FEBRUARY 9, 2013
Perhaps because of its titular similarity to Bloody Moon, Killer's Moon is occasionally referred to as one of the Video Nasties, though I can't find any record of it being on the official list OR the list of BBFC banned films that weren't prosecuted, so if anyone can shed some light on that (Pyro Will?), I'm all ears. Either way, it's certainly not a particularly gruesome or vile flick like some of the Nasties, though at times it DOES come across like a British version of Last House On The Left, complete with grainy photography, slightly jarring humor, and a few rape scenes, which thankfully aren't as explicit (or long) as the ones in Wes Craven's film, making it a far less unpleasant experience.
Interestingly, while part seems inspired by that film, the rest seems to have in turn inspired a later film: Jack Sholder's Alone In The Dark, which also concerns four mental patients who escape from their experimental facility and wreak havoc on one location. Like that film each of them has their own MO, so it's not like they're all Michael Myers wannabes - one's a pedophile, another's a murderer, etc. This not only gives them more personality, but also adds an interesting element to the proceedings as they sometimes bicker over what to do with an intended victim. They also all believe they're experiencing a dream, which I want to say was a minor element in Dark - didn't one of them think it was a dream? At any rate, this makes them more dangerous than they might have been; I know whenever I realize I'm dreaming I certainly act like an asshole (though I usually wake up pretty quickly after that), so these guys - who are bad news to begin with - feel free to step up their game.
However, they aren't very fast to do so. The first half of the movie is rather slow, with a lot of putting people in places and next to zero action or even anything really horror related. The escape of the four men is largely explained in dialogue (by a cop and a hospital guy we never really see again), and they take a while to get to the area, plus even once they do it's a little longer before they set their sights on our busload of high school girls who have taken refuge in a big Gothic hotel after their vehicle breaks down. Then it picks up considerably, and mixes the goofy (but intriguing) bits with the patients talking about their treatment and such with more traditional stalking/slashing scenes. Not only are there a bunch of (sadly interchangeable) girls for them to menace, there's a pair of camping guys who realize something is wrong and come to the rescue. I almost wish they were Janet Leigh'd the hell out of the movie rather than becoming heroes - not only does it lessen the amount of time we could be spending learning a bit about our heroines (and thus finding it easier to tell them apart), but also it would help lessen the movie's slightly misogynist tone.
Before I list examples, I feel I should point out that the movie's dialogue was mostly written by a woman, so perhaps some of it's supposed to be funny, like making fun of horror movie characters for being stupid. With everyone being so dry (British), it's a bit hard to tell if we're supposed to laugh or be appalled when a woman advises her friend to forget about being raped: "You pretend it never happened, I pretend I never saw it and if we ever get out of this alive, well, maybe we'll both live to be wives and mothers." I definitely lean toward "funny", but rape and humor doesn't always mix well as is, but coming out of the mouth of another woman makes it even more challenging. Had it been one of the males (and knowing it was written by a woman), it'd be pretty obvious that it was an attempt at mocking us dumb men. I'm not sure if the closing shot is a swipe at men and/or the British police, either - the cop finally shows up now that most people are dead and asks what seems to be the trouble (neither he or the survivors seeing another corpse on the other side of the frame - it's pretty dark but funny). And then, not once but TWICE do the girls get themselves caught by idiotically knocking things over - it's sort of like a Slumber Party Massacre thing where it seems like one person was making a straight horror film and the other was making a parody.
But it can't be parody, right? The movie is from 1978, long before the slasher cycle, so if they're commenting on this sort of stuff (as SPM was), they're way ahead of their time. Ultimately, it just adds to the film's very odd charms - this is definitely one of the more unique slasher films of the era, in that it's never particularly scary (or violent) but it always feels a bit "off", and would be a fine choice for an all nighter horror fest, slotted toward the end when the audience is starting to get kind of loopy themselves and would thus be in the perfect mindset for the peculiarities it offers. Much like its killers, who think they're in a dream (they think the two male guys are doctors - one of them even gets a bit upset that a "doctor" tells him to go to hell), the audience can assume some of the weirder bits that you just don't see too often (usually for good reason) were part of a shared dream. And then after they could talk about it in a state of confusion: "Did we just see a 3 legged dog?" "Did one of the killers just eat a raw egg for no reason?" Etc.
However, I won't hold my breath for that to happen, as I'm sure prints aren't easy to come by as even this version was kind of beat up (though widescreen, thankfully), and it's pretty obscure to boot. However, I DO wish I had held out to watch on Blu-ray or DVD, as it has a commentary by director/co-writer Alan Birkinshaw and one of the girls. If you've ever heard one of these British directors do a commentary, you know you're in for a grand ol' time, sometimes even more enjoyable than the film itself as they have no filter or tact. And Birkinshaw was one of the guys that reworked Don't Open Until Christmas, so he's obviously got stories to tell if he wants to. Maybe I'll check it out - the movie's pacing issues keep it from being a must buy type, but I'd definitely watch it again down the road. Highly recommended for those looking for something a little different.
What say you?