Stars: Ian Whyte, George Blagden, Anna Skellern, Corey Johnson, Shaun Dooley, Jack Fox, Eleanor Matsuura, David Sterne, Amber Jean Rowan | Written by Alan Wightman | Directed by Jeremy Wooding
It’s safe to say horror westerns don’t have the best track record. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good amount of decent examples out there such as Grim Prarie Tales, Ravenous, Dead Birds and The Burrowers. But there’s also a LOT of bad horror westerns, two of which – Gallowalkers and Umbrage – debuted at Frightfest’s of the past. Given that, it was with a sense of trepidation that I approached Blood Moon…
Set in Colorado in 1887, Blood Moon sees a stagecoach full of strange passengers and an enigmatic gunslinger Calhoun (Dooley) find themselves prisoners of two desperate outlaws on the run. As the prairie travellers attempt to outwit the outlaws in any way they can it soon becomes apparent that a bigger menace lurks outside on the plains; an otherworldly mythical beast that only appears on the night of a blood red moon and known by the local Indian tribes as a skinwalker.
A horror western would seem like an odd choice for director Jeremy Wooding, who has spent the majority of his career working in comedy, helming the likes of The Magnificent Eleven, Peep Show, and Shelfstackers. Yet judging by Blood Moon, a change of genre was just what Wooding needed! He injects some much-needed fresh blood into the ailing horror western managing to make a film that echoes werewolf movies of old but gives it a new spin (thanks also in part to the setting) by bringing in the skinwalker legend from Native American culture, which grounds the movie in its a sense of “reality”.
The film also succeeds thanks to its cast. Shaun Dooley, as the outlaw Calhoun, is one hell of a badass. As someone who only really remembers Dooley from his role in British soap Eastenders Blood Moon shows him in a totally different light. His outlaw anti-hero is the kind of character that most actors would kill for, a role that could become a horror icon. Thankfully there’s a hint, at the end of the film, that Calhoun will go on to hunt down more “otherworldy” creatures in the Wild West and I really hope he does. I’d definitely pay to see more of his demon-hunting adventures! The rest of the cast is filled with tons of familiar faces from both TV and the big screen including Anna Skellern (The Descent 2, Lip Service); Corey Johnson (Saving Private Ryan, Captain Phillips); and Jack Fox (Fresh Meat); in roles that vary from well-written to incredibly under-written, yet all give their all in a film that – given the small, almost claustrophobic, nature of the film – requires the cast to be on point at all times.
Blood Moon was obviously shot on a low[ish] budget and it shows in some of the effects and stunt work. However that’s not to say I don’t appreciate what Wooding and co. did with the money they had. For one, they went full physical make-up affects for the larger than life werewolf (this films monster is a massive beast, not just some guy in a fitting costume) in this tale – a werewolf which reminded me of “Fluffy” from Creepshow 2 and the werewolves seen in the Howling sequels; in that it looks good, but not awesome. But hey, I’ll take a effects-led monster over a crappy CGI creation any day of the week!
Amazingly overcoming all its obstacles (its a UK-produced horror western for christ’s sake) Blood Moon is a surprisingly great monster movie; and here’s hoping we get to see more wild west demon-hunting adventures of Calhoun in the future.