FILM– The Burning Moon starts out with a delinquent youth (played by Ittenbach himself) getting kicked out of school. When he’s not busy looking like Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, he’s getting into gang fights with his chain-slinging gang of hooligans. After a particularly bloody conflict with a rival German gang, he completely dominates their Fonzie-looking leader.
Upon arriving home, his parents inform him of their disappointment, resentment, and vacation they’re leaving for; thus forcing him to babysit his sister. Memo to parents, if you don’t want something horrible to happen in your absence, maybe try not degrading your drug fueled, chain swinging, possible murderer of a son and then leaving him to babysit. I’m sure the man in the trench coat with bulging eyes next to the playground would be a much safer alternative.
After banging a spoonful of liquid gold (and playing with a slinky, which is apparently a rather rebellious thing in Deutschland) the hooligan steps outside to… stargaze? Anyways, he sees the moon on fire, which suddenly sparks a Shakespearean desire in him to tell marvelous stories. Since his little sister can’t sleep, he settles down to sooth her into la-la land with a series of bedtime stories. Lucky for us, they’re about murder, rape, torture, dismemberments, blood, gore, suicide, and the unholy.
The first story is Julia’s Lover, and begins with serial killer Cliff Parker escaping from a mental institution. While this not-so-great escape is happening, the heroine of our story, Julia, is harassed by her obsessed ex-boyfriend. Desperate to find a man who isn’t crazy, Julia has planned to go on a blind date with a man she doesn’t know. Well we never get to see if Mr. Blind Date was a stand-up guy or not, because he is mowed the fuck down by Parker
I assume Parker wanted his spiffy white trench coat since he loots it from the corpse, but something tells me plowing over the guy wearing some clothing you want, then smearing his body against the road for a good 20 feet might not have been the best choice. Surprisingly, all that blood and road rash just washes right off, and Parker meets Julia looking as spiffy as ever. I used to think my Belstaff was a damn good jacket, but I doubt even it can withstand a Volkswagen creaming it into the road.
So the two go out to dinner and kick it off pretty well. Parker talks too much (story of my life bro), but Julia thinks he’s cute and nice and all that shit. While she waits in the car to be taken home after dinner, an APB is released on Parker, and Julia realizes she’s sitting in the car of a maniac. Parker comes out to see the car empty, his date having just bolted out and hitchhiked her way home. Not one for rejection, he decides to pay a visit to her house, seeing as she left her wallet in the car and all. In the end we realize the serial killing madman just wanted to profess his love to her (and butcher her entire family with a machete then dismember them then light the fucking remains on fire).
Well since the Brother-of-the-Year nominee here hasn’t turned his sister into Aileen Wuornos yet, he conjures up a second tale- only this time the killer is a priest! He’s also a rapist, just FYI. Dubbing his final bedtime story “The Purity”, this venture begins with a Father raping a woman in the woods before executing her with a shot to the forehead. We then see that the sonnabitch is the one presiding over her funeral, as he has with all his past victims.
When the priest was a boy he encountered a Satanic Cthulhu-esque ritual involving a skeletal reptile thing on the crucifix, and a shrouded Priestess of the Dark. He’s since gone on to fulfill his ungodly bloodlust as he pleases, because no one expects a man of the church to be a homicidal lunatic (just ask Dennis Raider). The cops are puzzled at who could commit these horrific crimes, but the locals think it’s a ranch hand that has some disabilities.
The young man confides in the priest, and he assures the boy that anyone that harms him will burn in Hell forever. Well a few more murders here, a rape there, throw in a pentagram and some cannibalism for good measure, and you have one hell of a vengeful German town. One of the local do-gooders decides to take the ranch hand out, beating and stabbing him repeatedly (an oddly emotional scene, actually).
The murderer returns home, and is immediately attacked by a force (or a horrible home video effect, I can’t really tell) that drags him straight to Hell. Turns out the priest wasn’t shittin’ when he told the boy whoever hurt him would burn in Hell, and the killer’s soul is mauled and mangled by the demons waiting to greet him.
A few seconds of touching back in with the brother and sister, surprise twist here, sudden turn for the depressing there, and Burning Moon rolls to a close. And it’s fucking amazing. No I’m serious; The Burning Moon is possibly the best Shot on Video movie ever made. Wait fuck that, it’s possibly one of the best horror movies in general. “Oh, how good could a SoV movie possibly be?” you might ask? You’re about to find out.
American SoV tripe is ranged from the fantastic, like 555 and The Abomination, to the abysmal like Spine and Black Devil Doll from Hell. Now the Germans, however, completely obliterate anything American VHS-directors could ever pop out, even having a genre, “German Splatter”, named after their accomplishments. Coming from a country that’s fathered DIY films like Angel of Death: Fuck or Die, Violent Shit, and Das Komabrutale Duell, the worst home-made horror film over there would be way above average here.
It’s safe to say Germany has got us beat, at least in SoV films. Now, let’s say you live in Deutschland and want to make a SoV gore film. There’s already a ton out there, and they’re all done with pretty good results, so you’ve got to be on top of your game. A lesser man would just pump out something that mingles in with the crowd of good-but-not-great movies (and again we’re talking SoV here, this is a league all its own), but not Olaf Ittebach, oh no no no.
