Director: Alan Birkinshaw
Salvation Films

The back cover of Salvation Films' DVD of KILLER’S MOON describes the film as “Britain’s answer to I SPIT ON YOU GRAVE only sleazier.” Bold words, as Meir Zarchi's savage tale of rape and revenge, also released in ’78, is synonymous with scenes of brutal assaults and graphic vengeance. Being familiar with both films I can frankly say that KILLER’S MOON doesn’t hold a candle to GRAVE, feeling more like a comedy of errors than a horror flick. Still, KILLER’S MOON is not without its endearing qualities, although none of them appear to be intentional.

Four inmates have just escaped from an insane asylum, located in a quaint cottage in England’s Lake District. Subjects of a scientific experiment, the psychopathic quartet have been drugged and hypnotized to believe that they are in a constant dreamlike state. Instructed to explore their subconscious, paying special mind to survey the darkest corners of their brains, the four men sleepwalk through the English valley on a path of rape and destruction. Meanwhile a group of school girls find themselves stranded in a secluded town on the other side of the dell. With their bus in no condition to continue, the small band of girls is escorted through the wild by a nervous and reluctant coach driver in search for proper accommodations for the night. Stumbling across a local elderly man, the group is taken to a large hotel, where a lone custodian agrees to shelter the lot for the night. Heading back to the bus to wait for a mechanic, the coachman doesn’t make it far before an axe finds its way across his noggin, courtesy of one of the escaped convicts. Steadily lumbering their way toward the hotel, the four lunatics are drawn in by the young girls’ siren song as they practice for their impending concert. Confused as to which man is dreaming and where and when the experiment will end, the four kick down the lodge door on a mission to fulfill their darkest fantasies. Luckily for the girls, outdoorsmen Pete (Anthony Forrest) and Mike (Tom Marshall) happen to be camping near by and are eager to provide the girls with assistance. Already an eventful night, having been taken aback by a three legged dog (?), the two men will have to work fast if they wish to remove the girls from harm's way and distance themselves from the unraveling, drug-fueled minds of four delusional mental patents.

Before Alan Birkinshaw began filming on KILLER'S MOON, he handed the script over to noted feminist author Fay Weldon for a bit of a punch up. While it is unclear exactly to what degree Fay's influence actually ended up on screen, one thing is certain, the dialogue in KILLER'S MOON is priceless. Matter-of-fact discourse and blunt foreshadowing of events are laid upon your lap like a warm blanket. When the girls' coach breaks down on its way to their recital, one young lass is quick to hypothesize on their fate stating, "I bet we will be kidnapped and taken to a den of inequity". Why bother with subtly when you can draw the audience a map? The four asylum escapees throw out some zingers of their own, but most feel appropriate for their characters, unlike the girls, whose dialogue comes across as the very antithesis of feminism. Several of the young girls are raped and molested by the marauding escapees, only to be later consoled by friends who more or less tell them to walk it off!

Such slapdash dialogue would quickly become unbearable if not for its puckish and unintentional comical delivery. Tom Marshall in particular read every line as if he is trying to pick up a girl at a local pub over a pint. It doesn’t matter if he’s trying to stop a group of young girls from being violated by four strange men or trying to bandage a Doberman that just had his leg cut off, every line comes across a bit cheeky and inadvertently hilarious. Almost everyone involved, especially the girls, deliver their lines as if they where on stage rather on film, saturating the picture in an almost kitsch sentiment. The production as a whole, particularly the violence, feels a bit antiquated in comparison to the vast number of stalk and slash pictures that where just about to explode and dominate throughout the 1980s. The four inmates, dressed from head to toe in white jumpsuits, stomp and smash throughout the film constantly questioning their motives, which tends to take away some of the punch. All of the brutality of the attack disappears whenever the men step back to wax philosophical on their deeds, leaving you confused as to whether you should feel repulsed or sympathetic for their predicament. Either way, DAY OF THE WOMAN, it is not. And while during an interview, included as a special feature, director Alan Birkinshaw states that he had no clear inspirations for KILLER’S MOON; I find it hard pressed to believe that he didn’t have A CLOCKWORK ORANGE playing in a loop during the film's shoot.

KILLER’S MOON is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer that looks excellent, with numerous day for night shots holding up nicely. There is a small yet steady wash of tiny white grain, which at times resembles a mini snow shower, that some might find off-putting. The flurries come and go, rarely distracting for longer than a few seconds, and in some respects add a bit of grindhouse charm to the otherwise monotonous proceedings. Thankfully the mono audio is of superb quality, as with dialogue this memorable, you won’t want to miss a word. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the audio commentary with director/writer/producer Alan Birkinshaw and star JoAnne Good, which sound like they each had their lips pressed firmly against a single microphone. The two seem to enjoy re-visiting the film again, and provide a number of anecdotes about the production. The two are also featured in separate onscreen interviews, where they pretty much cover the same territory that was discussed on the commentary. Special mention is repeatedly made of Hannah the three-legged dog, who provided the film with some much appreciated free publicity, and of the girls’ camaraderie and support toward shooting nude scenes. An "X Certificate" and original trailer are included along with a series of color and black & white still galleries, which round out a curious, yet strangely enjoyable release from Salvation Films. (Jason McElreath)