Killer's Moon (1978)
WRITER: Alan Birkinshaw
DIRECTOR: Alan Birkinshaw
STARRING: Anthony Forrest as Pete
Tom Marshall as Mike
Nigel Gregory as Mr. Smith
Jane Hayden as Julie
Alison Elliot as Sandy
Georgina Kean as Agatha
QUICK CUT: A bus carrying a girl's school choir group breaks down in the British countryside. On the plus side, they're not far from a seasonal hotel getting ready to open up. On the downside, a barbershop quartet of crazed deviants has escaped into those same woods and fields and are closing in.
Pete - Our token American, and your token good guy. He's into jogging, shooting, and saving young women from crazed deviants.
Mike - Pete's best friend, with a girl on the side that comes and visits while they're camping handily near the hotel she works at.
The Girls - It's a shame there's so many of them, and they all kinda blur, since some of them DO have some distinct personality quirks. But the danger of having too much canon fodder that look too similar is that no one ends up standing out.
The Deviants - Same goes for them, really. But they are a bit more unique amongst themselves. But they really serve as more of a force to be reckoned with than individual characters.
THE GUTS: I want to start off with a content warning here. This movie contains some brutal acts by crazy men on young girls. If rape is an issue for you, you may want to pass this one up. I did my best to not make any jokes about rape, but I am dumb and something that I may not have considered might have slipped through. I apologise if I say anything accidentally offensive in advance, and give you plenty of warning to back way the heck far away from this review.
Our Trisking this time around starts off innoccuously enough, with a bus full of young, British women driving through the countryside, when the bus breaks down and has to stop for repairs. Pete sees them having trouble while he's out for a job and offers some help, as well as exchanging Meaningful Glances before he jogs on.
Elsewhere, we find Mike and his girlfriend making out in a tent and making small talk to try and make us care about them before they likely get killed off. The woman hears something outside, and of course the guy thinks it's nothing.
They discover it's only a dog when it walks right into their tent. Yep, just a dog. A DOG COVERED IN BLOOD!! That is one hell of a bloodhound. And holy crap, only three legs.
After Pete returns to the campsite and bandages the dog, Julie heads off to work, and the campers try and get a fire going. Well, until the jogger pulls a reverse Chekov and can't find their axe.
The movie starts to overload on story in plot C, only ten minutes in. A couple of doctors are being taken to task for letting a terribly psychopathic patient, escape. They were using experimental drug therapies on him in a controlled environment, a country cottage!, when he escaped and is now rampaging who knows where in a dream state.
Oh, and just in case that wasn't bad enough, he took three other patients in similar states of dreaminess. Loverly.
Back on the bus, the wheels don't go round and round, as they get a flat. The driver can't fix it, so they all get out to start walking and look for a hotel, or anything resembling civilisation. All while one of the girls is absolutely certain they're about to be kidnapped and sold off by white slavers.
I'd watch that movie. I think maybe I have.
But no, I have this movie, juggling three different plots as we jump back to Doctor Exposition and friends running down the list of crimes the various men were locked up for, ranging from sexual deviancy, and killing people one of them thinks are possessed by the devil. We also get glimpses of our murderers as they romp through the woods.
As if all this isn't enough already, we run into yet another guy as he comes across the three-legged dog from earlier. At least he crosses paths with the rest of the movie when he helps the stranded, wandering girls find that nearby hotel.
The ladies get ushered into the hotel, even though it won't open for a week, and the bus driver wanders off into the woods because he hears the sound of a missing axe looking for his neck.
We get threatened with plot whiplash as one of the campers goes out for a walk to clear his head, then whoosh! back to the hotel where the innkeeper or whatever is talking with one of the choirgirls. And I swear this movie must have been partially funded by the national association for trains, because every time someone mentions the bus broke down, someone else pipes up that they should have gone by train!
The groundskeeper who found the girls heads home and grabs his shotgun to poke around the forest a bit. He can tell something is wrong. Unfortunately, this decision leaves his wife and cat unprotected when one of the escaped mental patients comes a-calling. And he does something truly horrific to drive home the point that he's not right, when he chops off the cat's tail.
When the wife comes out, the psycho tries to confront her, but she at least gets in one good slash on him. But then he grabs her by the neck and she goes down faster than a maid being strangled by a zombie.
Back at the hotel, the girls are playing poker, and the phone is dead, so one of them gets sent down the road to check on the call box and see if they can get anything out of that.
Instead of finding a TARDIS, all she comes across is a dead body, then runs right into the Mike. He shows just how sensitive he is when he asks the girl about his missing axe.
They had back to the tent, tell Pete about the dead body, and he decides to go outside and try and confront whomever is out there, asking what is there to be afraid of? Gee, I dunno. Crazy guy with an axe whom you know has killed?
