When it’s red you’re dead: Blood Moon (2014)

When it’s red you’re dead: Blood Moon (2014)

The Old West. A group of travellers on a stagecoach – the freshly married couple of Deputy Marshal Jake (George Blagden) and Sarah Norman (Amber Jean Rowan), baby-faced London Times journalist Henry Lester (George Webster), nervous priest Father Dominic (Kerry Shale), saloon owner Marie (Anna Skellern), and a mysterious gunman named Calhoun (Shaun Dooley) they picked up on the way – make a pit stop in what is supposed to be a station located in what otherwise is a ghost town. Unfortunately, the station owner is spending a bit of time out of town in his new role as a ripped apart corpse, clearly having taken going native in the place a bit too seriously.

Calhoun – not the only white guy in this part of the West suspiciously knowledgeable about Native American monsters – quickly determines the man wasn’t killed by a normal animal but by a skinwalker; the rest of the party doesn’t exactly agree with his assessment. However, this specific dead body and the possible supernatural cause of its death might not be the most pressing of the party’s problems anyway, for they soon find themselves ambushed and captured by notorious outlaws Hank (Corey Johnson) and Jeb (Raffaello Degruttola) Walker, who might not be supernatural, but sure as hell are dangerous enough. Plus, at least one of the Walkers is so crazy, he might as well be a supernatural monster for all the difference it makes.

Of course, then there’s the further complication added to our heroes’ troubles that the station owner was indeed killed by a skinwalker and the creature’s still roaming the area in a very bad mood, particularly since a blood moon is hanging in the sky…

There’s also a subplot about Jake’s cousin, one Marshal Wade (Jack Fox) and his Native American tracker/visionary/witch friend Black Deer (Eleanor Matsuura) in their role as the miniature posse hunting the Walkers, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why these two are even in the movie apart from taking care of some plot setup the film could have handled without introducing two characters who’ll spend most of the film’s running time randomly trundling through the woods and not doing much of interest.

And right here, we’re at the main trouble with Jeremy Wooding’s UK-produced horror western Blood Moon – Alan Wightman’s script simply becomes awkward from time to time, not just by introducing a subplot that takes up more space than is necessary (and adds further characters to a film that already has enough of them just to introduce a bit of exposition, a minor horror scene that has little business being in the plot, and light deus ex machina-ing) but also with moments like Chekov’s Awkwardly Presented Silver Rings near the beginning. You know the rule: “If a werewolf film has a character showing off her silver rings in the first act, they will end up being used for werewolf killing in the third”. That Chekov guy really knew his stuff. These aren’t catastrophic failings as far as this particular film goes, though they do tend to make a movie that puts a western skinwalker twist on a Carpenter-esque siege scenario rather less focused and tight than I’d have liked it to be. On the other hand, wheneverBlood Moon works, it does so very well indeed, and it does work more often than not.

Despite including one or two scenes I found rather stagy for my tastes (mostly some of the indoor dialogue concerning Jeb), Wooding directs much of the film with a very sure hand, filming around its probably tiny budget quite elegantly and creatively, and turning the – mostly effective suitmation – monster into a credible threat as well as into a source of suspense that works as a nice catalyst for revealing the tensions between the characters besieged by it. That’s also an area where the script comes into its own in a positive way, giving stock character types just the right minor twists they need to come to life, and providing some fun old west style dialogue that might not be realistic (well, surely is not) but is – apart from a moment or two when it sounds just a bit silly – a joy to listen to. The majority of the actors not being Americans isn’t much of a problem here, either, because they’re not faking actual American accents here but are using what movies – a lot of them dubbed in Italy – have taught us people sounded like way back when. The core cast is decent, and often better, even if you don’t enjoy artificial accents, the film providing most everyone with a few moments to shine (and perhaps a pleasantly bloody death).

While I’ve done quite a bit of nitpicking in this write-up, I don’t want anyone reading come to the wrong conclusion about the film: if you’re able to get over its flaws – and there are more than enough virtues on display to make that pretty easy for me –Blood Moon is a fine example of contemporary low budget filmmaking, working in a genre mix that’s gotten a bit more common in the last decade or so but is still far from being overused, and providing  quite a few things to appreciate. That it’s not perfect isn’t really the most horrible thing imaginable (that would be getting ripped to shreds and not even eaten by a skinwalker, I suppose, or having to watch another Paranormal Activity sequel).

Denis Klotz contributes a regular film column for ExB, and can otherwise be found kicking around on his prolific cult media blog The Horror!?