Bad Moon is a very unorthodox combination of things: simply put, it combines a very gruesome, R-rated take on the werewolf movie with a squeaky-clean family drama steeped in Spielbergian surroundings. The film’s mixture of these extremes is often schizoid — but that’s also what makes it an intriguing oddity.
Bad Moon’s narrative is focused around the woodside home of Janet (Mariel Hemingway), a single mom and lawyer who lives with her preteen son Brett (Mason Gamble) and a loyal, protective German Shepherd named Thor. Their calm life is upended when Janet’s journalist brother Ted (Michael Pare) comes to visit and plants his trailer in the backyard. The family doesn’t know that Ted was bitten by a werewolf while in the jungle and has come home a secret killer. Thor’s the first one to figure it out but a werewolf is a tough foe to deal with, especially when its wily enough to turn people against the dog while in human form.
Despite a certain technical slickness and good production values, Bad Moon is just plain odd. Director Eric Red wrote the script, inspired by a Wayne Smith novel, and it’s a speedy, no-frills affair that plops the beats of a traditional The Wolf Man-style werewolf flick in oddly homey surroundings. The film runs just under 80 minutes with credits so the characterizations and plotting are pretty basic. In fact, they’re kind of plastic, with the monster material taking precedence over everything else.
Bad Moon’s oddness is enhanced by the similarly schizoid casting. Hemingway is simply miscast, giving a performance that suggests she’s in a different movie, while Pare is pretty good but his work is impaired by a bumpy “reluctant-killer-becomes-monster” character arc. The real stars here are the well-trained dogs, who get put through their paces, and impressive full-scale werewolf FX by Steve Johnson. There’s also a bit of visual effects in the form of some morphing FX but they’re kind of awkward.
That said, Bad Moon will keep you watching while you’re scratching your head at its tonal weirdness. Red keeps the narrative moving at a speedy clip, delivering plenty of gnashing-monster scenes and an above average amount of blood. It’s clear the mayhem is near and dear to his heart because he stages it lovingly: the Fangoria kids will eat up, particularly with Johnson’s fun werewolf effects, which fall halfway between The Howling and Silver Bullet. The conflict between the family drama stuff and the gruesome monster elements creates a narrative tension: the mash-up of the two is crazy but it’s crazy in a hypnotic way that will keep horror fans leaning forward with curiosity to see which way the tone will veer next.
In short, whether or not you consider Bad Moon a good movie will largely come down to personal taste. If you can get into its tone-clashing weirdness, it’s got its own bizarre, schizoid sense of personality.