Bad Moon

Saturday November 2, 1996

     Shame on Morgan Creek for changing the title of "Thor" to "Bad Moon"!
     That's because Thor, a German shepherd of exceptional intelligence, is the true star of this well-made werewolf movie that's appropriate post-Halloween fare.
     Thor goes on alert immediately when Ted (Michael Pare) turns up at the home of his attorney-sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway), a single mother with a 10-year-old son Brett (Mason Gamble), who has fled Chicago to live in a house in a forest clearing somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. When Ted says to Thor, "We're two of kind," he isn't kidding.
     In the pre-credit sequence we see Ted, a photojournalist on assignment in a jungle in Nepal, bitten and mauled by a werewolf, which kills Ted's lover. Plunged into a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" predicament, Ted feels his only hope in resisting the blood lust that keeps turning him into a werewolf is to receive the love of family.
     Now Janet is a terrific sister and mother, capable, self-reliant, warm and direct, but golly, right away five hideously mangled corpses of hikers turn up in the forest. Only Thor senses the great danger Ted poses for Janet and Brett.
     In adapting Wayne Smith's novel "Thor," writer-director Eric Red, much to his credit, plays "Bad Moon" straight. Sure, there are places when you'll laugh out loud--what's a horror picture without a little comic relief? "Bad Moon," however, is not camp, spoof or a homage to earlier movies, although "Werewolf of London" (1935), starring Henry Hull, is glimpsed on a TV screen.
     Armed with passable special effects and makeup designs that in some moments could have been more persuasive, "Bad Moon" is a straight-ahead horror picture with exceptionally well-written characters and well-directed actors.
     Janet is a totally contemporary take-charge woman, and Hemingway is outstanding in her portrayal. The same goes for Pare, playing a decent man tormented by his losing battle with evil. Gamble's Brett is a normal 10-year-old boy, upset and perplexed more by the increasing tension and anger in his dog than by his uncle's mood changes.
     If any animal can be said to give an actual performance, then it is the amazingly expressive Primo as Thor. "Bad Moon" is an unpretentious, no-fuss kind of movie that you hope will find an audience.

Bad Moon, 1996. R, for horror violence and gore, brief language and a scene of sexuality. A Warners Bros. release of a Morgan Creek production. Writer-director Eric Red. Based on the novel "Thor" by Wayne Smith. Producer James G. Robinson. Executive producers Gary Barber and Bill Todman Jr. Cinematographer Jan Kiesser. Editor C. Timothy O'Meara. Costumes Rita Riggs, Tracey Boulton. Music Daniel Licht. Production designers-art directors Richard Paris, Linda del Rosario. Set decorator Hope Caton. Set decorator (Harrison house) David Chiasson. Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes. Mariel Hemingway as Janet. Michael Pare as Uncle Ted. Mason Gamble as Brett. Ken Poque as Sheriff Jenson. Hrothgar Mathews as Flopsy.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times