DVD Review: The Burning Moon
When I think of classic gore-maestros I immediately think of guys like Herschell Gordon Lewis, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Ruggero Deodato, George A Romero and, despite his short stint in the genre, even Peter Jackson comes to mind. If we took the time to spark up a conversation about our favorite gore filmmakers over at the message boards of A Horrible Place (yeah, a not too subtle plug, I know) the list of famous filmmakers would likely go on for quite some time before we got around to Olaf Ittenbach. Ittenbach is an unfortunately often overlooked director of visceral gut-churning excess. But, if you’re a serious fan of cult cinema, then you know this notorious director deserves at minimum a nomination for entry into the Chunkblower’s Hall of Fame. He is, after all, a name that will inevitably and eventually come up when a certain subset of the horror crowd converges, namely those who revel in the basest levels of visual grotesqueries.
The Burning Moon is a sickening bit of mid-90s shot-on-video cinema, which thankfully has been recently issued onto DVD for the first time from that house of cult depravity which is Intervision. We couldn’t be more pleased with this beautiful disc, which is of course why I’m blathering on about it.
Peter (portrayed by director Olaf Ittenbach) is a rude, belligerent and crass slacker who can’t get even the most basic job. Rather, he prefers drinkin’, smokin’, druggin’ and causing trouble by running with a gang of deadbeat losers. His parents force him to babysit his young and impressionable sister one evening (why they would leave him with any minor I have no idea) and while high on heroin he serenades her into a land of nightmares with two spirit crushing tales of depravity, which constitute the actual substance of this film.
Julia’s Love is the first of the two stories and opens at a psychiatric clinic where we’re introduced to Cliff Parker (Bernd Muggenthaler), a criminally insane serial killer who escapes and somehow, through some unexplained act of god, manages to score a blind date with a young girl named Julia (Beate Neumeyer). When she realizes she’s just gone out with a psychopath she escapes, only to conveniently forget her purse, allowing Cliff to track the love of his life down at her home. There’s nothing more to the story than that, only a lot of vapid butchery and bad lines of dialogue.
Next up is The Purity. This one takes sharp aim at Catholicism by featuring a serial-killing priest who is brutally raping and butchering girls in the German countryside. Furthermore, he conducts sacrilegious ceremonies, doused in blood in the basement of the church. Blasphemy isn’t a word that even begins to describe the blackness of this man’s soul. One evening the priest decides to put a bullet through his skull, sending himself into the netherworld. This is where the film takes a sharp turn into holy fuckdom, violently catapulting the audience into a bad acid trip of madness-inducing carnage best suited for a Cradle of Filth video.
To get the chance to finally see this much hyped gore-soaked film is a virtual wet dream. Olaf is the James VanBebber of Germany, showcasing a rough talent and unique directorial voice with the most basic equipment and a near non-existent budget. The Burning Moon exudes a punk rock purity to it and while it’s been generally forgotten and disregarded by even most cult cinema fans, it remains a slice of authentic renegade filmmaking, representing a vehement spirit of fist-shaking independence despite its obvious roughness.
All that said – this work is on the fringe of what’s acceptable even by horror standards. You can’t approach this with any semblance of heady critical analysis. It’s a film designed to be watched with friends and beers – a lot of beers – otherwise you’re going to wonder why the fuck you wasted away an hour and a half of your life. By any means, The Burning Moon is a futile exercise in slipshod storytelling permeated with trite dialogue barely passable for common small talk in the waiting room of your dentist’s office. But then again, this is blood soaked porn. You’re not watching it with the same cinematic eye you would apply to something as coarse as the even the most disgusting Fulci film. You simply want to see heads chopped, decapitated and destroyed – and that’s exactly what you get.
The Burning Moon is classic Ittenbach from his earliest days, before he directed his seminal gore masterpiece Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead which, if you’re a hardgore splatter fan, you’ll know is a work filled with the kind of superfluous excess which rivals even the most outrageously nauseating scenes in Dead Alive. Whilst I own a copy of Premutos, and now Burning Moon, I don’t know that I necessarily see the value in this sort of film, but then again – they’re humorous within the right setting. In the wrong setting they’ll just ruin your next family get-together.
Here’s the bottom line for me – there’s an inherent nostalgic factor in watching a film like this. The shot-on-video production values, the shitty acting, the Aqua Net hair… oh God, it’s good. It’s 90s good. And on that basis alone, this is worth a viewing. Even today I still enjoy watching old HG Lewis films. And that’s where this film may share the most commonality. Both Ittenbach and HG Lewis made cheesy films that, frankly, don’t hold up in comparison to damn near anything being made today, but that’s not the point. In fact, it’s so far from the point that I shouldn’t even have to mention it. What’s fun about these films is how they transport the viewer into another realm, a near surrealistic place in time that doesn’t exist anymore. To that end, The Burning Moon is a perfect slice of brutality-laden escapism which modern film can’t touch.