HUNTER'S MOON (2020)

Hunter's Moon.jpg

Studio:      Lionsgate
Director:    Michael Caissie
Writer:      Michael Caissie
Producer:  Jay Mohr, Lea Sturgis, Christopher Sherman, Clayton Turnage, Michael Caissie
Stars:     Katrina Bowden, Jay Mohr, Will Carlson, Spencer Daniels, India Ennenga, Amanda Wyss, Daniel R. Hill, Emmalee Parker, Sean Patrick Flannery, Thomas Jane

Review Score:

40.jpg

Summary:

After their parents leave them home alone, three sisters fend off a home invasion while a werewolf stalks an orchard outside.


Synopsis:     

Review:

Named for the setting where key scenes take place, ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± used to be titled ¡°The Orchard.¡± Somebody must have realized ¡°The Orchard¡± sounds like some stuffy period piece featuring British actors in frilly gowns instead of a fright film. At least ¡°Moon¡± implies ¡®werewolf¡¯ while ¡®hunt¡¯ supplies a term indicative of action. Ironically, ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± has more in common with a slow-moving yawner based around an orange grove than a horror-heavy monster movie akin to ¡°The Howling.¡±

¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± stars people like Katrina Bowden, Jay Mohr, Thomas Jane, and Sean Patrick Flannery. Another way to word that would be to say, ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± stars a number of names that used to be found in major motion pictures and TV series, yet are now all relegated to quick-buck roles in straight-to-streaming B-movies.

Flannery¡¯s character only appears in two brief prologue scenes and it doesn¡¯t look like Flannery could even be bothered with filming the second one. After seducing and drugging a college coed, Flannery uses one limp hand to unconvincingly strangle the woman on his couch. He then promptly hands her over to a stunt double, or else ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± bizarrely chooses to shoot Flannery from behind in the dark, as the murderer buries the body in an orchard before being mauled by a you-know-what. Absent of tension for the audience or a signature style for Flannery¡¯s character, it¡¯s the most unsatisfying sequence of events you¡¯ll ever see a serial killer perform in a movie.

Despite turning 30 in 2018, Bowden plays pouty teenager Juliet Delaney, who also appears to be an annoyingly irresponsible a-hole (more on that in a moment). It would almost be funny to laugh at Juliet demanding that her parents stop treating her like a child before storming off to sulk in her room. Except Bowden has been married for seven years in real life. Either recast or rewrite. If viewers can¡¯t suspend disbelief on something as simple as someone¡¯s age, how does ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± expect them to take a werewolf seriously?

Juliet, her two sisters, and their parents just moved into the vacant house where Flannery committed his crimes. On their way through town, the family stops at a roadside store where Juliet makes eyes at Billy, a local bad boy with a CW-ready haircut beneath his knit cap. Billy returns the mutual attraction, but also sniffs out an easy mark for a robbery.

Mom and dad later leave the three sisters home alone. You know what that means: party! Or rather, it would be if Juliet¡¯s idea of mice playing while the cat was away involved anything more exciting than swigging Jack Daniel¡¯s with her two siblings while sitting quietly on the couch in their living room. Do these girls know how to let loose for a good time or what?

Juliet finds Billy casing the house with his brothers Lenny and Daryl. To the brotherly burglars¡¯ surprise, Juliet opens the door and invites them inside. Billy and Lenny quickly take their turn with the whiskey. They won¡¯t be getting drunk any time soon though. By now, the bottle has been sloshed around so much, it froths over with foam from the iced tea a prop person obviously put inside.

Although her younger sisters Lisa and Wendy are clearly uncomfortable, Juliet continues drinking and doing drugs with the brothers, who aren¡¯t shy about their intentions to loot the place when they¡¯re done fondling a willing Juliet. Watching Wendy have a panic attack while Lenny tears Juliet¡¯s shirt during an aggressive make-out moment doesn¡¯t even provide Juliet pause. If I didn¡¯t know better, I¡¯d think this oddly inconsiderate behavior might hint that Juliet has some other scheme up her sleeve.

But viewers do know better. See, Juliet only comes off as careless when her actions are taken at face value. And at this point in proceedings, ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± has already shown the cards in its hand to confirm things are not as straightforward as they seem on the surface.

SPOILERS

The movie¡¯s main mystery concerns these werewolves, as in, who are they and what are they up to? Yet ten minutes into the film, Juliet makes mention of moving into a killer¡¯s house and the father played by Jay Mohr immediately slams on the car¡¯s breaks. Mohr then suspiciously huffs and puffs with a glazed look in his eyes. His wife and daughters instinctively stare with concern but don¡¯t dare say a word, afraid of seeing the man take a transformative turn as though they know a secret we don¡¯t. Gee, I wonder what that could be?

Few films telegraph conspicuous twists this terribly. ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± has one other surprise to serve up once 30 minutes remain in the runtime. But because this other reveal involves someone willing to shoot three girls in the face to protect three boys from a routine B&E arrest, it impressively becomes less believable than fiction involving a family of lycanthropes.

END SPOILERS

¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± has a promising premise. I can see how an actor could look at the plot on paper and picture a talented team pulling off the story¡¯s swerves using solid cinematic execution. It¡¯s just so sloppily scripted that supposed secrets sit out in the open getting sunburned. Boring staging isn¡¯t even close to clever enough to make up for empty intrigue either.

The movie must have been a ¡°put it together on every other weekend¡± kind of production. I can¡¯t imagine everyone credited worked at the same time. Otherwise ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± had a crew the size of a ¡°Fast and the Furious¡± sequel and squandered it on a project that looks like a throwaway MOW. There isn¡¯t an imaginative camera angle or inventive scene setup to be found anywhere. It¡¯s astonishing that end credits list ten people as camera operators and assistants, 16 grips and electricians, and 16 more people in the prop department, yet exteriors look like they¡¯re lit with one large lamp while the house interior gets dressed like a Motel 6 lobby.

The best thing going for ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± is that it only runs 75 minutes excluding credits. You¡¯ll definitely want to exclude those credits too because even though they include a mid-scroll stinger, a truly awful accompanying song will make you want to stab your eardrums with sharpened chopsticks.

What I really want to know is, how did Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss become an executive producer on this? ¡°Hunter¡¯s Moon¡± is a werewolf movie where we only see a werewolf once, which turns out to be one too many times since its face looks like a Halloween mask with a stiff jaw that can¡¯t move more than one vertical inch. We¡¯re also talking about uninspired writing where drab dialogue includes lame lines like when someone discovers a dead body and mutters, ¡°Ah, Jesus. Ah, no. Oh God, not again.¡± Come to think of it, maybe that¡¯s not from the movie. That may only be what I said to myself when I realized I¡¯d lit the fuse on another DTV bomb.

Review Score: 40