Full Moon Features: Blood Moon

With the super blood moon upon us — for the last time until 2033 — it’s fortuitous that there’s a new werewolf movie out called Blood Moon. What’s unfortunate is that it’s not a very good one. Set in Colorado in the year 1887, but filmed in the South of England for reasons known only to its financiers, Blood Moon is about a Native American Skinwalker — a warrior who’s able to take the form of a bipedal wolf creature and is at his strongest during the blood moon according to the film’s resident half-breed font of Navajo legends and dream visions — who has chosen to bedevil the abandoned mining town of Pine Flats and all who pass through it.

Taking its cues from classic Hollywood westerns like John Ford’s Stagecoach as much as modern revisionist ones like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Blood Moon is populated by all the expected character types. There’s Calhoun (Shaun Dooley), the mysterious gunslinger about whose past there is much speculation, who stops a stagecoach on the road to Pine Flats and talks his way onto it. His fellow passengers are deputy marshal Jake Norman (George Blagden), his blushing bride Sarah (Amber Jean Rowan), saucy saloon owner Marie (Anna Skellern), baby-faced London Times reporter Henry Lester (George Webster), and requisite priest Father Dominic (Kerry Shale), who’s the first to get plugged when the travelers are ambushed by outlaw half-brothers Hank and Jeb Norton (Corey Johnson and Raffaello Degruttola), who are on the run after a bank robbery gone bad. In addition to the repeated references to their deplorable personal hygiene, both are repugnant in their own unique ways. While Jeb has an eye for the ladies and makes plain that he plans to rape Sarah before they move on, Hank can’t go five minutes without spitting and sounds so much like Yosemite Sam that it: a) must have been a deliberate choice, and b) is incredibly distracting.

Speaking of distractions, director Jeremy Wooding and screenwriter Alan Wightman include numerous cutaways to Jake’s cousin, Marshal Wade (Jack Fox), who hires the aforementioned half-breed Black Deer (Eleanor Matsuura) to track down the Nortons, hand-waving her concerns about going out during the blood moon. Once it rises, that should mean the end of the tedium (“Jesus Christ, Jeb. Pull the trigger,” Hank says, speaking for the audience. “Shoot somebody.”), but even when one of the Nortons is put out of his misery and one of the passengers is attacked off-screen by the Skinwalker, the others seem unnaturally unperturbed when it drags the victim’s legs away, leaving the head and torso on the front porch of the inn where they’re holed up. Meanwhile, Wooding reveals the creature incrementally, progressing from an over-the-hairy-shoulder shot to the hairy arm that breaks through a window and grasps at the unwary soul who had their back to it. Then there are the closeups of its hairy back as it’s repeatedly shot so Wooding can show that the bullet wounds heal instantly thanks to the magic of CGI. What’s surprising about this is he was actually given a decent-looking practical werewolf costume to work with, so waiting until the last fifteen minutes to show it off just seems like a waste.

Also puzzling are the film’s attempts to prop up Calhoun like he’s some sort of icon who should be mentioned in the same breath as Eastwood’s Man with No Name. Based on his refusal to ever say where he’s from, despite being asked repeatedly, perhaps he should be known as the Man with No Birth Certificate. Also, his reputation as a crack shot may be somewhat overstated since the Skinwalker has to wait patiently up on the roof for Calhoun to fire a shotgun shell filled with silver jewelry into its heart. Then again, it was probably still dazed after being run over by that stagecoach. Blood Moon may not be a classic, but that’s still a moment for the record books.