Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mad at the Movie: "Mad at the Moon" (1992)

Many of you know what a revisionist western is. A few years ago, the good guys stopped wearing the white hats and became anti-heroes. The bad guys had reason behind their bad actions, and became more sympathetic. Everything out west was covered in dirt, and the women were not that beautiful, so they were forced to marry the rancher who would come to town once a year for supplies and a bath.

"Mad at the Moon" is a revisionist revisionist western. The horror/western genre is small, but this film reimagines the werewolf legend, transplants it to the 1892 Old West, but fails in both its western conventions and its horror.

Jenny (Mary Stuart Masterson) is a beautiful girl who likes to read and listen to opera (courtesy of a traveling show). Her mother (Fionnula Flanagan) is more concerned with her daughter's impending spinsterhood unless she marries the first man who asks her. In this case, it is James (Stephen Blake), a shy and lonely bearded young man who Jenny has known since childhood. She gives him an absolute maybe, then seeks out her real love- James' half brother, rogue Miller (Hart Bochner). Miller rejects her (he's a bad boy), and James and Jenny wed. The first night of the honeymoon is a disaster, and Jenny hates James. One day, James up and boards the windows shut. He locks Jenny inside, and runs out into the field. What is this guy up to? Well, the full moon rises, and James goes nuts, attacking the house when Jenny dares to look at him. He makes snarling animal noises, and wakes up in the morning nude in the front yard. Jenny packs her stuff and runs home to mother.

Jenny also talks around town about James' night time activity, and James blames it on "moon sickness." Jenny stays with a sympathetic prostitute, Sally (Cec Verrell), and passes her time doing nothing. Jenny's mom comes up with the bright idea of hiring a newly jailed Miller to stay with Jenny when James flips out. James picks up his bride, his angry half brother, and the duo lock themselves in as James roams the fields. Jenny and Miller also lock lips, but eventually Miller goes to help his sibling, and Jenny makes her choice between the two men.

As Jenny, Mary Stuart Masterson is beautiful. She is smart and strong willed. So why is she so desperately in love with such a loser like Miller? He brushes her off, takes out his violent frustrations on a prostitute, and even finds time to shoot a man. The director never gives us any background as to how these two came to fall in love, or why Jenny is attracted to him, unless it is the whole "bad boy" thing. Stephen Blake wears a beard, looks at the ground a lot, and is very shy as James. He is the most sympathetic of the love triangle, and I was sorry his character was saddled with this group of townsfolk. Jenny's mother is also a giant question mark, hating Miller yet putting him with Jenny when James begins going nuts. Got it, ne'er-do-well will win out over raging werewolf every time.

This film is slow. Slower than molasses flowing uphill. The entire plot of a girl marrying someone she does not love has been done to death. The horror aspect, in the form of James' werewolf transition, is nonexistent. There are some impressive shots of James silhouetted against a full moon, but he only grows hair on his hands. He never changes (that we see), and the entire plot sounds like Donovan dropped his werewolf script into his western script, and he shot it anyway. Donovan plays with shadow throughout, hiding his actors' faces, but this seems to have been done for no other reason than to show off.

With so many weird character decisions, and lack of a good western plot and a good horror plot, "Mad at the Moon" cannot seem to make up its mind about what it wants to be. I made up mine- it should not be seen. (* *) out of five stars.