If you were keyed in to the hor­ror tape-trad­ing scene dur­ing the late 1980’s/1990’s, there were a lot of film­mak­ers who were names with­in the exclu­sive con­fines of that scene.  Several of them came from Germany, which was quite the hotbed of activ­i­ty for film­mak­ers look­ing to push the splat­tery extremes of the gen­re in new direc­tions.  Jorg Buttgereit was the obvi­ous king­pin with his noto­ri­ous Nekromantik films but there were oth­er nota­bles whose films got passed from col­lec­tor to col­lec­tor.  Olaf Ittenbach was a note­wor­thy exam­ple and his call­ing card was the noto­ri­ous The Burning Moon, a cam­corder opus that deliv­ered vis­cera by the truck­load.

Despite its splat-hap­py style, The Burning Moon uses a tra­di­tion­al hor­ror arche­type to par­lay its gut­ter­snipe excess­es — the anthol­o­gy film.  The fram­ing device revolves around a snot­ty post-teen (played by Ittenbach him­self) who avoids work and loves gang fights.  His par­ents force him to babysit his younger sis­ter, which he responds to by tak­ing drugs and then telling her some absurd­ly vio­lent bed­time sto­ries.  Cue the splat­ter effects…

The first sto­ry is called “Julia’s Love” and tells the sto­ry of a young lady (Beate Neumeyer) who goes out on a date with Cliff (Bernd Muggenthaler).  During the date, she dis­cov­ers he’s actu­al­ly an escaped men­tal patient/serial killer and flees.  She suc­cess­ful­ly makes it back to her family’s home but Cliff fol­lows her there with mass mur­der on his mind.

The sec­ond sto­ry is called “The Purity” and is a sac­ri­le­gious lit­tle dit­ty about the friend­ship between town out­cast Justuz (Andre Stryi) and the local priest Ralf (Rudolf Hoss).  The lat­ter is secret­ly a rapist/mass mur­der­er and poor Justuz gets blamed by the locals for his crimes.  When Rolf com­mits sui­cide to attain Satanic pow­er, the town­ies think Justuz did it and have him killed… but the spir­it of Rolf helps Justuz take gore-drenched vengeance from beyond the grave.

The Burning Moon is dif­fer­ent from your aver­age shot on video splat­fest in that it has a lot of ambi­tion and reach­es for pro­fes­sion­al­ism.  Ittenbach goes about his task with an overachiever’s zeal: not only did he direct and act but he also wrote the script and designed the elab­o­rate gore effects.  Unfortunately his ambi­tion over­pow­ers his abil­i­ties.   As a result, The Burning Moon suf­fers from the usu­al prob­lems you’d expect in an ama­teur film: flat act­ing, ter­ri­ble and inert dialogue/characterization, a lack of nar­ra­tive log­ic, pac­ing prob­lems, etc.  It would be nice to say he over­comes the­se prob­lems with unortho­dox cin­e­matograpy and raw energy but, out­side of a few Raimi-esque shots, his direct­ing tech­nique is pedes­tri­an and lack­ing in visu­al flair.

In spite of the­se nar­ra­tive fail­ings, The Burning Moon just might win over gore­hounds with its glee­ful approach to splat­ter.  The first sto­ry slow­ly ramps up its killings but builds to an impres­sive paint-the-haus-red finale with mul­ti­ple mur­ders, a glass-crash­ing stunt (done by Ittenbach him­self) and an exu­ber­ant­ly bloody final effect.  The sec­ond sto­ry doles out a few blood-spurt­ing gun­shot effects until its finale, which starts with a bru­tal beat­ing and cul­mi­nates in a vis­it to hell that sug­gests a bar­gain-base­ment rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the finale from Jigoku.  You get a base­ment full of deformed peo­ple, a mon­tage of squibs, count­less sev­ered limbs and a pièce de résis­tance involv­ing sev­er­al Cronenbergian sur­gi­cal tools plus a kitchen imple­ment and a pow­er drill.  It should be no sur­prise that, rough as they are, the­se are the most inspired and skill­ful­ly filmed/edited moments in the film.

That said, you’ve got to sit through a lot of sub-film stu­dent dia­logue and sto­ry­telling to wade through to get the­se bits.  Thus, your appre­ci­a­tion of The Burning Moon will depend on (a) your nos­tal­gia for 1990’s shot-on-video under­ground hor­ror and (b) your enthu­si­asm for cheap but gen­er­ous splat­ter effects.  If the lat­ter two dri­ve you wild then The Burning Moon might be the Bavarian splat­ter plat­ter of your dreams.