Julie, who went missing ages ago, actually decides to walk back into the movie, and ends up right where she started at the campsite. She was supposed to end up at the hotel, but I guess she wandered around the woods all day long. But she's in a daze, so I guess I can forgive it.
She eventually stammers out that the psychos in the woods raped her, and I admire the movie for its restraint in not showing us that little detail.
Pete and Mike go looking for the dead bodies, to see if they have anything useful, and anything else handy in the woods. In classic horror fashion, they split up to do so, and leave the girls all alone. This can only end badly.
Back at the hotel, the girls who haven't wandered off into Arcade's Murderwood are getting ready for bed, and rehearsing some singing. While they get to bed though, they hear others singing, but dismiss it, and we see it's three of the crazypants brigade being drawn in by the girls' music. So much for soothing the savage beast.
One of their teachers wanders around the hotel trying to find the source of the strange singing. The bad news is, she finds it when the gang jump her and she passes out. It's not long before one of the students comes down as well, and she doesn't fall for any of the crazypeople lies. Not that it does her any good since they grab her pretty easily, though.
She gets pinned down to a couch, and her clothes ripped off, and she begins to be another victim of rape, until the other chaperone comes down. And befalls the same bad fortune as everyone else when she gets grabbed by the throat thanks to the brute squad.
Despite believing they're in a dream, they do seem to realise they've done bad things, and there will be consequences to pay, so one of them gets sent back to the cottage to find any guns for defense.
Pete ends up at the same cottage for the same reason, but all he finds is the groundskeeper's wife, and then the killer himself.
They fight for a bit, and Pete probably would've bought it then and there, if not for the psycho seeing his reflection in a mirror. He must be a zombie, and horrified by his own visage. That's what The Video Dead told me!!
In the hotel, the rest of the nutty buddies are trying to get to the girls, who smartly blocked themselves in their rooms. But not so smartly, one of them runs out when they bang a gong and scream that the hotel is burning down. This gives the killers a hostage to threaten so her friends come out of safety.
Pete makes his way to the hotel while the girls are forced into the kitchen. Yes, of course the psychos think a woman's place is in the kitchen. Anyways, Pete sneaks in by climbing up to the roof, of all places.
He finds two of the girls that haven't been found yet, and gets them out of harm's way through the window. At least, theoretically out of harm's way. There is still one killer outside.
I like how well they shot the scene of the girls sneaking down the ladder behind one of the crazies, as their friend inside distracts him by flashing some skin. It's well framed, and well played. It really puts you in the moment.
Once they're outside, Pete distracts the killer still lurking out there, so the girls can get away. With a few strains of Three Blind Mice working their way into the score. See how they run, indeed. Great music cue.
And the plan almost worked. But as the girls are running away, up pops the killer and he chases them until he catches up to one. And because we haven't seen breasts in almost five whole minutes, she catches her nightgown on a convenient nail on a convenient dock out in the middle of nowhere that she just happened to come across.
I like that the killers think they're all still in a dream. It's a nifty device, and with these characters that seem to want to get better, but have been told to act out their dark desires in the dream to get the urges out, it works as a unique motivation. They WANT to be better people, genuinely, but they've been told to go wild. If not for getting all rapey, you might almost feel for them.
Once he's done with the girl at the dock, the killer finds Julie and Sandy back at the tent. They try and stay quiet, but he tears into the fabric with a pitchfork, so of course they scream. But he gets suddenly attacked and killed by the three-legged dog that Mike helped earlier. Yay! Payback!
Mike reappears and sends the girls towards the village, and heads to the hotel. Which is a good thing, because the crazies there are getting bored with their meals, and are thinking the girls might be tastier. He meets up with Pete and they compare notes.
Inside, the teacher that didn't get killed finally comes to, but passes right back out when the good guys walk in. On the upside, at least she's not dead. Or raped.
They call out to the girls in the kitchen to turn off the lights, and draw away one of the killers by dressing up like a woman. I'm not gonna question where Pete got the wig from to complete the illusion, since it was an effective ruse that knocks out one of the bad guys, and gets the other two locked in the kitchen.
None of that lasts very long, but it at least bought the heroes some time, I guess. And for some reason, the killers have figured out this is reality. Not sure how, exactly, but oh well. It had to happen eventually. At least they figured it out before Erin Karpluk wandered into their dreams as Jack the Ripper.
Outside, Julie and Sandy are dragging their assailant's corpse deeper into the woods so they can cover it with leaves, for some reason. And they decide to not go to the village and get much needed help like they were told, and instead run for the hotel. Sigh.
The killers find the cellar where Mike brought the remaining girls, and they debate going down for awhile. They were just about to turn away when one of the girls knock something over and draw their attention. Good going.
When they get downstairs, Mike sets the ground on fire thanks to some gasoline trails he laid out. What, is he the Crow all of a sudden? Most of the psychos run, what with the fire and all, but one of them still insists it's a dream, and proves his point by standing his ground.
