Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers was a stroke of genius when it was released. Taking a group of British soldiers holed up in a remote house in the woods and pitting them against a group of werewolves might not seem that novel, but Marshall was able to make it unique. And while that promised sequel never materialized, the hope that someone would come along and try something different with the werewolf story again still remains. With Blood Moon, director Jeremy Wooding looked to try and do just that. But while the idea of having werewolves running amok in the Wild West sounds cool, the end result doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Colorado, 1887. After a violent bank robbery, the Norton Brothers, Hank and Jeb (Corey Johnson and Raffaello Degruttola) make their way to the small, abandoned town of Pine Flats. Pursuing them is local lawman Wade (Jack Fox) with his guide, Native American woman Black Deer (Eleanor Matsuura). Meanwhile, a stagecoach carrying a group of travelers happens to stop in Pine Flats. The Norton Brothers take the travelers hostage, but it’s quite clear that all of them are in for a shock. Turns out the town has been set upon by someone or something, and it’s hungry for their blood.
The strongest aspect of Blood Moon is its characters. The acting may not be as consistent and strong across the board, but there’s enough to keep things interesting. In addition, despite many of the cast being British, they all pull off convincing accents. Highlights include Shaun Dooley (who also starred in The Woman In Black) channeling his best Clint Eastwood as the mysterious gunslinger Calhoun, pulling a low, gravelly tone with his lines while chewing on a cigar. Not to be outdone, Corey Johnson also does well as badass tobacco-chewer in Hank Norton. Anna Skellern is fun and mouthy as the ballsy widow, Marie. Many of the characters have some great lines to chew through, which more than once had me smiling.
In addition to some clever lines, Wooding also makes some interesting choices with the camera. There are a couple of interesting point-of-view shots (such as the shot from the stagecoach), as well as some overhead shots that you typically wouldn’t see in a Western film. Also, Wooding takes the less-is-more approach when it comes to the werewolf (and given the film’s meager budget), smartly not giving too much away in terms of good looks at the creature, as well as making the attacks a series of quick cuts. Effects-wise, I dug some of the transformation shots (reminded me of The Howling, for some reason), but the werewolf itself looked a little too bulky, which isn’t what you want when it comes to a creature that’s supposed to be quick and strong.
Blood Moon‘s real problem, however, is unfortunately its best part. Or rather, what the film does with them. While the characters are enjoyable, the film spends far too much time focused on them, and not enough on the hairy behemoths trying to snack on them. True, in a film where a group of characters are isolated from the outside world and must deal with conflicts that arise in their group (as well as the external threat to them all), it’s necessary to have these characters properly developed. However, in spite of the Norton brothers and their threats, a few scenes of tension, and the eventual realization that everyone has a secret to hide, there’s nothing particularly exciting that happens with this group. It’s not boring, but the film slows to a crawl because of it. This makes the sparse appearances of the werewolf even more frustrating, since nothing else happens to really grab your attention.
Sadly, Blood Moon is another film that had a wealth of potential to be an awesome genre film that tries a slight twist on an old formula, but ultimately misses its mark. I can’t call the film a total disappointment, since I did enjoy some of the characters that Wooding was able to come up with, and the actors giving a good effort in bringing them to life. However, the fact that the film wastes so much potential by focusing too much on the interactions of these characters within the confines of their group, and not enough on the external threat (and the overall lack of the werewolf appearances) makes this a tough one to recommend for fans looking for another werewolf film that’s successful at breaking the mold.