Killer’s Moon – UK, 1978

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‘Nine attractive girls… Four dangerous men… One endless night of terror!’

Killer’s Moon is a 1978 British horror film written and directed by Alan Birkinshaw (The House of Usher; Ten Little Indians; The Masque of the Red Death), with uncredited dialogue written by his novelist sister, Fay Weldon. It stars Anthony Forrest, Tom Marshall and Georgina Kean.

Alan Birkinshaw had begun his career in commercials, moving on to directing and producing Confessions of a Sex Maniac in 1974, and viewed making horror films as a natural progression. “we decided that the horror film (genre) was more up market than a sex comedy” he told Creeping Flesh in 2003. The resulting film has been cited as one of the most tasteless movies in British cinema history.

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A coach of schoolgirls breaks down in the Lake District, forcing the girls to take shelter for the night in a remote hotel.

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Meanwhile, strange and macabre things are happening to the locals (and their pets) and it is revealed that four escaped mental patients – Mr. Smith, Mr. Trubshaw, Mr. Muldoon and Mr. Jones – who have been dosed with LSD as part of their treatment, are roaming the area, convinced they are living a shared dream in which they are free to rape and murder – both of which they choose to do numerous times before the belated arrival of the police…

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Review:

Produced in less politically correct times, Killer’s Moon has to be seen to be believed! The threadbare plot is merely an excuse to set up the following squalid scenario: in a remote rural location (the scenic Lake District), a party of sixth form schoolgirls is stranded when their coach breaks down.

Coincidentally, four (most film’s have just one maniac!) escaped psychos are on the loose. And to make matters worse, they are freaked out on LSD, having been the subject of some dubious experiment which allows them to wallow in their worst excesses via dream therapy. Throw in a pair of vapid male heroes and you have the recipe for lots of unsavoury sexual abuse and tacky gore.

It’s all irredeemably cheap and some of the acting is downright atrocious (you’ll cringe during the comedy coach driver’s turn). However, if you have the right sense of humour, these potential drawbacks only add to the film’s warped appeal.

The escaped inmates have a nice line in demented yet daft banter, though the “are we dreaming?” allusions do begin to grate by constant overuse. Meanwhile, director Alan Birkinshaw’s camera gloats and gloats over every sordid detail and the soundtrack includes a score that often borders on musical insanity, plus a weird pop song that intrudes bizarrely during a couple of murders and plays over the end credits.

Yet, for all the potential to shock, Killer’s Moon comes across as more amusing than offensive, making it a move that fans of sordid sinema should seek out. Let’s face it, any plot-line that ‘conveniently’ allows a protruding nail to snag and tear open a young ladies’ night dress, before she is mauled by a marauding maniac really does come from a different era! You’ll laugh in disbelief…

Adrian J Smith, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“I have two theories about Killer’s Moon – the first is that it really is the most tawdry piece of badly made, badly acted and badly misconceived cinema I’ve ever seen. The second is that it’s actually a brilliant comedy, written with a subtle flair by intelligent women as an attempt to bring down exploitation cinema from within. Unfortunately, the first theory must be the correct one. The acting is just so bad, the tasteless scenes are just so shockingly unbelievable, that it can’t be a satire. Can it?” British Horror Films

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“Together Birkinshaw and Weldon weaved together elements of A Clockwork Orange with bits from the popular sex comedies of the day, to take a visceral punch at some of the social hypocrisy and outdated morays of the day. Of course, like any good horror movie, these bits of satire are well-groomed nuances peppered throughout a tightly wound, and brutal thriller. The “droog” like thugs are vicious as they are properly British, doling out sadistic punishment just as easily as they can.” Bad Ronald

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The violence level is up there, but pretty tame by today’s standards, aside from the rapes of course. The acting is decent, a lot of the movie takes place in a neat mansion, and cute girls (all of age hopefully) run around in nightdresses. It’s chock full of nudity and it’s plenty sleazy, which is a good formula for some good exploitation. Plus the fact that it might be a bit disturbing to some people is a positive thing. Disturbing equals effective.” Todd Jordan, Rock! Shop! Pop!

“The various agents of government, though given little screen time, are portrayed as incompetent and self-serving, à la Pete Walker. The director, to his credit, made no attempt to dress the film up as social comment and insists that it was only meant as entertainment. In sheer bravado, Killer’s Moon, almost overcomes its questionable taste, perfunctory direction and indifferent performances.” John Hamilton, X-Cert 2

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” … this film was originally written and planned as a straight-ahead boobs and blood outing with wooden dialogue and a few kills to keep the crowd happy. However, when some of the character interaction was turned over to sorta-feminist writer Fay Weldon (The Life and Loves of a She-Devil), something… well, changed, obviously. Simply put, forget what Rita Mae Browne did to The Slumber Party Massacre; this film takes the cake for the flat-out weirdest one-liners in slasherdom.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital

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” … the film’s shoddy production values, laughable acting and weak script leave it verging on self-parody – only one that isn’t very funny. There isn’t really any other purpose for its existence than to offend, with unnecessary animal cruelty (thankfully simulated) and a flippant attitude towards rape; but it has to be said that apart from a few scenes the film’s shock-value has dissipated somewhat over the years.” Gary Collinson, Flickering Myth

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Choice dialogue:

“Of course, it’s a dream… and stuffed full of jailbait!”

Cast:

  • Anthony Forrest (Strange Shadows in an Empty Room)
  • Tom Marshall (Revenge)
  • Georgina Kean (Shadows TV series)
  • Alison Elliott
  • Jane Hayden
  • Nigel Gregory (The PlaybirdsDracula, 1974)
  • David Jackson
  • Paul Rattee
  • Peter Spraggon
  • Jo-Anne Good, Jayne Lester
  • Lisa Vanderpump
  • Debbie Martyn
  • Christina Jones (Worlds Beyond TV series)
  • Lynne Morgan
  • Charlie Stewart
  • Edwina Wray
  • Hugh Ross (PsychovilleHannibal Rising; Doomwatch TV series)
  • Graham Rowe
  • James Kerry (Out of the UnknownMystery and Imagination TV series),
  • Carol Binstead. 
  • Hilda Braid (Citizen Smith)
  • Chubby Oates

Filming locations:

Acorn Film Studios, Barnes, London, England
Armathwaite Hall Hotel, Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick, Lake District, Cumbria, England
Prospect Studios, High Street, Barnes, London, England

Image credits: Bad Ronald | Cagey FilmsCritical Condition | Rock! Shop! Pop!

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