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New Release Review - BLOOD MOON (DVD)

A werewolf prowls the streets of an Old West town.


Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Jeremy Wooding

Starring: Shaun Dooley, Anna Skellern, Raffaello Degruttoia, Corey Johnson




"Fans of Westerns are going to be delighted with the generic detail in Blood Moon, and horror fans are well served too. If there is a resurgence in the Were-Western genre, then Blood Moon is a pioneer among the posse."





Watching Jeremy Wooding‘s horror hybrid Blood Moon, you begin to ponder why there aren’t more Werewolf Westerns. After all, the thematic concerns of masculinity - the question of what it means to be a man, the rumination upon savagery and civilisation - is intrinsic to both genres. Add in the vast wilderness of the old West, the representative close association of Native America with nature and animals (Dances with Wolves doesn’t count…) and both genre’s obsession with miscegenation (notably Ethan’s racist drive in The Searchers), and you’d think that ‘High Moon’ films would be more of a thing, especially so when they’re as well executed as Blood Moon.
The film wastes no time in setting its dusky tone, opening with a brutal tableau which presents not only man’s bond with beast, but the pitiless environs of the American West circa 1887; as lone gunslinger Calhoun executes his poor steed, who is of no use to him with her broken leg. This is a tough world for tough guys, a west where only the wildest survive. Calhoun is played by Shaun Dooley, a face recognisable from second tier roles in Eden Lake and Woman in Black, but Blood Moon gives his pent up, off kilter charisma the spotlight as he joins a stagecoach full of archetypes - a young couple, a salty landlady, a preacher and a green reporter - who are hijacked upon the highway by a couple of black hats (Raffaello Degruttoia and Corey Johnson). Those howls they hear from the horizon don’t seem to be the actions of a wild dog though, nor do the decimated body parts scattered in the street, and, as the cherry moon rises, the whole gang have to hole up in a abandoned saloon, lest the ‘skinwalker’ who prowls the tumbleweed streets of the deserted mining town tears their hides to so much jerky.
Fans of Westerns are going to be delighted with the generic detail in Blood Moon - an early scene has a honky tonk piano whispering across the dusty darkness of a main street’s wooden facades, before we cut to an old timer, grizzled as worn leather, chewing on beans (!), muttering ‘blasted coyotes’ in response to a howl cutting through the tinkling melody. Horror fans are well served too - upon further investigation the poor geezer has his throat ripped out, allowing thick treacly blood to pump across the dry dirt. The film is a British production, although you could never tell by judging the level of faithfulness to the genre Blood Moon offers, along with the seeming accuracy of the locations (with Kent doing a pretty good impression of Colorado). Writer Alan Wightman’s dialogue has the authentic zing of a six shooter’s bullet too, with darkly comic lines like ‘It ain’t much more than a one horse town… and they shot that horse years ago’, and, “‘You got any silver bullets?’, ‘On my salary? Hell, no’“ (also, upon casually offing someone, the shooters all do that Robocop thing of twirling their gun about on their finger - just as they should).
As the film moves into Rio Bravo territory - the rag tag mob holed up in the pressure cooker of a single location - the pace does slacken somewhat, and the film relies on the (considerable) charms of Anna Skellern, playing the tough as boots widowed landlady (and stealing the show in the meantime with a nuanced and energetic performance). All werewolf movies are subjected to scrutiny where the realisation of their monster is concerned, and the wolves in Blood Moon are not bad; with transformations involving peeling nails and sprouting hairs, and the final conversion striking enough, considering the film’s lower budget. Such shortcomings are counteracted though by the film’s suspense, strong characterisation and infectious appreciation of its pedigree. If there is a resurgence in the Were-Western genre, then Blood Moon is a pioneer among the posse.




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