The Burning Moon (1997)

Olaf Ittenbach's sick and twisted shot-on-video gorefest is disturbing viewing. Intervision US R0 DVD.

The Film

A young drug-addict deliquent (played by director Olaf Ittenbach) tells two horrific stories to his young sister. 'Julia's Love' is about a mental patient who escapes from a secure hospital and goes on a date with a young woman. She realises who he is after hearing a radio report, but he persues her home and sets about massacring her entire family. In 'Purity' set in the 1950s, a local priest in a small German town carries out brutal rapes and murders for his demonic faith, but a local man is suspected of the killings and when one of the villagers kills the man he finds himself bound for hell itself...

German underground scenes are notorious for taking things too far, from death-metal music to WXW's hardcore take on pro-wrestling and most infamously in horror films. Written by the director Olaf Ittenbach, Burning Moon is a mean spirited and sickening gore-fest with a storyline that serves only to move the film between the bloody killings. Like a number of independent 'straight to video' horrors from the 80s and 90s, the film uses an anthology format, allowing much shorter and easier to write storylines. The link section is (as usual in this genre) a waste of time with Ittenbach making his character a cliché teenage rebellion deliquent with an utterly daft 'gang fight' sequence.

The first segment is a rather typical American slasher film story, although stripped down to the basics with brisk pacing to build up to the vibrantly gory massacre at the climax. The story does end on a bit of a duff note with everything setting up for some sort of clever twist that never happens. The second story is a little more creative, however there is a lot of dead air here with lengthy padding and although Ittenbach tries for some interesting religious symbology, the story as a whole never makes any sense and is generally rather dull until the hell-bound climax which provides a fantastically twisted and disturbing infernal vision.

Although released in the late 1990s, Burning Moon was shot earlier in the decade, on video and with a tiny budget, all of which contributes to a distinctly 1980s 'video nasty' era feel. The direction is generally straight forward and like the storyline it all seems rather cursory outside of the killings. The gore scenes themselves are the intended highlight of the film and Ittenbach goes all out with the practical effects, showing gleeful creativity in a variety of blood soaked killings. Obviously limited by budget, the effects are a little primitive in places yet do include animal-gut gore remniscent of 1970s Italian horror films and certainly not to the level of the contemporary CGI-assisted torture-porn films, although the climactic hell sequence does include some effects that could well make unexperienced fans gag.

Aside from Ittenbach himself in the opening role, the cast is comprised of unknown actors and particularly in the supporting roles the performances can be a little stale, however the leading cast are decent enough to keep the film moving.

Burning Moon is a mean spirited, violent little horror film with a storyline that merely serves to provide gory highlights and that drags noticably in the second half. It will certainly appeal to fans of German underground horror films from the likes of Andreas Schnaas as well as to fans of the 1980s 'video nasty' horror titles. Audiences raised on the sleek modern post-Saw gore-fests will probably be disappointed by the gore effects and the slow paced storyline, but Burning Moon certainly makes for an interesting historical record of what came before.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? The cast is entirely unknown actors.
Directed by anyone interesting? Olaf Ittenbach - a German director who has also done extensive special effects work, including on the Uwe Boll film BloodRayne (2005) and Andreas Bethmann film K3: Prison of Hell (2009).
Any gore or violence ? Frequent, lengthy, bloody and gory death scenes.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Fans of underground German horrors should enjoy this.

Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colour
Looks as it did when shot, grainy and with video fringing, but always watchable.
Shot on video so the academy ratio is correct.
Audio German mono - sound is a little off in places (probably due to dubbing).
Subtitles English - generally okay, a few minor grammatical errors.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Making of Burning Moon - a contemporary behind the scenes look with lots of footage of the filming as well as comments from the director. Fascinating. VHS quality, German audio with burnt English subtitles. (46 minutes).
  • Original American VHS release trailer.
  • Bonus trailers for 'The ABCs of Love and Sex' and 'The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer'.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Also available from Scandinavian company AWE with optional English subtitles. German releases do not include subtites.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The credits are in German.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 12th March 2012.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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