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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Bloody Moon (Blu-ray)
Bloody Moon (Blu-ray)
Severin // Unrated // July 8, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 21, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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With north of 150 movies under his belt, spanning everything from spy thrillers to nunsploitation to lesbian vampires, how could Jess Franco not direct a slasher flick? Bloody Moon isn't subtle about it either. I mean, this 1981 slasher opens with a mute killer putting on a cheap, plastic mask -- complete with P.O.V. eyehole shots -- and savagely stabbing some nubile seductress. It corrects the many wrongs made in that opening sequence in Halloween, infusing in the right amount of disco, a less copyright-friendly mask, along with this guy:

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The hideously deformed Miguel (Alexander Waechter) is locked up in an asylum for a few years before being released into the custody of his caring sister (Nadja Gerganoff). Manuela is supposed to handle him with kid gloves, warned that anything that'd remind Miguel of that fateful night could unravel years of intense treatment and unleash the killer within. So, Manuela naturally brings her brother back to the scene of the crime. See, that brutal murder took place at their aunt's boarding school in Costa del Sol where pin-up model types are taught to speak Spanish. Miguel can't turn his dead, soulless eyes away from young Angela (Olivia Pascal) in particular, and before you know it, all of her closest friends are getting hacked and slashed into bloody, fist-sized chunks. Guess Miguel's incestuous sister meant it when she said everything would go back to normal if only they could get rid of everyone.

In his interview elsewhere on this disc, Jess Franco made it sound as if he'd all but disowned Bloody Moon, but I love the holy hell out of it. Franco racks up a hell of a body count, with several of the kills unflinchingly gruesome and inventively demented. One poor victim has a foot-long blade shoved through her back and out through one of her exposed breasts. Another is decapitated with a set of garden shears. The standout, though, is a gal who thinks her newfound lover is just being kinky when he ties her to a gigantic rock in the middle of nowhere. She says with a smirk that she's game for anything, but that's before she realizes that she's being fed headfirst into a stone mill's power saw.

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This is a Jess Franco flick and all, so you probably don't need me to tell you that Bloody Moon is crammed end-to-end with young, impossibly gorgeous, and frequently naked women. Franco treats this slasher like more of a thrill ride, blending in the right amount of humor while keeping the scares short and visceral. Bloody Moon's stabs at suspense can be very effective -- some malevolent taunting over a set of headphones, the legendary power saw sequence, a student so busy pretending she's getting her brains fucked out that she's oblivious to the bloody corpse in the closet -- but its approach to horror generally owes more to the money shots from Franco's days in porn than the extended stalk and slash from Halloween or Friday the 13th. As many slasher tropes as Bloody Moon embraces, Franco also shows that he hasn't forgotten about where the Body Count Movie first originated, with the masked killer even rocking a pair of black leather gloves at one point. The parade of comeuppances in the finalé also feel more like something out of giallo rather than a standard issue American slasher. Bloody Moon benefits from a stronger backdrop, with its coastal resort standing out as visually more interesting than yet another remote forest. Even the movie's clunkier moments -- a laughably ridiculous styrofoam boulder plummeting down a mountain, one cornball scare with a snake and another with a cat thrown into the frame, the endless language study sequences, and, um, basically every line of dialogue -- are still a hell of a lot of fun. I wouldn't put Bloody Moon in the same league as my favorite European slashers/proto-slashers, such as A Bay of Blood, Torso, or the gloriously insane Pieces, but Jess Franco's stab at my favorite subgenre still comes very Highly Recommended.

Just look at it.
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I can't get over how surreally gorgeous Bloody Moon looks in high-def. I don't know what dark, arcane magicks Severin unleashed to do it, but this presentation not only eclipses every '80s slasher I've come across on Blu-ray but just about everything else from any era. The clarity, definition, and rich detail on display throughout Bloody Moon are world-class. Its palette is strikingly saturated, especially some of the practically neon wardrobe that pops up every once in a while. There really isn't any damage to speak of, and speckling is too mild to ever get in the way. The authoring of this Blu-ray disc keeps everything nice and filmic. Its sheen of film grain is warm and unintrusive, and there's no excessive filtering, artificial sharpening, or encoding missteps to drag down the score at all. Sure, I did wish during a few scattered shots that black levels packed a bit more of a wallop, but that's not a persistent nuisance. For the vast, vast overwhelming majority of its eightysomeodd minute runtime, this presentation of Bloody Moon is as good as it gets. No grading on a curve, no "for a movie of its age and budget..." qualifications, no nothin'.

I guess I should backpedal a little, though. To try to restore Bloody Moon to its most gruesome glory, Severin had to splice in some splatter in less-than-spectacular looking footage, and...well:

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Cropped and blown up from what sure looks like VHS, this only amounts to a few seconds' worth of blood and guts in all, swooping in at the tail-end of some of the most brutal kills. With as much time and effort has clearly been invested in polishing the rest of this presentation, I have no doubt that Severin didn't have any other options with these snippets of grue: that it was this or nothing. Those brief, stark dips in quality certainly don't dim my enthusiasm for what is otherwise such truly exceptional work.

Bloody Moon carves its way onto a single-layer Blu-ray disc at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

Bloody Moon sounds almost as good as it looks. Okay, that means you do need to shrug off the clumsily looped and even more clumsily written English dialogue that never syncs up, the aggressively mediocre score by Gerhard Heinz, and Foley work so underfunded that a relaxing fire in the drawing room sounds like someone crumpling a sheet of a paper. You can't really pin any of that on this 16-bit, monaural PCM track, though. I get the sense that every micron of fidelity that could possibly be reproduced from Bloody Moon's original master tapes is fully on display here. The low-end is healthier than I ever would've expected. The looped dialogue sounds like it hails from the early '80s, but it's reproduced perfectly. Hiss is too modest to ever intrude, and there's really only one niggling pop to speak of. Plus you're reading a review by a guy who has a bank of Moog synths within arm's reach, so the spacy bloops that herald the next kill sure do get a smile out of me too. Again, nothing but nice things to say.

The audio options begin and end with this uncompressed English track. No alternate languages, no subtitles or captions, and no commentaries.

  • Franco's Moon (19 min.; SD): "After Bloody Moon, if you want me to do it, I do it my way -- not in your way because your way is the way of shit...and I don't want to make shit, being conscious that I'm doing shit."

    So, yeah, the big takeaway from this interview with the since-departed Jess Franco is that he's no great fan of Bloody Moon. On the other hand, that does give him all sorts of gleefully venomous stories to tell, from the deceitful producers who promised a score by Pink Floyd (?!) to Franco's having to fight to have this Spanish-set film be shot in Spain rather than the middle of Austria. Franco also touches on how the tedium of shooting porn helped color the way he looks at kill sequences, the splashes of comedy throughout Bloody Moon, its not-altogether-accurate titles in some corners of the globe, and the movie getting hacked apart by overzealous censors. Love it, love it, love it.

  • [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Though the feature presentation uses the movie's original German titles (wanna see?), this minute and a half-long trailer trots out the more familiar "Bloody Moon".

The Final Word
Bloody Moon had me at "Jess Franco making a slasher", and it's every bit as shamelessly exploitative and dementedly fun as that sounds. Chances are that I'd be recommending this Blu-ray disc no matter how it looked or sounded, but such a truly extraordinary presentation makes it that much more essential a purchase for slasher fanatics. Highly Recommended.
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