attack to the local people around him at night in werewolf form. Nobody suspects him except for Thor, who has sniffed Ted out as someone who may have come to do harm to him and his family, but will Thor be able to save his family before it’s too late?
To be honest, I hadn’t seen a werewolf movie in a while, and not really by choice. Lately, I’ve been on a slasher sort of kick (I’m sure my latest reviews reflect that), but I decided to check this one out and was surprised by the quality of it. It was heads and tails above most of the other horror movies I’ve been seeing lately. All of performances in it are generally good, especially from the dog, and the beautiful locations and cinematography make it a movie that’s very easy on the eyes. It soaks in a lot of colors, including some strong greens and reds, giving it a very organic appearance that’s quite pleasing, and certainly different for a change. Most horror films nowadays tend to look bleak or pallid, but this movie has a lot of deep, rich hues to it.
The movie was originally given an NC-17 before its final cut, mostly for the opening sex scene and some of the more violent content. Remarkably, much of it still remains, minus a few shots, and yet it still retains its visceral quality. The werewolf effects are top of the line, standing toe to toe, if not above, the many that have come before and after it. The story is actually pretty straightforward as well, and if you’re a dog lover, it’s definitely a movie you can gravitate towards. The story is basically about Thor protecting his family, no matter who or what is trying to hurt them. The original novel actually took place entirely from the dog’s point of view, and some of that still comes across on screen, even though it’s a little more perfunctory by comparison.
The only real negative against the movie was the unfortunate decision to go with a CGI morphing werewolf transformation in the latter half of the film. It’s actually the worst thing in the film, and its director admits that it was something that they “fucked up”. It really stands out like a sore thumb and goes against all of the wonderfully-executed practical effects that came before it. For the Director’s Cut featured on this Blu-ray release for the first time, that sequence has now been removed and only a couple of shots of it remain for context. Unfortunately, the director wasn’t able to cut using the original film elements, so there are jumps in the soundtrack. It is a little jarring, especially if you’re accustomed to seeing it with those bad effects already. However, for those who enjoy the movie and wished that they weren’t in there, you have the option to watch the movie without them. Otherwise, both versions of the movie are exactly the same.
Bad Moon didn’t do very well when it was originally released to theaters, mainly due to (according to the director) poor marketing. It bombed at the box office, only making a small portion of its $7 million dollar budget back. Over the years, the movie has managed to grow in estimation in the eyes of many horror fans. In my own personal assessment, it’s definitely one of the top werewolf movies available, and hugely underappreciated. Much of it has to do with the fact that not many people in the horror community have actually seen it. Now that it’s getting a new light shined upon it, it will likely be recognized for its creature effects, which are some of the best in any horror movie. And at a brisk 79 minutes, it doesn’t waste any time telling its story, which works quite well and is very satisfying.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray transfer of Bad Moon features an excellent presentation, one of their best yet. Just as a side note, it’s nice to see both the Warner Bros. and Morgan Creek logos at the beginning of one of their releases... perhaps there will be more to come. In any event, the presentation has a strong and organic appearance. It’s very film-like with well-resolved grain from scene to scene, and fine detail is strong in all respects. Colors also pop beautifully. Blacks are inky deep, and both contrast and brightness levels are very satisfying. Only the most minor of film artifacts are left behind, and you have to go through the presentation with a fine-toothed comb to see them. For the audio, you get two options: English 5.1 and 2.0, both DTS-HD tracks. I surprisingly found them both to be strong tracks, as I usually prefer one over the other. The 5.1 certainly has some decent surround activity, especially when it comes to ambiance and score, but both tracks feature crystal clear dialogue and strong sound effects. There’s also some nice LFE to be had, as well. Truth be told, there just isn’t anything worth really complaining about on this release. It’s a great-looking movie with a great presentation, solid through and through. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
For the supplemental material, there’s also some great stuff to check out. For the Theatrical Cut, there’s an audio commentary with director Eric Red, actor Michael Paré, and horror critic John Fallon. On the Director’s Cut, there’s a solo audio commentary with director Eric Red. In addition, there’s an excellent featurette Nature of the Beast: Making Bad Moon with several of the movie’s key players; the unrated opening sequence sourced from the director’s first cut on VHS; the original theatrical trailer; and three animated storyboard sequences (Transformation Sequence, Thor/Werewolf Fight, Thor Stares Down Uncle Ted). All of this material is well worth checking out.
Twenty years after its release, Bad Moon is going to become one of a lot of people’s favorite werewolf movies, no doubt about it. With strong direction, excellent special effects, and a straight-forward story, it’s certainly a welcome breath of fresh air. And Scream Factory’s release of the film is definitely one of their best. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons