Burning Moon, The
Director - Olaf Ittenbach
Cast - Rudolf Hob, Bernd Muggenthaler. Beate Neumeyer
Country of Origin - Germany
Discs - 1
MSRP - $19.95
Distributor - Intervision Pictures Corp.
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 3/5
Peter (director Olaf Ittenbach) is your average everyday teenager, albeit one with enjoys shooting up heroin, getting into brutal gang rumbles, intentionally tanking important job interviews, and imbibing bottles of beer like it’s Prohibition. One evening he’s charged with watching his younger sister Annette (Barbara Woderschek) while the parents are out for the night, and to get her to go to sleep Peter tells her a pair of grim, horrific tales.
The first, “Julia’s Love”, tells the story of lonely young woman Julia (Beate Neumeyer). Julia is just looking for a man to share her life with and she thinks she may have found him in a pleasant-looking guy named Brian Connor (Bernd Muggenthaler). The two enjoy a nice dinner and sparkling conversation and just as things are about to be taken Julia discovers that “Brian” is in fact Cliff Parker, an escaped psychopathic lunatic who witnessed the gruesome murder of his entire family at the hands of an insane grandfather at a very young age. Once Julia realizes this she flees for her life and returns home, but she makes the mistake of leaving her wallet in Parker’s stolen car. Parker is more than a little angry at this turn of events and once he finds his reluctant date’s wallet with her driver’s license inside he decides that his romantic evening with Julia isn’t over just yet.
In the second story, “The Purity”, a countryside village is being terrorized by a series of brutal slayings with no apparent motive or reason. The townsfolk look to their local priest Father Ralf (Rudolf Hob) for guidance and reassurance, but the truth is the murderer is none other than their kindly spiritual leader. Ralf, convinced that he is releasing the souls of the suffering, has been committing acts of rape and murder for years and allowing the citizens of his village to believe that the culprit is introverted outcast Justuz (Andre Stryi). While some of the locals plot their revenge on the innocent Justuz Father Ralf is forced to confront his own personal demons as the story culminates in a descent into a nightmarish vision of Hell, where the guilty are punished with eternal suffering that neither Hieronymus Bosch or the person who does the cover art for Cannibal Corpse’s albums could imagine in their darkest visions.
Let me get this out of the way by saying that Olaf Ittenbach’s The Burning Moon is violent, nihilistic garbage….but it is EFFECTIVE violent, nihilistic garbage. Notorious for its excessive gore content and overbearing atmosphere of unrepentant dread, Ittenbach’s second feature has built a healthy reputation over the years for being too much for even the most seasoned horror fan to bear. But it’s not just the colorful and gleefully gory special effects that make this such a soul-deadening viewing experience. Ittenbach fills his stories with precious few sympathetic characters and brutal acts of violence that may be staged for the demented pleasures of the director’s camera but have the power to make you flinch and often look away in repulsion. The first story is slow to get going and when it does never rises above being a simplistic stalk-and-slash item that sounds like it was written by a sullen emo kid who believes that deep down all psychotic murderers just want to be loved. I wonder if Ittenbach wrote his script on sheets of torn notebook paper during all-night sessions of espresso and Slayer albums (which sounds like an awesome good time to me). There’s a ton of Karo-and-latex grue to keep you gorehounds from slipping off to Dreamland with a splattery hit-and-run, multiple decapitations, severed head tossing, old woman finger chopping, throat slashing, hand chopping, brutal stabbings, eyeball swallowing, exploding heads, and some poor sucker gets a machete for his last meal. More of a grimy slasher wannabe, “Julia’s Love” is pure amateur night theatrics but it ends before it’s welcome has been worn out.
It’s in the second and final story, “The Purity”, where The Burning Moon truly earns its infamous reputation. Our main character is a priest who moonlights as a rapist and serial murderer (and looks like Dennis Rader - the BTK Killer) convinced of his own divinity and tormented by visions of burning crosses and demonic nuns. The subplot about the terrified townspeople taking out their rage in an act of vigilante violence against a good-natured introvert recalls Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling and City of the Living Dead, and it leads to the most haunting moment in the entire film. But the centerpiece of The Burning Moon is a nearly ten-minute sequence where Ittenbach treats us (if you want to call it that) to his vision of a Hell that resembles a zombie insane asylum where the souls of the damned are reduced to slobbering, animalistic cannibals and where the suffering is not only legendary, it’s pretty damn unbearable. Clive Barker’s Cenobites would recoil in horror. The gore count for this tale includes multiple gunshot wounds, a throat slashing via scimitar, blood drinking, head smashing, pitch forking, intestine munching, face ripping, sledgehammer skull pulping, eyeball corkscrewing, and a helping of electric drill dentistry. And those aren’t even the worse parts. Olaf Ittenbach has served up a full course buffet of pitch black horror and nihilistic dread from which there is no escape for either the innocent or the guilty.
Appropriate for a movie that became famous as a banned videotape the picture and sound quality on Intervision’s DVD looks like an extremely well-done transfer from a fresh VHS copy of the film. The full frame picture is grainy and often I had flashbacks to those times I had to adjust the tracking on my VCR, but it’s watchable and most of the action is easily to see even when it gets difficult to watch. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track packs a mighty punch, with the disturbing sound design and the synthesizer score by A.G. Striedl (which reminded of a 1990’s syndicated television action show) coming through loud and clear and the German-dubbed dialogue easily discernible. There is some occasional distortion in the audio but it actually added to the VHS throwback experience. The movie comes with optional English subtitles.
The only substantial extra here is a 47-minute documentary on the making of The Burning Moon that looks transferred from a well-preserved VHS tape, much like the main feature itself. It’s a pretty good doc with plentiful on-set footage and interviews with director Ittenback, who makes for a genial and articulate host, and his cast and crew.
The infamous Burning Moon trailer that has been present on virtually every Intervision release since last year and a scummy fave on Youtube is here as well as trailers for two of the company’s other releases - The ABCs of Love and Sex and The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer.
I was really excited when my editor told me he was sending me to Burning Man. Then I realized what he meant was that he was sending me The Burning Moon. Banned in fourteen countries, including the very country where it was filmed and where its cast and crew proudly hail from, Olaf Ittenbach’s movie is a beyond lurid exploration of the most vile and base aspects of the human soul that you might need a long, hot shower to wash the psychological filth off after watching. You will not soon forget it, but you might wish you could.