The Burning Moon (1992)

Description (from intervisionpicturecorp.com):
“When the Germans make a horror movie,” says Mr. Beaks of Ain’t It Cool News, “THEY MAKE A F%*#ING HORROR MOVIE!” In 1992, writer/director/special effects master Olaf Ittenbach changed the face of video horror, force-fed its ripped-out eyeballs to screaming audiences, then used a drill, machete and shotgun on its still-twitching torso: Ittenbach himself stars as a degenerate junkie who babysits his young sister with two bedtime stories of the damned. First, an escaped serial killer turns date night into a graphic family massacre. Then a country priest on a rape and murder spree leads to a disturbingly explicit descent into Hell. It became the VHS that shocked America. It has been banned in its Motherland for nearly 20 years. And it remains perhaps the most violent and depraved shot-on-video saga in history. This is THE BURNING MOON.

Major Cast:
Olaf Ittenbach as Peter, Beate Neumeyer as Julia, Bernd Muggenthaler as Cliff Parker, Rudolf Höß as Father Ralf

Special Features:
Making of Burning Moon, Burning Moon Trailer, English Subtitles, Intervision Video Trailers

Written and Directed by Olaf Ittenbach

I know there are a lot of people that consider THE BURNING MOON a classic, there are a lot of people that think this is the epitome of horror, and there are a lot of people that hold this film in very high regard.  I am not one of those people.  To be fair, I had a pretty good idea I was not going to like TBM before I started watching it, just from what I know about Olaf Ittenbach’s movies, and what I read/saw on the DVD sleeve.  I just didn’t realize how much I was going to dislike this film!

For those of you who are unaware, Ittenbach is a German writer/director/special effects guy; I think it is pretty obvious from watching TBM, that his strong suit is the effects.  For a little more back-story here, TBM was made in 1992, and according to the IMDb, the uncut version of the film has been banned in Germany since 1993, where he has been accused of glorifying violence (I agree).  I realize I have called it a “film,” but it most certainly is not that; TBM is a shot-on-video feature, and it recalls the video nasties of the 1980’s quite easily.  Ittenbach has created a reputation for being hardcore, for being over-the-top, for being a master of splatter, and it was this reputation that made me first think that TBM would not be a movie for me.

Ok, so it’s “step, turn, step, kick, jazz hands?”

TBM is hard to really explain without just spelling it out, because it is so disjointed, and so, well, laughable.  But not funny.  The story begins with Peter going to a job interview for a job he doesn’t want, and therefore makes sure he doesn’t get.  Then he and his friend drink some beers and get into a gang fight.  Why?  Good question.  Can’t answer that for you.  It’s just an excuse to have a little warm-up violence, I guess.  So there’s this very silly, very badly choreographed gang fight, and then Peter goes home and finds out that he is being forced to babysit his annoying little sister.  Like any good rebellious teenager, he goes to his room and shoot up some heroin (I’m not making any of this up), and then since he can’t sleep, he goes to her room to read her some “bedtime stories.”  These two stories, Julia’s Love and The Purity, make up the majority of the rest of the film, until we come back to Peter and his sister at the end.

Julia’s Love is the shorter of the two stories.  It opens in a hospital, with a serial killer escaping, and of course causing a little more warm-up violence on the way out.  We then meet Julia, who is going out on a date with a guy she just met.  After the very nice date, her guy friend has to go get some cigarettes, and while he is out of the car she hears on the radio that he is escaped mental patient Cliff Parker (they even list the license plate number of the car she is in).  She escapes, but leaves her wallet in the car, so Cliff is not far behind her.  Upon getting home, she doesn’t feel compelled to tell anyone the real reason that she came home so early from her date… if I had just escaped the clutches of a serial killer, I think that would make a decent topic for conversation.  Julia doesn’t think that maybe she should tell anyone, until she realizes that her wallet was left behind.  Then she thinks, “oh I better go tell them,” but by then Cliff has snuck into her house and graphically murdered everyone.  Cliff chases her around for a bit, and then is shot with what must be an exploding bullet, because his head goes off, SCANNERS-style, from being shot by a handgun from a cop that happen to have a severed head thrown on his car while driving behind Cliff (again, not making any of this up).

What? A Red Golf with license plate FFB-N7443? That’s THIS car!

The second story, The Purity, is even more hyperridiculous than Julia’s Love.  In this story, the nice local Christian Father, Ralf, also happens to be a rapist and killer and moonlights as a Satanic priest.  So he rapes and murders a girl, then proceeds to give her eulogy the next day (which I loved, because she was shot in the head, but had an open casket funeral).  Everyone in town thinks that Justuz is the killer that has been offing people, so Justuz goes to see Father Ralf about what he should do.  Ralf tells him not to worry because his god will avenge anyone that harms Justuz.  About halfway through this tale, Ralf, for no apparent reason, decides it’s time to kill himself, so he does; by this point I really wasn’t expecting anything that made any sense so this was no big surprise.  Justuz, without the priest to protect him, ends up with a price on his head.  The locals pay one of their own to go kill him, and he does… by beating him to death with a hammer, his fists, and finishing him off with a pitchfork, you know, like you do.  Well, Father Ralf told him that his god would avenge any anger towards Justuz, so Justuz is reanimated and goes to the local’s house to exact his revenge.  Instead of the zombie actually doing anything, when he arrives the local is inexplicably sent to Hell, which was pretty much just an excuse for 10 minutes or so of as much shock and gore as Ittenbach could stuff onto the screen.

