Judge Patrick Bromley is under the cherry moon.
Our review of Bloody Moon, published November 3rd, 2008, is also available.
Don't panic…It only happens once in a Bloody Moon.
I have never seen a film from Spanish director Jess Franco, one of the kings of exploitation cinema. I have long been familiar with his name, but have little interest in the kind of highly sexualized horror films with which he's most associated—movies like Vampyros Lesbos and A Virgin Among the Living Dead (which, if I'm being honest, is a really good title). But I've been watching almost exclusively exploitation movies this month, and the chance to see Franco's often-banned 1981 slasher movie Bloody Moon suddenly sounded appealing. I should have known better.
Facts of the Case
Disfigured Miguel (Alexander Waechter) is released from a mental institution after being sent away for five years for killing a young girl. He reconnects with his sister Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff), who runs Europe's International Youth-Club Boarding School of Languages in Spain (yes, that's the name), and with whom Miguel has an incestuous relationship. When the girls at the Spanish language school start getting killed off, Miguel is the obvious suspect.
Jess Franco's Bloody Moon is perhaps best known for being one of the 72 films on the UK's "Video Nasty" list (it's actually one of the 39 titles successfully prosecuted and never overturned). Having recently sifted through Severin Film's Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, the pump was primed for exactly this kind of movie. I don't support the banning or prosecution of art in any way, but I can say that even those unable to see Bloody Moon as a result of this judgment aren't missing much.
Even by the standards of sleazy European exploitation, Bloody Moon is a tough slog (and if someone could please explain that nonsensical title to me, that would be great). The plot of the movie is textbook slasher stuff: girls' school students get murdered by mysterious killer. There are a few details that make this one weirder than most, like the presence of scar-faced Miguel and his incestuous relationship with his sister, but there's not enough color to make the movie truly eccentric or interesting. I'll give it credit for having a weird alien quality to it, but that's probably just the result of the mixture of cultures and languages occurring at the center. Here's a German production taking place in Spain and dubbed into English. In fact, the only thing that got me through the movie was the bizarre dubbing, which has characters speak awkward lines of dialogue and rush through them so that they line up to the actors' mouth movements. It is occasionally amusing. Very occasionally.
There are a few graphic but badly-staged kills (including a woman who is stabbed through the breast and another in which a mannequin is beheaded with a buzz saw), though it's hardly worse than what was commonplace for early '80s slashers. That's not the stuff that bothered me. What rubbed me the wrong way was how Franco is clearly too desperate to be shocking and offensive, like when he shows a little boy run over by a car or, worst of all, chops the head off a live snake on camera just to be an a-hole. The camera lingers as the snake's body wriggles around, its disembodied head still moving on the ground. I'm not some crazy snake lover, but it is an ugly, hateful scene. I can deal with fake murder when it's all just bad makeup and special effects, but I draw the line at real animal murder. I'm such a prude.
Severin's Blu-ray of Bloody Moon presents the uncut version of the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio in a full 1080p HD transfer. For a cheap, sleazy movie, it looks pretty good: colors are generally well balanced and the image has been cleaned up, though some scratches and flaws are still visible. There are a few scenes—usually gore sequences—in which it looks like the movie switches to terrible 16mm, but that's a source issue and not a transfer one (some research suggests that the studio's 2008 DVD had the same issue). The 2.0 mono soundtrack is fine, with the ridiculous English dubbing easily audible and well balanced with the music and effects.
Both of the bonus features have been carried over from the 2008 DVD. The first is a nearly 20-minute interview with Jess Franco about the film's production, which I liked a lot more than actual film. There are a few fascinating bits, including one where Franco says Pink Floyd was originally supposed to score the movie. The only other supplement is the movie's original theatrical trailer.
I do my best to take exploitation movies like Bloody Moon at the level on which they're intended. Most of them are not art, nor are they designed as such. But they have their own unique charms, and as something of a student of these movies I can find plenty to like in even a lesser effort. I find myself unable to like much about Bloody Moon. Badly written and badly crafted, it's the kind of movie that gives exploitation cinema a bad name. Maybe Jess Franco directed a bunch of good movies. This isn't one of them.
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