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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: ‘Bad Moon’

Don’t worry – the dog lives!

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction, this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.

Eric Red’s horror film Bad Moon opened in 1996 to some pretty negative reviews. After watching the film, I have to wonder what is wrong with the critics who reviewed this movie? There are complaints about the werewolf’s look, complaints about Mariel Hemingway, but ultimately, there is nothing wrong with the werewolf’s look and there is nothing wrong with Mariel Hemingway who is pretty perfectly cast.

There is one huge aspect of the film that is overlooked and that is the fact that no animal has ever done such an amazing job of acting in a film. Give Primo the German Shepherd all the awards for his role of Thor. This week’s strange and fantastic tale is 1996’s Bad Moon, based on the novel Thor by Wayne Smith. 

Bad Moon is about a dog who is on a mission to protect his family from a werewolf. Thor is a German Shepherd who is fiercely protective of his humans Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and her son Brett (Mason Gamble). Thor’s ability to size up bad guys is uncanny.  Thor puts his ferocity on display when a swindler comes by looking to extort the family. Thor is able to scare him off. Thor also knows something is up when Janet’s brother Ted arrives on the scene. He is suspicious and extremely protective of his family.

Despite his aggressive exterior, he is sensitive and loving. He carries over a stuffed animal to Brett as he tucks him in and checks in on Janet before heading to bed. It’s so adorable, one almost forgets that the first five minutes of the film features some graphic sex, a grotesque mauling, and a werewolf’s head exploding with a shotgun blast. 

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: 'Bad Moon'

Maybe this is where the disconnect comes in for critics? There may be some discrepancy in trying to figure out the target audience. Bad Moon is very much an R rated family film. If you cut out the opening, children who enjoy nightmares could watch this film with their dogs. 

Pare gives a vulnerable performance as Uncle Ted. He wavers between fear, love of his family, and the desire to give in to his inner beast. Mariel Hemingway just seems like she would be a tough lawyer in real life so she is a strong character to Ted’s weaker one. However, if I’m giving out awards, the Oscar goes to Primo also known as Thor. The film plays out through Ted’s point of view.  Thor is the main protagonist, the final dog, if you will. Thor uncovers the clues, Thor experiences the jump scares, and it is Thor who knows the answers the family will not listen to. 

Bad Moon has some intense and frightening moments. True, the werewolf transformation scene could be better, the werewolf’s face could be a bit more terrifying. But the moments before he fully transforms are eerie, especially when Ted stares at the moon with the beast lurking under the surface. He tells his sister she caught him in the middle of his “private affair with his mistress.” Overall, there is not much in the way of tension, but Thor rules. Watch this film with your furriest friend. 

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