31 October 2013


Thirteen Things about Bad Moon

13. My quest to find family-friendly Horror movies continues. Bad Moon makes the list if you start screening it for the little impressionables during the opening credits. The scene right before that, in which one of the main characters and his lover are attacked by a werewolf, is not just a cheap excuse to include some sex but also the equivalent of revealing [Spoiler (ironically?) redacted] at the start of a Detective Story.

12. The opening credits are flashed over an aerial view of a road winding through a heavily wooded area until it comes to a nice but secluded family home. I don't know about you, but I was instantly reminded of the Creed family's house in Stephen King's Pet Sematary, which we read in the "Two or Three" Book Club just last year! If you've read it, too, then you know what I mean when I say that the difference between it and Blue Moon is the difference between a malignant threat in the woods and evil in the heart of a family.

11. I'm not sure at what point I asked, exactly like Anne Hathaway at the Oscars, "Where's the Dad???"--but it turned out to be the right question. Living in the house by the woods are a power-suit sporting mother, her young son, their trusty German shepherd . . . and no dad.

No clues, either. Whether the mother is widowed or divorced is peripheral; the point about her, as we are told by both her first outfit and a fawning script, is that she is a full-time lawyer and a full-time mother who fulfills both roles perfectly well. And with a fierce guard dog that understands that she is the family alpha, who dares suggest she might need a man? 

But then some guy she has history with and real affection for shows up out of nowhere . . .

10. If you're going to deviate from your source novel by making some cuts, you might want to check that you haven't left any gaping holes. In Wayne Smith's Thor, the family is much bigger: both parents are around, there are several children, and even the dog has fellow pets. Everything is perfectly normal when "Uncle Ted" drops by for a visit.

I can see why eliminating the father was more economical for the script, but now I wonder why they didn't just do a full rewrite in which Ted gets to be the estranged husband, back for a second chance after a chastening experience in a metaphorical jungle of sin. Because that would have totally worked.

9. But never mind what might have been; let's look at what is . . . So Uncle Ted comes for a visit and at first only Thor the dog realises that something is very wrong. But what can he do when he is a naturally good protector but a naturally poor communicator? Well, he can do his danged best, that's what!

It would actually diminish the story if Thor could talk and were some supercanine who might as well be able to fly. Canis familiaris has served us well for centuries, and it would be an insult to this faithful species to insinuate that a good representative would be no match for a threat like a werewolf.

And now this is sounding like an Ethical Animals post! =D

8. What is a werewolf anyway, but a human who is being a Bad Dog? At least that is how Thor would see it. And given the havoc lycanthropes cause during the full moon, we can't blame him for coming to that conclusion. But there is something about werewolves that even the best dog may never understand.

It is simply that the werewolf remains human: when he is not in the grip of the moon, he has the rationality, the morality, and yes, the freedom to build himself a reinforced cage. And in this sense, Ted is a reasonably Good Dog. He may not have a cage, but he does use heavy-duty handcuffs; and on the nights when he uses them to restrain himself, he causes no deaths. The more civic-minded might argue that the authorities should be notified, just in case, but they are mistaken to suggest that it takes a village to tame a werewolf.

7. Unfortunately, Thor misses the mark as well. For all of his loyalty and courage when his family is threatened, he lacks the higher reasoning capacity and the cultural understanding of monsters that would help him understand why it's a bad idea to keep Ted from his nightly "runs" in the woods. Preventing a werewolf from doing what it takes to protect others may be showing him who's boss alpha, but it's endangering everyone else. 

6. Yet even when Thor is slipping up, our sympathies remain with him--and for very good reason. In a conflict between a domesticated canine and a feral human . . .

. . . we should side with whomever is looking out for the family. While Ted surely doesn't want to hurt his own sister and nephew, we cannot say that he is as devoted to their welfare as Thor is.

5. Now I'm going to stop trying to avoid spoilers and just cut to the chase. The moment of truth in every werewolf movie is its transformation scene, which is always a kind of epiphany. Bad Moon may have laughable effects, but it gives its monster a worthy monologue for when he finally transforms . . .

And now we all know what happened to Eddie =P

So were you listening? Ted isn't looking out for his family as much as he is expecting them to be looking out for him. He has searched everywhere else for a cure, and now "family love" has failed him, too. And that may be why he thinks he has the right to turn on them in the end. Expecting someone else to be what fixes you is tantamount to blaming another person for your own messes . . . and blaming them is expecting them to pay.

And now you know why I think Bad Moon would have worked with Ted and his sister rewritten as a philandering husband and his forgiving, accommodating wife. It would have underlined the point that virtue doesn't come from other people, but from you. That is, faithfulness doesn't depend on being with someone who will love you as you are, but on loving someone enough to keep yourself from straying.

4. Oh, and family love as the silver bullet? Let me slay it in six words: "Where in werewolf lore is that???"

3. Ted's rationalisations are one thing. The filmmakers' taking liberties with the full moon requirement is another. "Blacking out" only once a month happens to be fundamental to the nature of the werewolf. It lulls everyone into a false sense of safety . . . and the werewolf into a false sense of virtue. Which makes the decision to build a reinforced cage, and to get into it, is a real sign of maturity. The monster has stopped whining, "That's not who I really am," and has taken responsibility at last.

2. Finally, our stars: Michael Pare is great as Ted, but Primo, despite being a reliable action star, could have schooled his facial expressions better when playing Thor.

Does he want Ted to go away or to give him a biscuit?

1. And now it's time to suggest that the single mother needs a man. If only a very specific man you may know as the director of Aliens and Terminator 2. For the shadows of Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor loom over our token "strong woman" . . . and totally show her up. These kinds of comparisons may not be fair, but I'd bet a month of blogging that Mariel Hemingway was trying to channel James Cameron's muses into her depiction of a woman who must juggle sisterhood, motherhood, lawyerhood, dog-ownerhood, werewolf-fightinghood, and reluctant-gun-ownerhood.

"Get away from him, you . . . Bad Dog!"

And now let me qualify my recommendation of Bad Moon as a family-friendly Horror film. While I really love Thor and think that children will, too, the best I can say about the husband-and-father figure being a dog is that it's better than the husband-and-father figure being a Terminator.

Image Sources: a) Bad Moon poster, b) Thor by Wayne Smith, c) Bad Moon screen cap d) Primo close up, e) Janet and the Smith & Wesson Model 686

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