Hunter's Moon Movie Review
Written by Rebecca McCallum
Released by Dazzler Media
Written and directed by Michael Caissie)
2020, 81 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 24th August 2020
Katrina Bowden as Juliet Delaney
Jay Mohr as Thomas Delaney
Will Carlson as Billy Bloomfield
Spencer Daniels as Lenny Bloomfield
India Ennenga as Lisa Delaney
A middle-aged man and a young woman are sat in the cosiness of a secluded home, but something isn’t right. As we find ourselves in a sprawling orchard, a brutal attack takes place before the opening credits roll. It’s within the first few scenes that Hunter’s Moon sets out its stall and demonstrates that not only is it going to work tirelessly to subvert our expectations but that it is clearly made by someone who has extensive knowledge of the genre. The film is rewardingly rich in references including the aforementioned opening, which evokes Drew Barrymore’s now much parodied segment in Scream. The early overhead motorway shots also recall Bernard Rose’s American gothic nightmare Candyman, but thankfully these are played subtly rather than with a nod and a wink.
As a car crawls up between a mountainous landscape (another reference, this time to Kubrick’s 1980’s, The Shining) and we meet the Delaneys. A family of five, Mum (Amanda Wyss, Tina in A Nightmare On Elm Street, 1984), Dad and three daughters; Juliet, Lisa and Wendy are moving into an isolated property surrounded by orchards. Although pleasant enough on the surface, there is a clear hint that the Delaneys have fled in murky circumstances in order to escape the shadows of their past. En route to their new home, they take a stop at a gas station and have an awkward interaction with two workers Billy and Henry whose offbeat behaviour suggests that they are not to be trusted. As the family pull up into the driveway of their new home, we quickly learn that the parents have scheduled a trip for reasons which will later become clear. It would be easy for these scenes (which contain a large cast) to fall flat but the film does a commendable job of balancing tension and affection.
Playing out in the background to all this is a neatly presented sub plot; as the family share a meal they watch news coverage of the latest victim of a man dubbed The Highway Killer who has murdered seven women and is currently on the run. Left alone, the girls are led by eldest sister Juliet, who coolly dishes out her father’s whisky to her teenage siblings. As the girls kick back, we see gas attendant Billy pull up outside with two friends, watching while Mr and Mrs Delaney set off for their trip. With the girls now unguarded they plan to ambush the house. However, what they don’t bet on is that, undertaking routine safety checks to protect the community from The Highway Killer, the local Sherriff also happens on the scene. Over the course of the night, there are twists, turns and deaths, both inside and amongst the dark, haziness of the orchard.
The film successfully blends multiple elements of horror and walks a respectable line between taking itself too seriously and becoming too ridiculous. Director Michael Caissie keeps enough under cover in the early stages of the film, so you do not guess the twists, while also managing to make the frequent narrative switches feel believable and entertaining. Performances are strong across the board and the score is used in tandem with sudden movements to create a good level of tension. One of the film’s strongest points is its cinematography which is, without exaggeration, quite, quite stunning. In particular, the mist-filled smokiness of the orchard conjures up the spirit of the American gothic. It also makes some remarkable achievements in terms of the special effects and, with the exception of one set piece that is masterfully done, it creates so much with so little and this adherence to ‘less is more’ serves the film well.
Hunter’s Moon is brimming with surprises and sharp, unexpected turns, but sadly this means that when the key twist occurs it doesn’t feel like a revelation or that it is given enough gravity. In this respect, perhaps an earlier reveal would be more successful in catching the audience off guard. Despite this, and the tag scene which explains away that some of the happenings are just down to blind luck, it’s impossible to hold this against the film; in fact, there is contrarily a genuine likeability in its playful brazenness.
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