Director: Jeremy Wooding
Cast: Shaun Dooley, Anna Skellern, Corey Johnson, George Bladgen, Ian Whyte
Running Time: 85 minutes
For his first foray into horror, director Jeremy Wooding combines Navajo legends of skinwalkers with the more common werewolf tale to bring lycanthropy to the Wild West in BLOOD MOON.
His film opens promisingly enough, as an enigmatic gunslinger walks directly toward the camera, pistol drawn. The jarring immediate action makes Calhoun (Shaun Dooley), as we will eventually come to know him by name, an immediately intriguing character.
We leave Calhoun behind briefly as the rest of the stage is set: a vicious pair rob a bank and kill a teller; a marshal’s deputy travels by stagecoach to return home with his bride; an understaffed marshal recruits a drunken, brawling Navajo woman to help him track the outlaws before they can reach the stagecoach.
It all feels like somewhat common fare for a Western, with the exception of two things. Firstly, the red-tinged full moon is going to bring these tensions to a bloody boil before justice can be served. And secondly, the filmmakers and nearly the entire cast and crew are British.
Dooley, whose horrifyingly perfect performance aided an already excellent EDEN LAKE, has a little more fun with this role. He channels Clint Eastwood here, playing Calhoun with a glint in his eye and a skinny cigar between his teeth. Director Jeremy Wooding orchestrates scenes to keep Dooley along the visual periphery, but at the center of viewers’ attention, giving many of the tenser scenes a sly, knowing wink as well as a little needed nuance.
Wooding also makes some interesting choices with an occasional point of view camera angle, reminding us now and again that this is no ordinary Western. And when the time comes, the helmsman wisely takes a less-is-more approach to showing the monster costume.
Another stroke of good luck for this low-budget indie is the casting of Ian Whyte (PROMETHEUS, ALIENS V. PREDATORS), sci-fi’s new go-to guy for monsters.
Not much else goes well for the production, unfortunately. Wooding seems to have set up shop in a theme park’s Wild West Ghost Town exhibit – everything seems far too tidy and impeccably placed to feel anything close to authentic. Though he has a knack with outdoor scenes, the indoor drama feels unmistakably staged.
Worse, with few exceptions, his cast is lifeless at best, laughable at worst. (Anna Skellern and Corey Johnson are fine.) Between the staging and the ensemble performances, BLOOD MOON can’t overcome an amateurish vibe that finally sinks it.