Home Video Hovel- Killer’s Moon, by David Wester
Killer’s Moon is a peepshow, first and foremost, a threadbare cinematic excuse to peek under the nightgowns of a few young women and then move on with your life and forget about it. I’m sure that the intended effect was that of a thriller, but the cues for its actual, subtextual purpose being to provide exploitative, gratuitous female nudity to a leering audience are too overbearing to ignore. As a film it is, as such films often are, barely literate with perfunctory camera work (this shit’s in focus!), acting that wouldn’t pass muster at a community theater in Kansas (and I can say that because I’ve done community theatre in Kansas), and molasses-in-January pacing (I have no experience with molasses whatsoever). The plot involves a group of madmen harassing and raping the aforementioned young women after their bus breaks down near an English hotel, and so it goes with one young actress after another baring her skin in the context of sexual violence and some dashing leading men who were camping nearby eventually leading them to safety. It, perhaps, says more about me than I would like to admit, but the only suspense I felt during the depressing, interminable proceedings was wondering which of these actresses was going to be one of the naked ones. C’est la vie.
Though to (quickly) back away from my own prurient interests, if one could dredge up enough enthusiasm (I can’t really), it would be impossible not to be offended by the depiction of rape in this thing. A woman, raped by some baddies off-screen, recounts her horrifying ordeal with a comically inept delivery of a single line, “they raped me.” She looks untouched. It’s absurd. She seems like she had her bike stolen. Later in the film, one of the young ladies says to another (and, believe me, I’m paraphrasing), “So you were raped, it’s not the worst thing that could have happened. Don’t tell anyone and nobody will know.” What?! Again, modern eyes looking at this thing, so, perhaps, the concern is that she still appear a virgin to her husband-to-be, but come on. It’s surely unfair to compare this to A Clockwork Orange which had, at the very least, way more money behind it, but as conflicted as I feel about the rapes in Kubrick’s film they’re aware of the horror of what they’re depicting. Even the often vile, but similarly low-budget Last House on the Left got that what was going on was a big deal. This plays out like handing a loaded gun of meaning to a child and watching the result. Not pretty. And the rest of the script is equally inane. Characters hatch plans (you know, things like, “wait here while I…” or “We should split up so that…”) that inspire, at best, a furrowed brow while you ponder how any human being would conceive of such a preposterous notion under these circumstances.
But, honestly, one does not apply the same critical tools to a film like Killer’s Moon that one might to other films. Watching movies of this ilk is often like panning for gold, looking for the small shimmers of quality in a flowing river of incompetence. And there is one aspect to the film that is rich with possibility. The villains are escaped mental patients who, due to an experimental psychiatric treatment, believe they are asleep and dreaming as they go about their awful business. That’s, I think, a pretty grand idea to hang a thriller on, an inverse of Nightmare on Elm Street years before that film gave Robert Englund a steady paycheck. You can say a lot with such a concept, things about the deep dark secrets that plague us all and reveal themselves via our subconscious. It also gives the villains a conscience-free playground, quite a nice trick for crafting monstrous people doing monstrous things. Alas, the film’s depiction of its villains’ dream state is hardly explored. They mostly seem like they’re just really tired. And despite having this nice set-up, time and again, the movie stops short of having the courage to let its monsters be monsters. For a supposedly lurid thriller, this is simply inexcusable.
I’m not philosophically opposed to cinematic peepshows, and I actually love the exuberance, anti-logic, and grotesque, exploitative imagery found in a lot of low-budget thrillers made in this era when the restrictions on violence and nudity that could be shown in films were lifted. These films often have an unhinged quality to them that feels really, truly dangerous, like the filmmakers wouldn’t be above actually killing someone to get that shot of the helicopter blowing up. Killer’s Moon offers none of that. The violence is toothless, cheaply constructed, and risk-free. It’s as if the makers wanted to provide the lurid thrills they knew their audience would lap up, but didn’t want to go too far for fear of alienating anyone. On the other hand, it could be simple incompetence and lack of experience that accounts for the wishy-washy, “Gosh, I sure hope my parents don’t see this movie” nature of its supposed horrors. Or maybe I’m just a jaded modern viewer whose exposure to countless cinematic horrors has inured me to the thrills and chills that are evident in Killer’s Moon. Whatever the case, I am surely not the intended audience for this movie.
The Blu-Ray of the film has a passable picture quality, and other than your typical low-budget film noise, scratches, dust, etc. it’s hard to know if the flaws in the image come from the original print or the transfer. A couple of interviews with director Alan Birkinshaw and actress Joanna Good provide some interesting context to the film’s creation in light of their own careers. Some trailers for recently released films by Jean Rollins (which provide the nasty thrills I wanted more of from Killer’s Moon in short, digestible snippets) and a commentary with Birkinshaw and Good round out the package.