There has been a trend in film of late to combine a historical person or setting with a supernatural entity; Cowboys vs. Aliens, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, just to name a few. The latest movie mashup is a western-horror hybrid that finds cowboys fighting werewolves, or skinwalkers, in a seemingly deserted town. Werewolves do not usually equal entertainment in my eyes, but, at just under 90 minutes, Blood Moon is an enjoyable mashup of the two classic genres with a well written (albeit slow-to-start) story, some decent scares, above average visual effects (which don’t appear to use much CGI), and remarkable performances from several exceptional actors.
The film starts innocent enough, so to speak- it uses a bit of a slow build to introduce all the pieces and bring them together before digging in to the main action. A title card reveals the setting to be Colorado in 1887 and a gunslinger named Calhoun prepares to shoot his wounded horse. This seems to serve as a setup for the western half of the hybrid. Cut to the setup of the horror half in the nearly deserted town of Pine Flats, Colorado where a local resident encounters the beast that will soon unite a group of disparate souls. A quick shot of Calhoun camping at night and then cut to the next morning when a pair of outlaws hold up a bank. Then a stagecoach driving down a beaten path is introduced along with the majority of the rest of the main characters save a Native American who gets her own introductory scene (and brings the legend of the skinwalkers) after the stagecoach.
So, about 15-25 minutes into the film, we’ve met the characters and gotten a bit of a back story on some. The notable exception being Calhoun who, when questioned about his origin after joining with the stagecoach, simply says, “I’d tell you, but you’ve never heard of it.” When the travelers, along with Calhoun, reach Pine Flats, things start to go downhill as the action begins to pick up; first thanks to the outlaws, then thanks to the skinwalker that threatens all of their lives. As is common among humans when there is a greater enemy, the travelers, the gunslinger, and the outlaws must unite in order to survive the night of the Blood Moon.
As I stated earlier, the special effects are above average. There is plenty of cringe worthy blood spillage; though maybe not as much as the more intense horror fans might like. Obviously, a lot of the horror aspect takes place at night, so the creature is in the dark shadows a lot; yet it is fairly realistic and life like most of the time that it does appear. The set design is rather awe inspiring as little period-specific details appear in some backgrounds regardless of their necessity.
While set in America, this movie was actually filmed in the UK; the notes I received about the film say it is only the second western to be filmed in the UK. There’s a joke on the internet that the UK has only a few actors (the number in the joke varies), and that joke probably will not be discouraged by this film as many of the actors will be familiar to fans of British television. Two that I recognized before checking biographies were Shaun Dooley (Calhoun) and Kerry Shale (Father Domonic – one of the stagecoach passengers who delivers a shocking eulogy right before the outlaws join their group). Dooley gave a haunting performance in the second series of Broadchurch and Shale faced The Silence in Doctor Who (and then forgot); Shale’s other biography is rather impressive (I’ve apparently been watching him for years without realizing). George Blagden (Vikings, Les Miserables), Anna Skellern (The Decent 2, The Musketeers), and Corey Johnson (Captain Phillips, 24: Live Another Day) also star.
Available on DVD and digital now.