Warlock Moon (1973)

APRIL 26, 2012


If you follow Cabin In The Woods chatter online (don’t worry if you don’t – I’m not going to spoil anything), you’ve probably come across the phrase “Vampires circle the moon”, which refers to a now legendary Rex Reed review of the film where he simply made everything up. After my 2nd viewing of the film, I noticed that his nonsense was even funnier because, as I said, “it’s the only horror movie in history that doesn’t even SHOW the damn moon”, which I was sure was not accurate but sounded funny. So it’s great that a few days later I see Warlock Moon, which also goes through its runtime without ever one showing the moon, despite the fact that it’s in the title.

It also lacks a Warlock, though there is a blood sacrifice/ritual that I guess could be considered witchcraft, and there’s a guy involved, so maybe he’s a warlock and just doesn’t talk about it much. The ritual is mainly conducted by a woman, but Witch Moon would just be silly, I guess. Also the ritual has to occur at midnight, when the moon would be out, so it’s just a really abstract, “gotta think about” title. Like Syriana.

Anyway, it’s a fun little B movie; the sort of thing I’d be delighted to find on a budget pack but probably wouldn’t want to buy on a dedicated release for more than a couple bucks. It’s slowly paced and riddled with plot holes, but it’s got a breezy charm that so many movies lack, and it more than makes up for its problems. You also can’t dismiss a movie that combines ghosts, witchcraft, AND cannibalism, plus a random ax wielding mute (who looks like Rob Zombie!) for good measure. Even better, it actually gels together, more or less – it doesn’t seem like writer/director Bill Herbert is just making things up as he goes along, or pulling a Pieces and inserting elements into his movie at random because a producer wants it in there.

It also has great chemistry between the two leads, Joe Spano and Laurie Walters. After engaging in the creepiest and over-elaborate “meet-cute” I can recall ever seeing in a movie, they take off on a little road trip and end up at our main location – an isolated, run down spa (!) somewhere in California. Oddly, after spending some time there and getting spooked, they leave, and end up going BACK a few days later in order for Spano to write a story about the place for his newspaper. Now (spoilers), I actually noticed this was kind of goofy, but it wasn’t until a bit later that I realized Spano was actually one of the villains and it was all a setup. It’s the sort of thing I should have seen coming right from the start, but their flirty, charming chemistry actually distracted me enough to not think about it too much. Well played, Herbert.

Or should I say, HOBLIT? According to the commentary by Joe Bob Briggs, it is impossible to find any real information on Herbert (who used a different name for the screenplay), but Spano once mentioned making a low budget horror film with Gregory Hoblit, and has appeared in many of his more respectable films like Hart’s War. Seems to me someone would have figured it out for sure by now, but I like to think it’s true. It would make up for Untraceable.

Briggs’ commentary is a hoot, by the way. He’s a fan of the film, but has no problem pointing out its many puzzling elements (such as why the ax wielding guy is trying so hard to kill her when they need her to willingly enter a magic circle before they can do their ritual) and mocking Herbert’s/Hoblit’s less than ace directing skills. There’s a bit where Walters is supposedly falling victim to drugged tea, but the camera stays behind her most of the time, so we can’t see her being affected by ANYTHING. I was also tickled by the fact that she seemingly has to poison herself, as the lady serving the tea insists she put sugar into it (or maybe it would mask the taste of the poison – but either way, why didn’t she just do that herself?). He also provides some bibliographical info on the actors, and points out some fun trivia (like that they shot part of Tron in the same area), so it’s definitely worth a listen whether you liked the movie or not. The trailer and an alternate (and mute) opening sequence is also included, but curiously not the 6-10 minutes of footage that is missing from the film itself. For reasons unknown, even though this is a “special edition”, the film has a few scenes shortened or removed, including one with two cops that sounds kind of important.

Speaking of the cops, they appear in the film’s closing scene, which actually occurs under the end titles. It’s quite odd, I’ve certainly seen post-credits scenes (Nick Fury joke), but this is like the credits just didn’t want to wait around anymore and thus start playing while the main narrative is still finishing up. Then they finish and the movie keeps going as if nothing happened, leading to the best closing shot ever (one of the movie’s many awesome freeze-frames). Just part of the movie’s odd charm though. Recommended!

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. What about writer/director William Herbert? Can find nothing on him except a few acting roles in early seventies. Only movie he ever did! Period! Did he die young, disappear...what?


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