Friday, March 26, 2021

Into the Dark: Blood Moon

Parents of "problem children" with severe mood swings and behavioral issues could very well feel like they are raising werewolves. Leave it to Blumhouse to take the metaphor to its most macabre extreme. Esme’s son Luna (notice his name) is a good kid, except for one night out of every month. However, the devoted mother will do whatever it takes to protect Luna and his secret in Emma Tammi’s Blood Moon, the season conclusion of Blumhouse’s Into the Dark, which premieres today on Hulu.

Luna can be a handful, but it isn’t his fault. He inherited his lycanthropy from his father. Esme tries not to talk about him much. Instead, she does her best to home-school Luna, while constantly moving from one remote southwestern town to another. She has strict rules to prevent the outside world from discovering Luna’s therianthropic nature, but he understandably yearns for a more normal life. It is hard for her to get by, but Miguel, the sympathetic hardware store owner, is willing to offer her credit. Unfortunately, she also attracts the attention of the local harassment-inclined sheriff.

Blood Moon is so realistic, both emotionally and aesthetically, it arguably does not even feel like part of the horror genre. This is nothing like the Howling direct-to-DVD sequels (which might disappoint some werewolf fans). However, Tammi’s execution is impressively tight and economical. Maternally-themed horror is becoming her thing, but Blood Moon is fresher and more fully developed than her prior Into the Dark film, Delivered.

Megalyn Echikunwoke’s fierce yet remarkably sensitive performance as Esme is a major asset for the film. She also develops credible parental chemistry with Yonnas Kibreab’s Luna, who can be a convincing handful. Marco Rodriguez also brings further fleshed-out dimension and grizzled compassion to
Blood Moon as old Miguel. He is exactly the sort of redemptive character a lot of horror films lack.

The lonely desert backdrop nicely amplifies the isolation and alienation of mother and son (while making perfect sense in terms of the on-screen narrative).
Blood Moon definitely represents a distinctive take on lycanthropy, but its title is too prosaic. There have been dozens of werewolf films and TV episodes called “Blood Moon,” at least one of which was weirdly entertaining. Regardless, fans of the horror subgenre should appreciate what Tammi and screenwriter Adam Mason do with it. Recommended as a strong finish to the second season of Into the Dark, Blood Moon starts streaming today (3/26, just in time for the new moon), on Hulu.