Jess Franco is best known for “classics” like “The Diabolical Dr. Z “, “Vampyros Lesbos”, and “She Killed in Ecstasy”, but if one digs deeper into the man’s résumé, they’ll find a seemingly endless stream of ineptly made soft-core smut films, XXX atrocities, and cheapie horror flicks churned out under more than two dozen pseudonyms ranging from Frank Hollmann to Joan Vincent (yes, Joan Vincent). At last count, Franco has directed something like 180 films over the course of his career, and, while a good chunk of those films have been deservedly buried over time, occasionally a hidden gem turns up, as is the case with the clunky-yet-stylish “Bloody Moon”
Franco’s Bloody Moon (Die Säge des Todes) tells the tale of a group of young women who attend a foreign language school in Spain, where, five years earlier, another student was brutally murdered by the disfigured Miguel (Alexander Waechter). Miguel is released from the asylum and put in the care of his sister, Manuella (Nadja Gerganoff), who runs the school with her suave boyfriend, Alvaro (Christoph Moosbrugger).
When a new student named Angela (Olivia Pascal) moves into the very same dorm as the woman he killed five years earlier, Miguel begins to stalk her around the campus. Soon, Angela is receiving threatening messages, experiencing late-night break-ins, and, ultimately, witnessing the murder of one of her friends. No one believes her, of course, so the body count continues to pile up all the way through to the film’s bizarre and bloody conclusion.
Bloody Moon’s convoluted plot, myriad red herrings, and blatant misogyny make the film play more like an Italian giallo than your typical American slasher, but, given that this 1981 German production was made as a means to cash-in on the popularity of the Friday the 13th films (which, themselves, borrowed heavily from Mario Bava’s “Bay of Blood” – a giallo long considered to be the prototypical slasher film), Franco took the genre’s conventions to the extreme, with hilariously brutal and unconvincing murder scenes, ample amounts of completely unnecessary nudity (one “student” spends half of the film walking around in a completely transparent shirt), and some of the stupidest victims this side of the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult.
While the acting is atrocious, the writing is terrible, and the special effects are just plain laughable (watch for the obvious mannequin head during a decapitation scene), Bloody Moon is, perhaps, Franco’s most stylish and appealing concoction, filled with wonderfully inventive shots, lush cinematography, and a visual aesthetic that calls to mind Lucio Fulci circa “Don’t Torture a Duckling”. It’s also an incredibly fun slice of Euro cheese that, despite being occasionally bogged down by its many silly plot devices, moves along at a fairly brisk pace, and ends on a satisfyingly sadistic note.
Severin Films brings Bloody Moon to DVD uncut and unedited, in a decent 1.85:1, 16x9 anamorphic print that’s marred by heavy grain and the occasional scratch, but is quite watchable. The soundtrack’s a bit on the tinny side, but that’s to be expected, especially when the film’s overused guitar score kicks in. Bonus features include a short interview featurette with director Franco, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.