When asked what are some of the best Werewolf movies ever produced, what do you think of? Often, and for very good reason, some of the titles that automatically spring to mind are films such as ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941), ‘An American Werewolf in London’(1981), ‘The Howling’(1981), ‘Silver Bullet’(1985), ‘Ginger Snaps’(2000) and ‘Dog Soldiers’(2002); these tend to be the most popular and well received of the lycanthropic sub-genre, with other titles such as ‘Wolfen’ (1981), ‘The Company of Wolves’ (1984), ‘Wolf’ (1994), ‘Cursed’(2004), and ‘Wolf Cop’ (2014) being not too far behind in popularity, although these films are much more debated with a subjectivity that varies person to person – in the case of ‘Wolfen’, there’s the debate of weather or not it’s actually a Werewolf movie, and in the case of ‘Cursed’ and ‘Wolf Cop’, weather they can actually be considered good movies at all – but there are two Werewolf movies that are occasionally mentioned that I would consider to be criminally underrated: ‘Late Phases’ (2014) and ‘Bad Moon’ (1996), both of which I feel should be in the same category as the first set of titles listed above, and perhaps they would be if they were seen by more people.
The better of the two, ‘Bad Moon’, is the one I would argue for the most because it truly is a unique and well put together take on a Werewolf story that stands apart from the rest, and is greatly underrated and underappreciated film.
Adapted from Wayne Smith’s novel ‘Thor’ by Writer/Director Eric Red (writer of ‘The Hitcher’), the story begins with Ted (Michael Pare), a photojournalist deep in a jungle in Nepal with his girlfriend Marjorie (Johanna Marlowe), and a tribe of natives, when they are suddenly attacked by a Werewolf. Marjorie and the tribe are all slaughtered, and a wounded Ted manages to kill the Werewolf. A month later, we’re introduced to Ted’s sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway), a single-mother and Lawyer who escaped city-life and lives in a house secluded in the country with her son Brett (Mason Gamble) and German Sheppard, Thor (Primo). Out of the blue Janet gets a phone call from Ted, revealing that he’s back in the United States. Janet, Brett and Thor go to visit Ted at his trailer, and Thor begins to wander around the property, catching the scent of something not quite right. Ted is misleading to Janet, insisting the Marjorie left him, neglecting to the share the details of what happened in the jungle. Soon after, as mutilated bodies are discovered near the area where he resides, Ted calls his sister, who insists that he park his trailer in her backyard and stay with them. Ted takes Janet up on this offer, and soon Thor becomes suspicious of Ted, leading to a bitter rivalry between the beast and the dog.
The most appealing aspect of this movie is the fact that it really boils down to Dog vs Werewolf, as Thor is the hero of the story, and both, Primo the German Sheppard and Michael Pare steal the show as primary protagonist and antagonist, and their back and forth rivalry is pretty fun to watch. Ted, in particular doesn’t start off as having anything against the dog, and has an understanding of its awareness of what he is, and he even insists that his sister should trust the dog – but as things escalate between the two, and as Thor sees him in his other form, Ted’s darker side comes out and he takes measures to get rid of the dog. There’s an amusing moment here, where, after successfully getting Thor removed from the property, Ted moves around to the back of the house and takes a piss on Thor’s dog house as payback for Thor pissing on a wheel to his trailer.
Michael Pare really sells the evolution of Ted’s character, going from an innocent man with a terrible curse to flat out villain. Mariel Hemingway and Mason Gamble are also good in their roles, although it can be a little frustrating to witness Janet’s naivety throughout the film, and Mariel doesn’t really get to shine until the third act when Janet and Brett are attacked by her lycanthropic brother after finally discovering the truth.
The Werewolf itself looks fantastic here, and has a great design – easily one of the best-looking werewolves on film, and stuntman Ken Kirzinger really sells its savagery with his body language and performance.
The only negative thing I can say about this movie is the god-awful digital transformation, which is almost as terrible as the one in ‘The Howling: New Moon Rising’ – it’s just horrendous and laughable. Funnily enough, if you happen to check out the Scream Factory Blu Ray release, there are two versions of the films included: Theatrical Cut and Director’s Cut, and the only noticeable difference between the two, at least for me, is that the Director’s Cut actually removes the transformation sequence, and honestly makes it a better film.
Overall, with the films’ unique story perspective, decent acting and creature design, ‘Bad Moon’ is a Werewolf movie that deserves to be watched, even if it does have one bad effects sequence. This movie is better than it gets credit for.