Shaun Dooley in Blood Moon
"The film is rarely actually scary but it contains enough gore to please the average genre fan."

The Native American legend of the Skinwalker is an ancient one, with specific Naskapi and Navajo beliefs related to wolves thought by some to have originated with the Viking visits to Newfoundland in the late 10th Century, and it was reinforced by stories of werewolves brought by 18th century European settlers. Jeremy Wooding's film opens with echoes of S. Carleton's 1901 short story The Lame Priest as we see a smartly dressed wanderer say goodbye to his horse in a snow-limned northern forest. Is he afflicted with the curse? Perhaps; perhaps he's something else. He certainly seems ale to look after himself, and the group of travellers who permit him access to their stagecoach seem wise not to have argued about it.

This is Calhoun (Barnsley man Shaun Dooley, working hard o his accent). He's the archetypal Old West drifter, and he's about to find himself in the archetypal one horse town, just in time to get caught up in a hostage situation as desperate outlaws seek to avail themselves of more than just the contents of the local bank. Unfortunately for all involved, theirs is not the only bloody game in town. As Colhoun gets to know a little more about his new companions, a sub-plot sees the local sheriff keeping company with a hard drinking indigenous woman who has armoured herself with totemic white ash in anticipation of the coming blood moon - but something has already started snacking on the locals.

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There have been a number of werewolf films out in the past two years. This one is distinguished primarily by its period setting but also stands out for better-than-genre-average performances and characters which, though based on archetypes, are considerably more developed than many you'll find elsewhere. The female characters get more to do than in the average western, though at the price of not knowing how to conduct themselves in a horror film, with one backing up against a window for a predictably silly encounter. Although the film is described as a comedy, there isn't a great deal of humour, just the kind of sly one-liners you'd expect of an action film. This contributes to its biggest problem, a shortage of energy which means it falls short of its potential.

Vanishingly few of the cinema's werewolves have ever managed to look scary, or even avoid looking ridiculous, so Wooding wisely keeps his in the dark for much of the film; this also makes it easier to deliver the special effects on a low budget. Cinematographer Jono Smith does a good job of balancing this with keeping the main characters lit so that we can see what's happening in the action scenes, without making them look like Scooby Doo characters. The film is rarely actually scary but it contains enough gore to please the average genre fan. There's always something going on, even if the persistent needing to go outside to fetch something scenes feel a bit contrived.

Wooding has set this up to be the first in a series and it's not clear that it really has the bite to secure him a sequel, but if it does, a bigger budget might enable him to do something considerably stronger. Ultimately, Blood Moon falls short on ambition, but there's still plenty here to enjoy.

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2015
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Blood Moon packshot
A group of travellers captured by outlaws face a bigger threat - a creature known by natives as a skinwalker.

Director: Jeremy Wooding

Starring: Shaun Dooley, George Bludgeon, Corey Johnson, Anna Skeleton, Ian White

Year: 2014

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: UK


Frightfest 2014

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