Craig J. Clark — Nov. 13th 2016
Compared to the ’80s, which was rather a boom time for werewolf cinema, the ’90s were considerably leaner, and with one or two notable exceptions, the films produced that decade much less memorable. Case in point: 1996’s Bad Moon, which was released 20 years ago this month, coming between the ludicrous Project: Metalbeast (which, I shit you not, is about a secret military plan to create armored werewolves) and An American Werewolf in Paris (a misbegotten sequel I still have no intention of wasting my time on). Tellingly, neither of those cast-offs have been released in souped-up editions by Scream Factory, but Bad Moon has, so that’s a definite point in its favor. Plus, the thing’s only 79 minutes long. How torturous can it be?
The answer is not very torturous at all. Bad Moon is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s ridiculous enough to be laughable for long stretches of time — even when the filmmakers are trying to play it straight. It was written for the screen and directed by Eric Red, who deserves an award for adapting a novel called Thor and not filling it with references to Norse mythology. Rather, Thor is an überprotective German shepherd owned by lawyer Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and lovable moppet Brett (Mason Gamble), who have moved to the Pacific Northwest to get away from the big, bad city. What they end up doing is moving next door to the big, bad wolf when Hemingway’s brother Ted (Michael Paré) returns from the jungle, where he was attacked by a werewolf, and takes up residence in their backyard. Thor knows what’s what, though, and does what any dog would do to protect the family.
Werewolf films live and die by their transformation scenes. In the olden days, they were accomplished with the use of time-lapse photography (as in 1941’s The Wolf Man) or simple cutaways (as in 1935’s Werewolf of London, which is featured in this film). During the wolf’s ’80s resurgence the order of the day was in-camera make-up effects (which is why classics like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London continue to be revered today). By the ’90s, however, the standard was CGI “morphing,” which in the case of Bad Moon looks about as cheesy as you would expect. The werewolf itself isn’t half bad and Paré’s performance as its human side is reasonably credible, but one wishes the effects crew had skipped the part in-between.