Killer’s Moon (1978) – By Roger Carpenter

Before Friday the 13th solidified the stalker movie as a force to be reckoned with and even before Halloween was released, a shoestring-budgeted British film pioneered the body count genre. Killer’s Moon has since gone on to be a bit of a cult film in its native England while it has remained relatively unknown in the states. Kino Lorber, in conjunction with Redemption Films, has recently released this rarely seen thriller in the U.S. in both standard DVD and Blu-ray.

Psychiatrists have been experimenting with dream therapy on four dangerous mental patients. Unfortunately, these four madmen, tripping on LSD and under the impression they are dreaming, have escaped from the asylum where the experiments have been taking place. These crazed lunatics run into an isolated hotel where a group of high school girls are spending the night due to a broken-down bus. Directed by the doctors to do whatever they feel like when dreaming, the four loonies attack the girls as well as a few locals who also happen by. Meanwhile, a couple of English lads who are camping nearby on the lonely moors, try to help lead the girls out of harm’s way.

While the film is fairly standard as far as body count pictures go, the premise is original, and first-time director Alan Birkinshaw (he later directed cult goddess Laura Gemser in Invaders of the Lost Gold AKA Horror Safari as well as a couple of Poe thrillers) shows a flair for directing even with the odds stacked against him (no money, mostly new actors, limited time). The film has been mastered in HD and while there is still some debris on the film, it is amazing how good this no-budget effort looks after 30+ years, especially considering the amount of "nighttime" shots (all filmed day-for-night) used in the film. I can’t imagine what a cheap VHS–or worse, a multigenerational dupe–might have looked like, but Kino Lorber and Redemption have done an excellent job restoring this film. The nighttime sequences are mostly clear and the action can be seen easily.

It’s a bit surprising that this film didn’t suffer from the British censor. While it’s nowhere near as gory or as politically incorrect as later, more mean-spirited films would be, nevertheless there are a handful of bloody and violent sequences that manage to survive the censor’s scissors that typically don’t make it past the board, particularly violence towards women as well as towards animals. The cinematography is quite nice and Birkinshaw uses some creative shots that are particularly impressive when one realizes this was his first film and it was shot in just four weeks. While some of the acting is merely average (all of the nine teenage girls in the film were brand new to film) , there are several very good actors, notably the police official who is in disbelief that the lunatics have escaped as well as our two heroes, Pete and Mike. Some of the dialogue is a bit dodgy but the film is not without some humor, some of it intentional and some not.

There are also several suitably creepy moments in the film, especially when the local loonies are about. The unofficial leader of the group is especially scary as the burly beast wanders about in white hospital gown and black bowler. More than a few viewers have commented on the similarity between this madman and the droogs of A Clockwork Orange.

Killer’s Moon is a fun little thriller made before the formula for these types of movies were set in stone. The film comes with two theatrical trailers, a photo gallery, and interviews with one of the girls, Joanne Good, as well as with director Alan Birkinshaw. Birkinshaw and Good also have a fun and interesting commentary on a separate track. They are both filled with interesting stories such as filming a murder scene behind a hanging bed sheet while a couple of tourists were having tea at the hotel, having to locate a three-legged dog for the film, and how to deal with a tail-less cat on screen. Killer’s Moon has already been released and is widely available at most retail stores as well as online.