Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.
I know it’s possible for there to be good werewolf movies, because I’ve seen them. Beyond the originals that created the subgenre, movies like An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Dog Soldiers, and especially Ginger Snaps demonstrate that it’s possible to create a cool film about a werewolf. Bad Moon would really like to be among that number, and it does do some things right. It’s problem is that if there’s a trope that exists in any werewolf movie that comes before it, you’re going to see it here.
We start in Nepal, where a photojournalist named Ted Harrison (Michael Pare) and his girlfriend Marjorie (Johanna Marlowe) are doing the nasty in their tent one evening. They are caught rather terribly in flagrante by a werewolf that kills Marjorie and wounds Ted. This means, of course, that according to werewolf lore, Ted is cursed to become a werewolf.
Ted returns to the States and winds up close enough to his sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway) that they can see each other now and then, but never overnight by Ted’s insistence. Eventually, Ted’s wolf side starts to take over, and people start going missing in the woods around his Airstream. No longer able to keep his secret there, Ted goes to visit Janet and her son Brett (Mason Gamble) and their dog, Thor. Did you guess that Thor is a German shepherd? Good guess.
Anyway, Thor is naturally suspicious of Ted and Ted disappears at night. We know what is going on, of course. Ted is heading out to the woods and chaining himself to a tree to keep everyone else safe. But, because this is a werewolf movie, Ted isn’t always going to be successful at this. The carnage that was happening out in the deep woods thus starts happening around Janet’s home, in this case with the grisly death of a con artist (Hrothgar Mathews). More or less coming to terms with his new persona, Ted picks a fight with Thor so that the dog is sent to animal control, and, naturally, all hell breaks loose in the third act.
The biggest problem with Bad Moon is that there is no mystery of what is going to happen at any point in the film. We as the audience know right away that Ted is a werewolf, so there’s no mystery there. We know (because it’s a movie) that Ted is eventually going to go on a rampage or two before the final credits role. We know there is going to be a confrontation with Thor, and probably more than one. We know that everyone is going to be threatened or killed at some point. And because we’re going for the Blackout here and not just werewolf bingo, there will even be a scene where the characters are watching a werewolf movie (Werewolf of London in this case).
Because there are no surprises in Bad Moon, it has to make do with everything else that it has. This means we need good quality kills, possible horror movie-style nudity and good effects, particularly a memorable transformation sequence. Here, Bad Moon doesn’t really deliver as well as it should. There aren’t a lot of deaths, and most of them take place at least in part off screen. The nudity happens in the first minute or two unless you include Michael Pare’s backside. The transformation sequence is…strange. It’s not bad for 1996, but it’s a very weird combination of animatronics (I think) as well as some practical effects. It’s wonky, but I respect the attempt.
What’s disappointing, though, is what we could have had. Evidently, Bad Moon is based on a novel that is told from the perspective of Thor. Naturally a great deal of this is scrapped for this version, but that would have been a very interesting way to make a werewolf movie. Instead, we get something very trope-heavy and that runs just under 80 minutes including the credits. There’s barely enough here to make an interesting movie, and this could have done a lot more with what it had. There’s potential here, and it really wants to do something special. It just doesn’t quite get all the way there.
Why to watch Bad Moon: The effects are actually decent for 1996 (but not now).
Why not to watch: It hits every trope you can think of.