The Burning Moon (1997)
By: Stuart Giesel on June 2, 2012  | 
Intervision (USA) | All Regions, NTSC | 4:3 | German DD 2.0 | 98 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Olaf Ittenbach
Starring: Olaf Ittenbach, Beate Neumeyer, Bernd Muggenthaler, Rudolf H÷▀, Andre Stryi
Screenplay: Olaf Ittenbach
Country: Germany
External Links
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Seen Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead? Even heard of it? For those in the know, the 1999 chunkblower rates right up there along with Peter Jackson's Braindead as probably the wettest gore pic out there. But before Premutos, German filmmaker Olaf Ittenbach shot a direct-to-video cheapie called The Burning Moon which, despite moments of general ineptness, manages to splash a whole lot of impressive gore at the screen and generally succeeds despite its flaws. And unlike Premutos, which balances the splatter with crude, dumb humour, The Burning Moon plays its proceedings with deadly seriousness, and thereby feels all the more nasty for it.

Along with directing, writing, editing, creating the special effects and probably managing the catering as well, Ittenbach stars as a drug abusing scumbag who is forced to babysit his younger sister. In what has to be the worst example of babysitting this side of Jonah Hill, Ittenbach tells his sister two extreme stories of depravity, carnage and horror. The first story, 'Julia's Love' tells the simple tale of a serial killer who escapes from an extremely liberal mental ward and stalks a girl named Julia after their blind date. The second story, 'The Purity', involves a priest who goes around raping and killing women. A local farmer falsely accused for the horrors approaches the priest for help. Before the priest commits suicide, he swears that anyone who attacks the farmer will wind up in hell. And, guess what, when the farmer is attacked and brutally killed, his murderer winds up in Ittenbach's version of hell, which is a little like the insides of a backpacker's hostel populated by things that would make David Lynch and David Cronenberg lose their lunches.

The two (and a half) stories are pretty weak, to be sure. And the dialogue is bog standard. The acting ranges from decent to horrible, and because Ittenbach shot on video the picture quality is decidedly poor and there are some odd editing choices and shots. Still, you have to give Ittenbach credit for turning out such a demented little film on an ultra-low budget, probably with what little equipment he could scrounge together. Because what really works in The Burning Moon, and presumably what everyone interested in this sort of thing wants to see, is the gore. Though a few of the effects don't really work, a great deal of them are surprisingly well done, and elicit the prerequisite number of 'ooohs' and 'ewwws' and 'did I really just see that' responses. Like his later Premutos, Ittenbach doesn't hold back, and certainly leaves nothing to the imagination, certainly not when it comes to the final 10 minutes which is a depiction of hell that would cause Clive Barker to shake his head and 'tut-tut' in disapproval. Heads are crushed and blown off, torsos ripped open, eyes plucked and in one showstopping moment a man is ripped in half in a scene that easily tops the legendary scene in Ruggero Deodato's uncut version of Cut and Run. And it's not just the scenes in hell that turn the stomach - when people are shot they're not just shot once, they're shot a dozen times in loving detail. A man is crushed by a car and smeared along the road like a burst water balloon. An old man hacks up his daughter with an axe in front of his grandson with the sort of fanatical zeal reserved for gameshow contestants and Boxing Day shoppers.

It's a good thing the special effects are well done, because there's little else in The Burning Moon of merit - after all, it's not the sort of thing you watch for the acting or for a beautifully twisty and compelling story. Ittenbach knows his strengths and plays on them. There is a tendency for very low budget films based purely around presenting shock moments of bloodthirsty gore to drag on and on between those showstopping moments. They often become unbearingly dull. So it is to Ittenbach's credit that hardly any of The Burning Moon drags at all, perhaps due to the fact that the film is split into two main stories, and the fact that he has a keen visual eye and some of his shots are eye-catching.

You pretty much know what you're getting with The Burning Moon. Between the scenes of tremendous brutality and gore you have a dumb script and poor acting. However it's better paced than a lot of its ilk. Don't go in expecting something fun like Street Trash though as The Burning Moon is unremittingly dark and bleak. It paints a picture of a mankind that is irredeemable and awful, the sort of beings who deserve to be broken and crushed and torn to shreds. And that's what The Burning Moon excels at.
The Burning Moon was shot on video, probably for the price of a good meal at a posh restaurant, so the video quality is soft, grainy, and lacks detail. This is one film that won't benefit from a decent Blu-Ray restoration. But like the grungy aesthetics of Texas Chain Saw Massacre (or at least the tenth-generation recordings that did the rounds years ago) this sort of picture quality actually benefits The Burning Moon, helping it feel nastier, rougher and edgier than it might have otherwise been.

But, yes, the picture looks like shit.
One of the most irksome things about the DVD release of Premutos was the horrifyingly bad English dub being the sole audio track of merit for non-German speakers (the original German audio track didn't have English subtitles). Here, thankfully, we have the original German audio track complete with decent English subtitles. However the audio, like the video quality, is average at best. As The Burning Moon was filmed on video apparently all the dialogue had to be recorded later on, so dialogue doesn't always match the actors' lips, there are occasional drop-outs and the overall quality is pretty dire. It's not bad enough to put you off the film completely, but just be warned.
Extra Features
The main feature, Making of Burning Moon, is a collection of behind-the-scenes moments interspersed with snippets of interviews with Olaf Ittenbach and some of the cast. Some of the footage is quite amusing, and it's always interesting to see Ittenbach apply his grotesque makeup on the set. Unfortunately, whilst the interviews are subtitled, the behind the scenes portions are not.

There's also a trailer for the film as well as for two other films, The ABCs of Love and Sex and The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer (which looks ten times cheaper than The Burning Moon and immeasurably more amateurish). So as far as extras go there's not too much here to get worked up about, but the fact that The Burning Moon is available on DVD in uncut form is probably enough to satisfy most fans.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Thanks to its direct-to-video origins, The Burning Moon feels like one of those genuine lost grindhouse nasties. It has all the staples of low budget shlock - bad acting, poor dialogue, a wandering script, shit sets - but thanks to the passion of its creator and a bucketload of excellent gore it plays better than you would expect. Credit has to go to Olaf Ittenbach for bringing his vision to the screen despite budgetary (and other) limitations. The final ten minutes is a true descent into hell and is a startling, grue-soaked reminder of what can be achieved when you have passion and talent, even if you don't have a Titanic-sized budget.

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