Monday, 28 September 2015



There aren't, perhaps surprisingly, many horror Westerns. A quick online search revealed a handful of borderline candidates - Westworld, Near Dark, Tremors - but they're all set in the present day; period examples might include Ravenous or Ginger Snaps Unleashed. But if the horror Western is a rare beast, then rarer still is the horror Western made in England: specifically the full-size authentic reproduction town of Laredo (as seen in Red Dwarf's Emmy-winning episode Gunmen Of The Apocalypse, among other TV and film credits). In a comedy like Red Dwarf, or Carry On Cowboy, such details don't really matter, but if there's one thing that gives the location game away, it's the surrounding foliage: those forests are quite clearly British and not American. (For some reason, the same sense doesn't seem to apply if it's shot in Spain.)

In its early stages Blood Moon (originally shown in one of the Discovery Screens at FrightFest in 2014) does feel a bit wobbly and those obviously British woodland locations give the film a peculiar atmosphere, but once the sun goes down it gets a lot better. It's Colorado in 1887 and the notorious Norton Brothers have just robbed the bank and hightailed it out of town. Meanwhile the stagecoach is heading towards them carrying an assortment of interesting characters: a Deputy Marshal and his new bride, a sardonic madame, a no-nonsense gunslinger with a secret, a reporter for the London Times (scarcely old enough to have left his mother).... But there's something else out there: a skinwalker, a Navajo spirit "that kills in the light of the blood moon". To you and me, it's a werewolf.

Much of the second half of the film, where the travellers are besieged overnight in a (metaphorical) ghost town, with the beast outside and the Norton Brothers inside, is a lot better, though there's the constant threat of sexual violence which puts an unnecessarily ugly spin on proceedings. It also means there's a huge chunk of time where there isn't any skinwalker action. But the use of prosthetics and physical effects rather than computer effects helps (though it's augmented with CGI in post-production), as does keeping the beast out of clear view for the most part, and when it does show up it's a well-designed creation. It looks pretty good, especially in the second half (the DP cited the look of The Assassination Of Jesse James... as an inspiration), most of the cast - from as far afield as New South Wales and Barnsley - put on decent American accents and it's clear that everyone's having a good time and not taking things too seriously.

So Blood Moon is an enjoyable little curiosity (given that the whole thing was shot 20 minutes from the Dartford Tunnel): not perfect, nothing special and a bit shaky early on, but generally perfectly okay. As a British werewolf Western it's in a very small niche of its own, which might be way it's going straight to DVD (along with the majority of horrors these days, good and bad) although it's also getting a tiny travelling cinema release, handily timed to coincide with the actual astronomical Blood Moon. The DVD comes with eight brief behind-the-scenes featurettes.


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