International Weirdness : “The Burning Moon”

Posted: March 27, 2012 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s the difference between the people you know and the people I know — the people you know are talking about The Hunger Games; the people I know are talking about The Burning Moon.

Oh, sure, German writer-director-gore FX man Olaf Ittenbach’s shot-on-video splatterfest originally came out on VHS back in 1997, and was actually lensed even a bit earlier than that by most accounts, but it never made it into anything like widespread — or even less-than-widespread — US release, and internationally-issued copies of it on tape and bootleg DVD were a prize possession for the few hard-core gore-hounds fortunate enough to track them down.  The rest of us were just plain SOL when it came to this SOV, and its well-nigh-impossible-to-findness (I just made up the longest compound word ever, yay for me!) caused this flick to develop a reputation as something of a “Holy Grail” of the grotesque.  Electronic word-of-mouth had it that this was the one movie so shocking, so repulsive, and so unhinged that it had the power to disturb and unsettle even the most jaded of horror fans. You only thought you’d seen it all until you saw this, the grapevine assured us.

Well, now thanks to Intervision Picture Corp. (the Severin sub-label that’s given us such long-lost, no-budget, bottom-barrel-dwellers as Sledge Hammer and Things in recent months), The Burning Moon is finally available on DVD (presented full-frame with stereo sound and a 47-minute “making-of” featurette) and the rest of us — hell, most of us — can finally see what all the consistent, if admittedly low-level, hype was about.

The “plot” — and to be honest I wasn’t even sure that this movie had one, all I’d ever heard about was how gory it was — centers on a 20-something, antisocial, drug-addicted loser, played by Ittenbach himself, who still lives at home and gets stuck babysitting his kid sister one night. To lull the little shit to sleep so he can get back to shooting up smack or whatever other delinquent crap he’s into, he tells her a couple of bedtime stories — but, unabashed creep that he is, he decides to scare the kid half to death by telling her two truly twisted tales that give our guy Olaf the chance to show off all his homemade splatter-effects wizardry.Our first drug-fueled fable, “Julia’s Love,” centers around a fun-loving single gal who meets the guy of her dreams, only he turns out to be an escaped killer/mental patient who has a really different idea of a good time. She figures out who he is pretty quickly, but by then it’s too late as their one date has convinced him that his best course of action is to brutally murder her entire family and then take her for his wife. And really, what girl could resist a charmer who whispers sweet nothing like “I want you to take all of my love juice” in her ear? Needless to say, the “story” here is pretty minimal and is essentially just a threadbare line for Ittenbach to drape his gallery of ghoulishness over.

Next up we’ve got a little number called “The Purity,” about a village priest/closet devil-worshiper who gets his rocks off raping and killing in order to achieve some kind of “next level” of Satanic power or something. The locals blame his crimes on a bachelor farmer that none of them like, the priest decides to kill himself, aforementioned locals hire out some thug to kill aforementioned bachelor farmer, and aforementioned bachelor farmer rises from the dead to take his revenge by dragging the guy who killed him, and the folks who paid him to do so, down to Hell with him.It’s in this last ten-or-so-minute sequence set in Hell where, I think , The Burning Moon really earns its reputation. Up to that point, truth be told, I was feeling more than just a little bit underwhelmed by the whole thing, and there really wasn’t much to distinguish “The Purity” from “Julia’s Love” apart from some inverted crucifixes and other garden-variety Satanic imagery that’s always popular with the kids. Oh, sure, on the whole the flick was gory in the way other SOV features like Video Violence and 555 were, albeit without either’s emphasis on pesky details like a narrative that made any sense, but there wasn’t much to differentiate it from its blood-soaked contemporaries apart from its complete and utter lack of anything even remotely resembling a sense of humor about itself (you know those Germans — they take everything they do so seriously) . Frankly, I was starting to feel I’d been had and that maybe this movie’s rarity alone was the source of most of its legend — after all, everything’s pretty cool, unknown, and mysterious until you actually see it, right?

But I have to give Ittenbach credit — he really pulls out all the stops for his big finale. The assembled stills accompanying this review, any of which could be captioned “Oy!!!!!!!!!!!That’s GOTTA hurt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” are testament to the unfettered dime-store brutality that he unleashes on us in this majestic crescendo of explicitly-detailed, unforgiving violence; this budget-free symphony of psychotic and sadistic destruction. Ittenbach proves himself, with his soaring finale, to be Don Dohler without a conscience — a guy making a movie just to show off the cool shit he can come up with in his garage, but rather than the nifty space alien costumes and laser-beam guns that Baltimore’s backyard Spielberg went for, he’s into showing us bodies ripped to pieces, eyeballs gouged out, intestines squirming on every corner of the screen, and organs ripped from their still-writhing hosts.  None of it makes much sense, but then, that’s not what we’re here for, is it? We’re here to see a movie that well and truly delivers the gore-soaked goods, and even though The Burning Moon waits until the very end to do so, it comes through in spades. This really is everything that your mother had ever warned you about — if the old bat could ever imagine anything so truly vile, shocking, and remorseless.

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