[review by JA Kerswell]
Although made in 1989, the Australian BLOODMOON just missed the decade of slash by being released (without much fan-fair it has to be said) in the dawning of the decade of the subgenre's initially lean years (at least until its rude and spectacularly successful reawakening with SCREAM in 1996).
|Not exactly what you want to find when you've broken into your school to cheat|
It certainly starts out like a love letter to the 1980s. On the outskirts of the sleepy beachfront town of Cooper's Bay life for the students at two single sex schools revolves around the sexes chasing each other in time-honoured tradition. And, again in time-honoured tradition someone is none too pleased about this. Ahead of a midnight rendezvous, one of the girls from St Elizabeth Catholic Girl's School tells her room-mate that she's meeting her boyfriend (from Winchester Boy's School); she also bemoans the fact that her father is about to move her to another school. When neither student turns up for class the next day everyone just assumes they have eloped.
What no one suspects – but what has actually happened – is that both have been savagely killed by someone brandishing a circle of barbed wire; who took their eyeballs and fingers as grisly souvenirs. However, when the next amorous teenage couple vanish after a school dance in almost identical circumstances the authorities begin to get suspicious – especially when it emerges that the boy has left his vital medication behind…
BLOODMOON is a schizophrenic beast. Whilst it apes the American slasher movie to a tee, like many fellow Antipodean examples from the early 80s it also adds an unmistakeable tendency for melodrama – not to mention a kangaroo munching away on grass in one of the opening shots! Perhaps unsurprisingly, a number of the cast went on to appear in the long-running soap operas that became a mainstay of tea-time television in Britain for many years.
|Nothing a spot of Clearisil shouldn't clear up, but those split ends are murder|
Ultimately, it is the melodrama that is the undoing of BLOODMOON. Apart from a couple of relatively brief murder scenes, the first half of the film is given over to the (not particularly interesting) comings and goings of the young cast; from the rivalry between the town's boys and the students at the male college to the burgeoning romance between Texan exchange student (and daughter of a distant film star) Mary (Helen Thomson) and town mechanic Kevin (Ian Williams).
Red herrings abound for the identity of the killer (who takes to stage whispering threats to the girls at opportune moments from behind curtains or in the woods): the brassy principal (Christine Amor) (who is bedding one of the male students); to her seemingly benign but sweatily impotent husband fellow teacher (Leon Lissek). And then there's the lone Irish nun. Did I forget to mention that a rosary is seen dripping blood during one of the murder scenes? At least the film does well to show the sleaze under what at first seems like a respectable educational setup. I half expected one of the characters to say: “Throw another gimp on the barbie, mate.” A father of a missing girl says: “What kind of Goddamn Catholic school is this anyway?” Quite.
BLOODMOON drips sunshine and the languid perma-summer days of the Gold Coast, but fails to build up much of a head of steam for much of its running time (despite a fair smattering of nudity). The exception to this is an excellent chase scene and confrontation with the killer that takes place in a series of deserted classrooms when two girls sneak in to try and cheat on the next day's tests and find more than they bargained for. For both of them it's fair to say that it's their final exam. If there had been more scenes of horror and suspense like this in the film it would have been a minor classic, sadly nothing else matches it.
|Prom Night on a Bloodmoon|
The identity of the killer – while no huge surprise – is admittedly a nice change of pace to other slasher movies. Also, BLOODMOON does work up to a minorly effective last 15 minutes of mini-Grand Guignol with barbed wire garrotting, a dark and stormy night and nifty acid throwing courtesy of that nun. There's also a nicely humorous scene of the killer (sans half of their face) grabbing a shotgun from the case of a member of the faculty who is too stunned to do anything. However, many might not make it through the first half of the film to enjoy these relatively meagre pickings.
Handsomely shot (the director was a noted cinematographer) and effectively acted (especially by Amor as the cold-hearted libertine), BLOODMOON never quite recovers from a lethargic first half, but you could certainly do a whole lot worse than this. Though, quite why this is called BLOODMOON is anyone's guess. The only moon I spotted was the peachy behind of the principal's latest squeeze.
Finally, not to be confused with Jess Franco's Spanish disco slasher BLOODY MOON (1981), nor the 1997 Australian action pic of the same name. Plus, it's not that Brian May who did the music – but the late Australian composer who also scored Australian slashers THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN (1979), NIGHTMARES (1980), ROADGAMES (1981) and P.J Soles' other slasher movie INNOCENT PREY (1984).
female:6 / male:3
1) Male found dead with missing eyes and fingers
2) Female strangled with barbedwire
3) Male strangled with barbedwire
4) Female killed (method unseen)
5) Female has head repeatedly bashed against a table
6) Female stabbed to death
7) Female stabbed in stomach
8) Male stabbed
9) Female shot with shotgun (offscreen)
10) Male shot with shotgun (offscreen)