Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Killer's Moon (1978)

... aka: Killers Moon

Directed by:
Alan Birkinshaw

A bus with eight young female choir singers and a pair of uptight, matronly chaperons on board breaks down on a country road, prompting the ladies to walk until they can find shelter. They eventually stumble upon a huge, unoccupied hotel and settle down for the night, but a quartet of recently-escaped psychos decked out like Droogs for God knows what reason are on the loose and show up there to terrorize them. Also thrown into the mix are a hotel keeper and her slutty daughter, a gamekeeper and his wife, two male campers and, uh, a three-legged dog. There's one potentially novel angle present in this cheap "thriller:" the killers were all subjected to an experimental drug back at the nut-house prior to escaping. The drug puts them in an alternate state of conscience where they believe everything that's going on is only a dream so they can indulge in their darkest fantasies guilt-free. Why this angle was introduced in the first place is anyone's guess as it's poorly handled and proves to be utterly pointless. The escapees are already deranged so it's not outside the realm of plausibility they'd indulge in these activities regardless, so why even bother with the drug scapegoat? It would have been far more interesting had this detailed the effect of the drug on normal people.

I really wanted to like this one and expected to get at least something out of it considering many of the reviews I'd read were somewhat positive. The initial set-up is serviceable (albeit overused), but the incompetent direction, terrible screenplay and a deadly slow pace quickly turn it into a repetitive bore. It falls into that uneasy gray area of B entertainment where it's too poorly-made to take seriously, too silly to ever be disturbing and far too tame to be a trashy guilty pleasure. There are some mildly bloody moments, like an axe to the head and a knife through the throat, but the killings nearly all take place off screen and we just get to see the body afterward. The goriest moment is actually a throwaway WTF bit where one of the nuts chops off a cat's tail with a cleaver (!) A few of the actresses go topless and there are a couple of rape scenes, but these moments are too brief, too tame and too poorly done to please sleaze hounds. You can see the same exact material handled far more compellingly and convincingly in dozens of other films of this type.

Another problem I had was that there are so many pointless characters wandering around that not even the director can keep track of all of them. People go off to do things and disappear for such long stretches of time you complete forget about them by the time it returns to them. Others are at one location one minute and somewhere completely different the next. None of the choir girls are given even the slightest glimpse of personality or individuality and the director refuses to ever settle on a protagonist to give us a focal point to ground the action. I can't really comment on the acting because even Meryl Streep would have a hard time selling some of these lines. During the film's most jaw- dropping moment, one of the girls nonchalantly tells her recently- violated friend, "You were only raped. As long as you don't tell anyone about it you'll be alright. Pretend it never happened."

The final nail in the coffin is the laughably lazy visual presentation, which is so bad they can't even pull off something as simple as night convincingly! The exteriors set during the night were shot in the day with dark filters, but the sky always looks sunny and bright. The indoor footage is perhaps even worse because they don't even bother with giving it a darker look or even closing the curtains so there's always bright light flooding in through doors and windows during the "night." For numerous scenes supposedly taking place inside a tent, they hang up a huge tarp behind a few of the actors that not only is five times bigger than it should be but not even the same color as the tent show in long shots! These scenes have clearly been filmed somewhere on a stage with ridiculously unconvincing matte backdrops, which had me wondering why they didn't just set up a few spotlights and use the nice Lake District locations already at their disposal.



Lord Crayak said...

"The drug puts them in an alternate state of conscience where they believe everything that's going on is only a dream so they can indulge in their darkest fantasies guilt-free."

This is definitely a concept I'd want to see explored in a better film.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Yep, there's a germ of a good idea trapped in there.

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