Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Wait? THE BURNING MOON is an Anthology?!

THE BURNING MOON – Olaf Ittenbach's shot-on-video gore-stravaganza from the 1990s – has been in my "Emergency Flicks Box" for several years. You know, that box filled with DVD-R titles, thrifted VHS and $5 bin impulse purchases that you keep around for those nights when you just can't find anything else to watch. I'd caught glimpses of the flick here and there and assumed it was some kind of Teutonic zombiefest that was shot in somebody's basement between golden shower loops. Little did I know it was one of the most wrong-headed anthology flicks ever committed to tape.

"Wait, what? THE BURNING MOON is an anthology flick?!"

Peter (Ittenbach) is a shiftless, lazy, drugged-out punk who likes to drink beer and rumble in fog-laden alleys with his pals and other Krautpunks. After an unsuccessful job interview and a fight with his long-suffering parents, he gets pressed into service babysitting for his little sister. Displeased by this plan he decides to shoot up, stare at the moon and wake his little sister up so he can share some deadtime stories with her.

Tale number one – 'Julia's Love' – is your classic "wait, the guy I'm dating is an escaped psychopath who has been taken off his meds?" story, except that when Julia ditches Cliff after their romantic dinner he doesn't take it sitting down. He heads to Julia's house and hatchets her whole family to death in grisly, paint-the-screen-red fashion. In other words, Cliff makes AMERICAN PSYCHO's Patrick Bateman look like a guy you'd gladly invite to dinner with the whole family, including Gammie, Grampie and little Tommy. Ittenbach packs the tale with decapitated heads, slow-mo head explosions, eyeball swallowing and lines like "I want to have kids with you, I want to penetrate you, I want you to absorb all my love juice" with nary a wink at the screen. Neither Cliff nor Ittenbach is screwing around and the tale is so packed with wet, squishy gore effects you'll be reaching for a paper towel to wipe off the bone fragments and brain matter.

Shifting gears for the second tale – inexplicably set in 1957 – Ittenbach strings us along with talk of recipes and knitting patterns, getting us all comfy until he can haul out the rape-happy, gun-toting priest of Moustachetown. Leisurely paced to the point of head scratching, 'The Purity' finds the townsfolk quick to blame the local outcast for the spree of rape and murder haunting their little hamlet. When the residents decide to exact their revenge (despite no proof and the fact that the priest has blown his own head off), the evil priest, innocent dweeb and Ittenbach turn the tables by offering up an ambitious, gore-soaked, eight-minute descent into low-budget Hell complete with disembowelings, cannibals (?), zombies (?), eye violence, extreme dental work and much worse.

Though I wish the second segment had gotten to the point (whatever that may be) a bit sooner and made time for a third segment, THE BURNING MOON is still a recommended, riveting and whacked out slice of shot-on-video gore. I'm bummed it took me so long to get around to seeing it because I think I'd have enjoyed clearing a party by looping his disturbing take on Hell.

Watching this early work it's no surprise that Ittenbach has gone on to direct and/or provide gore effects for such off-the-wall efforts as LEGION OF THE DEAD, CHAIN REACTION (aka HOUSE OF BLOOD) and Uwe Boll's underrated BLOODRAYNE. Though I hear much of his work that gets released here suffers from edits inflicted by the DVD companies, they're still worth tracking down (especially HOUSE OF BLOOD which is currently streaming on Netflix).

The Intervision release includes a German-language making-of feature with on-set footage and an interview with Ittenbach. For more on Ittenbach check out our pal David Zuzelo's take on THE BURNING MOON which is sure to be more informed than mine! – DT

THE BURNING MOON is available from Amazon.

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