Our various groups of potential victims all catch up with each other, FINALLY, and Mike takes them all to potential safety. We'll see how that goes. Their track record isn't so hot on that count. Meanwhile, Pete heads back to get Miss Lilac out of the hotel, unconscious or not.
Unfortunately, the first thing he finds is two crazy people with a shotgun. Pete takes a bullet in the arm and goes on the run, drawing at least one of the crazy guys off.
He catches up with Pete, and holds him at gunpoint, trying to make him cry for mercy, until he shoots Pete in the leg. Fortunately, before he can deal the final blow, one of the girls that got raped finds them and uses a sickle to take out the assailant.
Miss Lilac finally wakes up and manages to not pass out again. She hears the whimpering cries of a girl and goes to investigate, but only finds the remaining killer clutching the barbecued body of his friend.
Julie and Mike arrive on the scene trying to find the missing Pete, who isn't far behind with the girl who saved his life. Oh, and look, the police finally show up.
And this is how it ends? With most of the bad guys dead? One just a quivering mass of feels? And boom, over? That's a bit of a sudden way to end it. Not helped any by panning out just to remind us they didn't forget about the innkeeper...because she's dead.
Video: They did a great job making this look up to snuff, for a kinda skeevy 1970s British movie. It's never going to look amazing, but it looks way better than a lot of other movies from a similar period. The darkness gets a little too dark at times, but on balance this is a good looking movie.
Audio: Not bad, not bad, but it got a bit muffled at times, making it hard to catch some names. Not helped by having three dozen characters running around for five minutes then dying. I know I was unclear on a lot of names while working on this review, and I tried to fix them up as I was going through, so I apologise for any confusion.
Sound Bite: "Mister psychiatrist? Are you there?!"
"Go to hell, you bastard! You're mad!"
"Well, what sort of response is that from a national health psychiatrist?? I should've gone private..." One of the nutty buddies and Mike.
1 - 23 minutes in, the bus driver gets a missing axe to the neck.
2 - The groundskeeper's wife
3 - The groundskeeper, off camera.
4 - Mrs Hargreaves, strangled by one of the psychos.
5 - One of the girls gets strangled near a dock on the lake.
6 - Killer #1, dead by the dog he likely sliced the leg off of.
7 - Killer #2 burns up in the basement.
8 - Killer #3 gets a sickle in the back.
9 - Miss May, stabbed in the back as a throwaway off to the side.
Best Corpse: Killer #2 gets the award, for going out in a blaze of glory. Just for being unique, and we literally get to see the charred body afterwards, so bonus points.
Blood Type - C-: Surprisingly, not a lot of blood in this movie. A lot of what there is, is implied, done off camera, or done quickly in the dark.
Sex Appeal: There is copious amounts of nudity in this movie, but it's almost all in the context of rape.
Movie Review: Killer's Moon has a reputation across the pond as one of the infamous 'video nasties', a family of movies that challenged the ratings boards of the time, got banned, or edited, or just generally maligned. It's not hard to see what this one was nailed for. Graphic depictions of almost rapes, all the nudity, the violence. It does seem a little tame these days, outside of all the abuse directed towards women. For me, it's not overly terrible, because they never QUITE show the actual deed, but there is a lot of it, and it can wear you down by the end of the movie. At least there is some comeuppance over it. The movie also has a curious 'sign of the times' moment or two with the reaction to rape, and the girls just kinda shrugging it off and agreeing if no one says anything, it didn't happen, and that's okay. They acknowledge how terrible that sounds now, in the commentary, and even the creators admit it was poorly handled in retrospect, but it fit with the era. All that aside, if you can stomach that sort of content, um, this is a decently made movie. The writing is pretty clever, the plot is solid, and I wouldn't say they glorify the content, outside of the criminals reveling in what they do. But that IS what crazy people do. And even they show some remorse. It's a dodgy concept, but aside from the few bumps mentioned, I *think* they navigate that minefield as well as one might be able to. Anyways, I thought it was a well made movie that suffers more from the era it was made, and the boundaries it was pushing, than any statement on its own quality. Four out of five missing axes.
Entertainment Value: This is a tough movie to say it's entertaining. If you can get past the content, yeah, it's pretty fun. For me, as long as bad acts are contained to bad men, and the movie doesn't go, "Look at how awesome this stuff is!!" then yeah, I can let it slide. But once a movie revels in the violence or whatever, then it becomes a problem. And that line will be crossed for different people at different levels. Their horrible acts aside, the acting of the criminals is masterful. They really embody their roles, and their discussions on the nature of reality, and their shared dreams, and trying to figure out just how crazy they are is a treat to watch. And the cheesy dialogue is fun, as well as the Scooby Doo like back and forth with characters never going where they should, but rather right into danger. If you can stomach the more darker levels of the content, this is a four out of five three legged dogs. But if this is a trigger for you, stay far, far away. I do not blame you at all.