Thursday, 1 October 2015

Blood Moon Review – How Did They Do That?

Blood Moon frequently left me asking one of the most welcome of film questions: how did they do that?

Blood Moon is a werewolf western about a handful of stagecoach passengers who take shelter for the night in the abandoned Colorado town of Pine Flats, only to be set upon by a prowling Navajo spirit known as the ‘skin walker’. And it was shot on location in Kent . . . yes, that Kent.


While some of the local flora does seem a bit off, veteran TV and film director Jeremy Wooding (the first series of Peep Show and 2002's Bollywood Queen) and his talented set designers pull off some good old movie magic and we totally buy this rickety old town, especially when the mist starts to hang heavy in the air.

Wooding makes good use of the two distinct (sub)genres at play in Alan Wightman’s screenplay, drawing on striking iconography from both the western genre and the werewolf monster movie. He’s aided by creature design and SFX from Dan Martin, whose myriad of credits include a number of collaborations with Ben Wheatley as well as helping to transform Benicio Del Toro into The Wolfman in the 2010 film. Martin does some really impressive work here, delivering a worthy foe for our band of heroes. We’re drip-fed glimpses of thick, dark fur, snarling teeth and razor-sharp claws in the first hour, but when we finally set our eyes on the beast, it doesn’t disappoint. Likewise, there’s some suitably splattery gore work, always welcome in genre movies such as this.


But good effects aren’t enough to sustain our interest for 90 minutes, and fortunately the cast are more than capable of holding their own. Shaun Dooley has a lot of fun in the classic smart-talking gunslinger-with-a-past role. Also strong are Raffaello Degruttola and Corey Johnson as the dastardly Norton brothers, cussing and spitting their way through the movie. Plus points, as well, for having an admirable gender balance, especially when viewed within the western genre, and the three main female cast members (Amber Jean Rowan, Anna Skellern and Eleanor Matsuura) all get their moment to shine.

The cast are particularly important, as a lesser ensemble may have found themselves bogged down by the undeniable cheesiness of the whole thing. One extra schlocky escape sequence risks it all, but remains just the right kind of laughable, thanks primarily to the accomplished performances. That’s not to say that the whole film remains quite as successful at that balancing act, but that’s arguably all part of the fun.


The final showdown’s big crescendo doesn’t quite follow through, as a dose of sequel-baiting seems to get in the way of a juicy final battle. Which does stand as a disappointment, but here’s to hoping that’s addressed in a sequel (currently being written, and in search of financing).

Blood Moon has the novelty of being only the third western ever to be filmed in the UK, however there’s more to it than that. The creature design and the gore will certainly please genre fans, but the talented cast and the overriding sense of fun ensure there’s enough here to merit a viewing for the uninitiated. Did I mention it was shot in Kent?

★★★

Blood Moon is now available on Amazon Prime Instant Video in the UK.

A big thank you to Mark Melvin, one of the film's executive producers, for the invitation to the launch screening!

Images provided by Fetch Publicity. Thank you!