Dir: Jeremy Wooding. UK. 2014. 90mins
For obvious reasons, few Westerns have been filmed in the UK … and those have tended to be spoofs like Ramsbottom Rides Again, Carry On Cowboy or Edgar Wright’s A Fistful Of Fingers. Shot on a convincing Wild West town standing set, Blood Moon is a rare serious entry in the ‘steak and kidney western’ sub-category and combines elements from classic American cowboy films with a Native American spin on the werewolf legend.
Prosthetics artist Dan Martin gets to deliver his take on Howling-style werewolves, including an unsettling split-ankle effect.
It allows the mostly-British cast to enjoy a game of cowboys and Indians, but manages suspense with its siege set-up and features impressively physical monsters. A pastiche of yoked-together genres rather than an envelope-expanding piece like the slightly similar Dog Soldiers, it’s briskly entertaining, as much for its knowingly ramshackle elements as its straight-ahead thrills.
In Colorado, 1887, the low-down Norton Brothers Hank (Corey Johnson, half-smart) and Jeb (Raffaello Degruttola, all-mean) gun down an innocent cashier, rob a bank, and high-tail it out of town. Sheriff Wade (Jack Fox) and co-opted Indian tracker Black Deer (Eleanor Matsuura) give lukewarm pursuit, pausing to ponder a local curse. In search of fresh horses, the outlaws head for a ghost town that happens to be a stagecoach stop, whose custodian has been disemboweled by an unseen monster in the prologue.
In a nod to John Ford’s Stagecoach, down to the seat places of passengers, mystery man Calhoun (rasping Shaun Dooley) flags down the stagecoach and squeezes in with Wade’s younger brother Jake (George Blagden) and his new bride Sarah (Amber Jean Rowan), a quivering parson (Kerry Shale) and saloon-running good-bad girl Marie (Anna Skellern).
Echoing the plots of minor classics like Henry Hathaway’s Rawhide and Budd Boetticher’s The Tall T, the Nortons waylay the stagecoach and terrorise the passengers … however, the outlaws aren’t the only peril in town, as a ravenous, hairy ‘skinwalker’ (aka Native American werewolf) starts whittling down the cast.
Alan Wightman’s script must have been in development for a while – a short film by Michael G. Gunther was made in America in 2011 based on the screenplay. Director Jeremy Wooding made The Magnificent Eleven, another British take on the Western – relocating the plot of The Magnificent Seven (and star Robert Vaughn) into the milieu of a contemporary British amateur football, which suggests an interesting obsession.
Dooley and Skellern have the most fun with their archetypal roles (Dooley even managing a running gag about where his mystery character is from) but Matsuura is interesting as the most unusual character – an alcoholic Native American tough girl with tracking skills, supernatural knowledge and a nasty secret. Prosthetics artist Dan Martin gets to deliver his take on Howling-style werewolves, including an unsettling split-ankle effect.
Production companies: Michael Vine Associates, Plumcourt Production, Stretch Limo Productions
International sales: Jinga Films, www.jingafilms.com
Producers: Michael Vine, Jeremy Wooding
Co-producers: Fiona Graham, Samantha Waite
Executive producer: Mark Melvin
Screenplay: Alan Wightman
Cinematography: Jono Smith
Editor: Kant Pan
Production designer: Julian Nagel
Music: Toby Pitman
Main cast: Ian Whyte, George Blagden, Anna Skellern, Corey Johnson, Shaun Dooley, Raffaello Degruttola, Kerry Shale, Amber Jean Rowan, Jack Fox