By using a device that most people recorded their honeymoon sextape with, Ittenbach creates a film that bashes your face in, stomps your ribs, castrates you with rusted scissors, rapes your senses and pisses on your soul. You will never see another movie that delivers the gore like Burning Moon. Not even Ittenbach’s other works like the bat-shit insane Premutos or Black Past can compare.
Simply put, Burning Moon is one hell of a horror flick. Yeah this movie isn’t about to be accepted into any film society anytime soon, but do you honestly expect a well rounded plot with kinetic characters in a movie that’s SFX have caused it to be banned in 14 countries (I highly doubt that’s true BTW)?
Originally unleashed in America by the incredibly low budget Dead Alive Productions in the late 90’s (who you may know today as Brain Damaged films), Burning Moon was one of a handful of German underground films pumped out by daring VHS distributors like Dead Alive and Film Threat, who released the Violent Shit and Nekromantik series respectively. I honestly have no clue what the world would be like without the VHS…
Okay enough back-story and comparisons and all that bullshit. Quite simply, Olaf Ittenbach is a God of SFX, and even in his youth with a bologna and cheese allowance he was able to create insanely realistic props and gags. I mean just look at the pictures guys, this is one seriously hardcore movie here. While some might think it’s presented in an almost comical nature of going so over the top, I feel the movie manages to balance them out. The first story is full of cheesy splendor, and the latter is a dark, hateful, malignant work (at lease the ending is).
The Julia’s Lover segment is great, especially the back-story on Parker. His granddad flipped shit one day and dismembered the family with an axe in front of his very eyes, and the visuals are hilarious. Imagine your archetypical grandpappy with his sweater vest stroking out on some broad with an axe. And don’t forget the amazing scene of Parker getting his trench coat that I mentioned earlier. Things do get much darker towards the end, but nothing compares to the final act of the film.
The Purity is a slow paced story that has its bloody places here and there, but the final act is where the money is. It all begins with the murder of the ranch boy, and I really wasn’t kidding when I said this was a dark scene. The music, the incredibly brutal and prolonged death, it’s just really odd to go from something as hokey as a Satanic priest dry humping people to, well, that. But everything, and I mean everything comes to a head in the last 15 minutes or so.
When the killer goes to Hell, Ittenbach literally takes ten solid minutes to show what his view of Hell is. Now let me just say right now "I’m a hardcore Athiest people", but I can promise you I’m afraid of ending up here. Hell is what seems like an endless, rotten basement of some factory with dust and fog everywhere. There’s people having their skin ripped off, men in cages being burned with torches, a nude woman carrying around severed heads, limbs and organs everywhere- it seriously gets to a point where your mind can’t comprehend anymore. I think my mind gave out after a guy got a screwdriver to the face.
Then, then my dear readers, a fucking demon comes in with an M1 Garand and begins slaughtering all the souls in Hell. But since it’s Hell, this asshole is just making eternal existence that much harder for these guys. It’s not like a little bullet hole, because that would be a relief actually. No, this immoral dick must be using nitro coated rounds, because the souls that get shot literally explode. Then the bastard puts the gun in his own mouth and fires, probably because he realized what a dick thing to do that was.
As much as I want to talk about what happens to the killer when he arrives in Hell, I really can’t. Mainly because I want to avoid spoilers for people who haven’t seen it, but also because I was in this gore-fueled trance and can’t remember much. T.V. may not rot your brain, but The Burning Moon rips that fucker out and shits all over it. This is one of the few SoV movies out there that has an audience beyond fans of super low budget horror or VHS collecting. It’s a genuinely solid film that uses gore for humor and intensity. If there’s one horror movie you watch this year, it needs to be The Burning Moon. 10/10
PICTURE/ AUDIO– Looking more along the lines of mid-grade news room cameras as opposed to the public access T.V. show look of most SoV films out there, The Burning Moon has always looked good on VHS. Hell, even the German DVD released in the mid 2000s didn’t look too bad. I’m not sure if there was some technologically superior home video cassette out there that only Europe got (maybe something like a MegaBetaMax 64, which I’m sure will be the next format Mondo uses for their tapes), but this film has always been among the best looking SoV movies out there. Making it cut and dry, The Burning Moon looks great on its first official US disk, with just enough of that VHS look to remind you of what you’re watching, but not as rough looking as, say, Sledgehammer. 9/10
The audio track is as clear and crisp as possible, and the subtitles are spot on. Most of these German films released on tape here in the states had horrible subtitles (Der Todesking being one that comes to mind), and I’m not sure if this was one plagued with that problem or not. I’m also not sure if these are new or are recycled from an earlier European disk, but I can say they’re as good as we’re gonna get. 8/10
EXTRAS– Intervision has somehow found an almost hour long making of documentary. I’m sure this was released on tape by Ittenbach in Germany, but failed to make it to America. There are also a few trailers for other Intervision releases, and a reversable cover (That doesn’t look like it was made for Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job). 8/10