Directed by Alan Birkshaw
Starring Anthony Forrest, Tom Marshall, David Jackson, JoAnne Good, Georgina Kean
Kino Lorber (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Salvation (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
If you can make it past the first ten minutes of Killer's Moon without collapsing in hysterical laughter, you have no business watching horror movies. Ostensibly a no-budget sex and gore offering in the wake of other British exploitation vets like Pete Walker and Norman J. Warren, this cockeyed oddity instead plays like a parody of slasher films before they had even been fully developed (just consider, Halloween came out the same year). The entire film takes place out in the woods somewhere in Old Blightly, where a camping couple are disrupted in the middle of the night by a three-legged dog wearing a neckerchief. Deducing that the canine's missing appendage couldn't have been caused by an animal trap, they realize that something nasty must be afoot nearby. And indeed there is, as a busload of choirgirls (who spend the trip chanting "Greensleeves") finds out when they break down and have to take refuge at a bed and breakfast, which happens to be near a cottage insane asylum (huh?) where four lunatics have just escaped. But no, it's not enough for them to just be insane; nay, they've been undergoing medical treatment by which the doctors administer LSD and teach them to live their lives as if they're in a dream, which means their actions have no consequences. Exactly why they think this is good therapy is anyone's guess, and the appalled minister of the facility responds quite calmly, "In my dreams, I murder freely, pillage, loot and rape." Yes, of course. Pretty soon a handyman winds up axed, the girls are separated from their chaperones, and the four psychos (in full Clockwork Orange regalia) are holding them all hostage when not busy chasing runaways through the woods. And of course, the three-legged dog gets his revenge in one of the funniest scenes ever committed to film.
As director Alan Birkinshaw and one of the stars helpfully explain in the special features, this film was originally written and planned as a straight-ahead boobs and blood outing with wooden dialogue and a few kills to keep the crowd happy. However, when some of the character interaction was turned over to sorta-feminist writer Fay Weldon (The Life and Loves of a She-Devil), something... well, changed, obviously. Simply put, forget what Rita Mae Browne did to The Slumber Party Massacre; this film takes the cake for the flat-out weirdest one-liners in slasherdom. (Most memorably, a choirgirl recovering from a sexual assault on a kitchen table is consoled by her friend as follows: "Look, you were only raped. As long as you don't tell anyone about it, you'll be all right.") If you think the film can't manage to sustain such nuttiness to the end, guess again; the final shot is a ridiculously perfect summary of the film (be sure to listen to that muffled final line) and encapsulates the berserk appeal of what would surely be a major camp classic if more people had actually seen it. Oh, yes, and there's even an ear-shredding closing theme song.
Killer's Moon was a VHS staple throughout the '80s and eventually slid its way to DVD in America under the Redemption Films banner, complete with copious extras and a reasonably upgrade, uncut anamorphic transfer. Rather incredibly, it was also selected as the first British title in the Redemption catalog to make the leap to Blu-Ray under their deal with Kino Lorber, whose packaging touts this as "an important film in the evolution of 'video nasties' (especially violent films that brought about stricter censorship in the UK in the early 1980s)." That may be a stretch considering the film was never prosecuted or included in the initial list of runners-up, but it was seized a handful of times during raids so perhaps that counts. In any case, it never had any significant censorship issues in its native country or abroad, which is a bit surprising considering the normally volatile mixture of sex and violence that sent the British film censors into a frothing frenzy.
As for the Kino edition, it looks a few notches better than the previous Redemption one (which was interlaced) and does fairly well by the material considering much of it was shot day for night and heavily tinted with oppressive shades of blue throughout 80% of the running time. The negative isn't in pristine condition as evidenced by infrequent specks and damage marks, but overall it's pleasant enough though nowhere near the crisp, clear quality found in the best catalog titles. The most valuable of the extras is the commentary track with Birkinshaw and one of the stars, Joanne Good (who made her debut here and became something of a British TV staple), which lays out the screenplay process for the film, the ins and outs of getting neophyte actresses to disrobe in front of the camera, and the strange saga of top-billed Anthony Forrest, who was expected to become a big star until fortune took an unexpected turn. (In case you're wondering where he is now, click here.) Also included are supplemental video interviews with Birkshaw (whose anecdotes about his first film, a silly sex comedy, must be heard to be believed) and Good, the unabashedly trashy X-certificate trailer (a much tamer general release one appeared on the earlier DVD), a gallery of photos and promotional artwork), and trailers for some of their noteworthy Jean Rollin releases on Blu-Ray including Shiver of the Vampires and Fascination.
Updated review on May 30, 2012.