Killer's Moon (1978)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-04-05 07:09

Written by: Alan Birkinshaw & Fay Weldon
Directed by: Alan Birkinshaw
Starring: Anthony Forrest, David Jackson and Tom Marshall

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

ďBlood on the moon, one mangled dog, one missing axe, and a girl who's just found a body at the wrong end of the axe. How's that for the great British outdoors?"

Whenever a psychopath escapes from a mental ward, it seems like they almost always fly solo. One of my favorite overlooked slashers, Alone in the Dark, actually unleashed four guys upon an unsuspecting population. The same is true of Killerís Moon, a similarly obscure British slasher from 1977 that gained infamy from apparently being labeled a ďVideo NastyĒ at one time or another, a fact that kept it both underseen and very sought out among enthusiasts. At any rate, its quartet of madmen canít boast the likes of Jack Palance or Martin Landau, but theyíre a batty bunch indeed, and Killerís Moon is sometimes every bit as nuts as its antagonists, whether it knows it or not.

The four guys have, as you might suspect, recently escaped--not from an asylum or a prison, but rather, from a cottage hospital, and theyíve begun to terrorize the local countryside. Among the locals are an old lady and a couple of campers; however, the real jackpot for these lunatics arrives in the form of a busload of schoolgirls. When their bus breaks down, theyíre shuttled off to a local hotel that proves to be adequate lodgings until these maniacs show up and begin raping and murdering the girls.

Itís always interesting to see British takes on this sort of thing; by Ď78, other European nations and America had thoroughly trudged through the grind houses and drive-ins for nearly a decade, while Britain sort of lagged behind and struggled to get out of the shadow of its gothic roots. This is not to say they didnít eventually have their fair share of trash flicks, though, and Killerís Moon is one of them, as itís very much one of those rural nightmares that plays as an all out assault on virginal innocence a la Last House on the Left. The other reference point, A Clockwork Orange, is even more obvious since the psychosí garb matches that of Alex and his droogs. Theyíre all even presented as having been twisted and molded into rapists and murderers by their therapy--their brains have been fried by experimental LSD treatment, and theyíve all been hypnotized into believing theyíre actually in a dream so their actions carry no consequences.

Killerís Moon is pretty far from being psychological, though, since itís mostly schlock-filled junk that impacts more on a physical level. This is one of those oddball proto-slashers filmed before (or at least right around the same time as) Halloween, though it takes a much more graphic approach than Carpenterís film. While itís nothing that would make a seasoned horror enthusiast bat an eye these days, there are some nice gore effects, with a charred, mangled up corpse serving as the filmís climactic gag. Even more outrageous is how outwardly lecherous the film is; though all the actresses were surely of age during filming, the film isnít shy about their schoolgirl status and the maniacsí pedophiliac compulsions towards them. For them, itís not enough that their ďdreamĒ allows them to rape at will--itís also ďstuffed full of jailbaitĒ too, as one of them gleefully exclaims. Rape was one of the 70s biggest horror taboos, and itís thoroughly explored here--not just the act, but also the recovery. In one particularly weird scene, a girl assures a victim that ďsheís only been rapedĒ and that itíll be easy to forget as long as they donít tell anyone (itís perhaps noteworthy that a woman, Fay Weldon was an uncredited writer here). Thereís plenty of cringe-worthy and hilarious moments like this, though itís hard to say whether theyíre intentional or not, and, at times, itís almost eerie how prescient this film is of the flaws (wooden acting, oblivious dialogue) that would beset the burgeoning slasher genre.

Beaneath its hints of absurdity, Killerís Moon operates on a pretty repetitive cycle, and this is what keeps it from being thoroughly engaging. For a while, it actually thrives more on atmosphere and dread by letting viewers absorb the rustic countryside and the huge, gothic hotel thatís actually more reminiscent of a castle. The early scenes of the psychotic quartet roaming around are actually quite scary since they feel like predators that have been unloosed upon some easy prey. However, once they reach the house, things begin to deflate a bit, and it becomes all the more obvious how things will turn out since those two guys also just happen to be camping out. When they get involved, the movie just becomes a series of rescue missions, though one also has a fun bit where the guys and girls trick their assailants and turn the tables on them in the hotel.

For obvious reasons, Killerís Moon feels very European with its soft focus photography and the slight gothic flavoring. Whereas American films like this really tended towards being super grimy and gritty, their European counterparts mostly had some sense of flair and style. Killerís Moon isnít exactly a tour-de-force in this respect, but itís quite dreary and hazy, giving the film an air of menace to compliment its madmen. Theyíre a silly bunch, and, like the rest of the movie, youíre never quite sure just how seriously youíre supposed to take them; if thereís an answer, I think it comes in the final frame, which is sort of glibly hilarious in its undercutting of a seemingly comforting moment. Killerís Moon is far removed from the Video Nasties list now, as itís recently been released onto Blu-ray by Kino, who has decked it out with a fine presentation and a handful of extras that include an original theatrical trailer, a photo gallery, and interviews and commentary with Joanne Good, and Alan Brickinshaw. I can see Killerís Moon as being kind of polarizing--not necessarily in terms of quality, but rather, in terms of intent--itís either an earnestly bad movie or an intentionally loony subversion of these types of films. It's more fun to imagine it's the latter, but decide for yourself. Rent it!

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