Exclusive Interview: Eric Red Remembers His Werewolf Classic BAD MOON

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SHOCK talks to genre filmmaker Eric Red about his innovative werewolf gem BAD MOON.

Writer/director Eric Red’s resume is ripe with innovation, eccentricity and philosophy. That he brings this sophistication to what is widely considered a “low” genre, is to his credit and the chief reason why his work is always worthy of a deeper look.

Red was the pen behind Kathryn Bigelow’s cult vampire/western NEAR DARK (1987), a movie whose strength not only lies in Bigelow’s eye for lush visuals and Tangerine Dream’s moody score, but in the rich tapestry of charming, yet predatory, anti-heroic undead outlaws Red designed.

Prior to that, his breakthrough film THE HITCHER (1986) offered more imaginary people drifting through another dusty, desert locale, with the bloody lines defining good and evil irrevocably smudged.

Indeed, Red understands that heroes and villains are imaginary tropes and that in the real world, actions and relationships are far more complex.

That underlying theme would continue in other Red works, including his script for Bigelow’s BLUE STEEL (1990) and the screenplays he actually was able to direct, 1989’s O Henry quote COHEN AND TATE and 1991’s deft Orlac-ish possessed limb thriller BODY PARTS.

And it positively screams off the screen in his 1996 werewolf drama BAD MOON.

It would be easy to refer to BAD MOON as “underrated”, but then again, pretty much all of Red’s films are. Such things happen when one toils in horror and fantasy. The movie, based on Wayne Smith’s novel THOR, stars Michael Pare as Ted, a seemingly broken but caring man who parks his trailer near the home of his sister (Mariel Hemingway) and her young son (Mason Gamble), to heal with his family after the death of his wife. But all is not right, as the family dog Thor finds out when he discovers Ted is actually a monstrous werewolf responsible for a spate of brutal murders. It’s up to Thor to protect his pack from the threat, despite being unable to communicate with his human masters as to what exactly that threat is.

BAD MOON was not greeted favorably upon release, so alien as it was to the SCREAM-centric horror landscape of the 1990s. But it had its admirers and many now cite it as a major work of werewolf cinema.

The film has just been announced to hit Blu-ray on June 19th via Scream Factory and in honor of this impending resurrection, we spoke with Red to discuss his remarkable and unique domestic horror movie.

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SHOCK: Can you remember what it was about the book THOR that spoke to you?

RED: I loved the central concept of a family dog with a unique dilemma: how to communicate to his human owners a family member is actually another very dangerous dog, a werewolf, and protect his “pack” when he’s trained not to bite a person.  It was a classic, almost Hitchcockian set up.  And I responded to how the story was about the power of unconditional love communicated through the pure primal devotion of a dog for his family he will do anything to protect.  I saw the potential for a horror film with heart that would have an emotional impact on the audience.  The novel was a totally original werewolf story that I believed would make a different and unique werewolf movie.

SHOCK: Was this the first time you had adapted a novel? Did you feel chained to the source?

RED: BODY PARTS was based on a French thriller novel called CHOICE CUTS, so no. The book is told completely from the dog’s POV, but even though I couldn’t do that in the script, I knew the story would work the same way in a movie because the audience knows what the dog does that the uncle is a werewolf, so Thor would remain the audience identification character and point of view.

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SHOCK: Michael was an interesting choice and you got him just when he was past his“hot” period, in films like EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS and STREETS OF FIRE. Why did you cast him as your Uncle Ted?

RED: Mike was a little older and had some edge on him, able to convey the tormented aspects of Uncle Ted.  He understood the pathos of the Lawrence Talbot/Lon Chaney Jr. thing Uncle Ted has going on.  And Mike brought an animal magnetism.  Those stare-down scenes where he is eyeball to eyeball with Thor have a primal force on screen.

SHOCK: The film feels at war with itself. It opens with sex, it’s a family film, a monster movie, a bloodbath…

RED: I disagree with you about that and feel the family story and horror action integrate perfectly because the movie is about a family in jeopardy from a werewolf and, well, there’s going to be blood.  Every family film doesn’t have to be Disney G-rated.  POLTERGEIST is another family film loaded with horror and gory special effects.

SHOCK: Steve Johnson’s werewolf is fantastic. How involved were you personally in the realization of those FX?

RED: I supervised every aspect because I wanted the ultimate werewolf: classic half man half wolf.   That required working closely with Steve on the design and all the things the beast had to do, which Steve and his crew ultimately made it do.  One of the things I firmly felt was needed to “sell” the werewolf was super detailed lifelike movement of eyes, lips, jaw, nostrils in the animatronic head that could to hold a long tight close up.  And it was important to me the werewolf was clearly seen in bright lighting when it attacks the house at the end, nothing held back. Steve is a Special Makeup Effects genius and indisputably created one of the best werewolves in movie history.

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SHOCK: Another great “character” in the movie is the score. Daniel Licht was quite prolific at this time. How did you lock him?

RED: This was a Warner Brothers/Morgan Creek film, so I had my pick of composers, but Dan saw the same kind of symphonic score I did writing the script, which avoided the obvious. You think “werewolf movie” and you automatically think scary music, but he agreed with me the heart of the movie was a highly emotional family story, and the music needed to be epic and richly thematic to convey the heroism of the dog. Dan wrote a beautiful, dramatic, and moving score that enhanced the film and delivered on all counts…including the scary music! 

SHOCK: The movie seemed to almost instantly find a cult audience. But were fans of the book happy with it?

RED: Who cares!

SHOCK: How do you feel about BAD MOON today?

RED: I agree with many people who say it’s one the best werewolf films and also one of the best dog films.  It was a challenging and exciting movie to direct with all the dog work, practical special effects and drama. I achieved what I set out to do with the flick and am very happy so many enjoy it.  That’s all you can ask for…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p344NeMAblk

 

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