Then, ‘cause this has to come back to the framing device, we return to Peter who has, of course, murdered his little sister while reading her these wonderfully-appropriate-for-a-10-year-old tales.  And to wrap up the “story,” Peter finishes everything by slitting his own wrists.  Hopefully I haven’t given any plot twists away… well, I know I haven’t because there truly is no “plot” in TBM to speak of.  The story is just a cheap excuse to get from one murder to another, from one effects sequence to another with as very little in-between as necessary to fuel the carnage.

No one thought that opting for the open casket was a bad idea

Please don’t get me wrong: I love horror.  I love gory horror.  I have NO PROBLEM with blood or gore or violence on screen.  What I do have a problem with is pointless gore.  For me, gore should not be the driving force behind the film.  Gore should be there for one of a few reasons: either to accentuate the horror at key moments and make the dread take hold, or for comedic excess, splatstick type films (like DEAD ALIVE) where the gore is so over-the-top, so excessive that it becomes silly.  Gore for the sake of gore, with no humor involved, really turns me off.  It becomes pointless; TBM is not scary at all, it is just ridiculous and bloody for the sake of giving Ittenbach a place to show off his effects skills.

To really tell you just how not scary TBM is there are a few great examples of the ridiculousness that occurs that I’d like to highlight.  First, the gang fight.  Oh, the gang fight… I almost expected a Scorpions cover of West Side Story’s “The Rumble” to start at any time.  Secondly, during Julia’s Love, Cliff picks up a prostitute on the way to Julia’s house, and AT A RED LIGHT, with AN AXE, in THE COFINED SPACE OF A VW GOLF, cuts off her head.  Not only does he somehow, with what sounds like two blows, cut her head clean off within the very small interior of a Golf, but he then tosses it out of the sunroof onto the car behind him.  Finally, when the Priest stops an assault on Justuz by the townsfolk, he punishes them BY TELLING THEM TO GO TO CHURCH.  Sorry for all the yelling, I just needed to get across just how completely ludicrous this movie is.

‘Cause it’s HELL, that’s why!

I’d like to say that at least this is a well-made movie, but TBM fails there too.  I don’t expect too much, as this is SOV, but still you could put a little bit of time into things other than the effects (but with a movie like TBM, I guess I am asking way too much, since the gore is obviously the point).  The lighting is horrible, no, let me repeat that with a little more appropriate emphasis: the lighting is HORRIBLE.  Most of the indoor scenes are way, way too bright, most of the outdoor scenes are way too dark, and everything just looks like crap.  The sound is not nearly as bad as the lighting, but it’s not good (the foley during the gang fight adds to it’s all around laughable nature).  Occasionally there is an interestingly composed shot – like the shot through the slinky, or the shot inside of a characters mouth, as they are forced to eat an eyeball – but overall the camera work is about as good as anything else in TBM, and that is to say well-below par.  The acting is overall pretty damned bad, and you can tell that it’s actually bad, it’s not just seeming that way because it’s in German.  There are some caveats to that statement; Father Ralf is pretty believable… well as believable as a raping, murdering, Satanic/Christian priest can be, I guess.  And finally the music: while it’s not completely horrible the entire time, there are some really bad gaffes in the music selected to play during certain scenes (the melodramatic piece playing during the brutal murder of Justuz comes to mind).  Really, the only thing on the production side that is done well are the gore effects (and boy, I would hope so since that’s really all TBM is about).  Ittenbach does a pretty decent job with little to no money, and a lot of the gore is very effective.  It would be ten times more effective it was just a little bit here and there, instead of a near-steady onslaught of buckets of blood.

Overall, I just really cant say how much I disliked TBM.  It was pointless schlock, dregs from the bottom of the horror barrel.  It was not scary, it was not funny, it was not even inventive; TBM is just gore for the sake of gore.  If that’s your thing – and I know that for a lot of people, that is exactly their “thing” – then you will love, love, LOVE TBM.  If your idea of a great popcorn movie has a scene that culminates with the character’s legs being ripped from his pelvis, then this is THE MOVIE for you.  There will be no greater joy in your world.  If you are like me, and like a horror movie that actually has a point, or is actually scary, or even is slightly well made, then avoid TBM like the plague.  I knew I wouldn’t like this movie before I started watching it, I just didn’t realize how much I would loathe it by the time I was done.  I will never get those 98 minutes back again.

Overall 2 / 10

TBM on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103898/

TBM for sale: http://www.amazon.com/The-Burning-Moon-Andrea-Arbter/dp/B0060AAMEI/ref=pd_sim_sbs_mov_1

TBM site: http://www.intervisionpicturecorp.com

The Burning Moon (1992)
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