Love it or hate it, and I personally loved it, The Blair Witch Project stands as one of the greatest independent film successes in history. The mythology contained in film was so well put together that many people thought it really contained elements of truth. Nine years removed from his first smash hit, writer/director Eduardo Sanchez has tapped into Chinese mythology with his latest creation, Seventh Moon.
According to a Chinese myth, the dead are free to roam among the living every seventh full moon. This creates more than a tiny inconvenience for Melissa (Amy Smart) and Yul (Tim Chiou), two Americans honeymooning in Hong Kong and celebrating the “Hungry Ghost” festival that honors said spirits. Thank God he didn’t choose to do a film based on the chupacabra.
The film opens with the newlyweds roaming the streets of Hong Kong as tourists, but the musical layer makes it clear that something very bad awaits them. And that something comes in the shape of moon demons, based on Sanchez’s belief that there is nothing creepier than crazy naked figures running around. Amen. Sanchez chooses to pass on any digital effects, the same as he did for Blair Witch and his 2006 effort Altered, and it pays off. The demons are what the creatures from I Am Legend would have been without CGI. That’s a good thing and other directors could learn lessons that there is nothing that can replace a concrete figure that you can touch. Having said that, Jar Jar Binks still represents one of the scariest figures in film history.
Seventh Moon uses many of the same shot techniques that polarized audiences in Blair Witch. This time Sanchez amps up the feeling of claustrophobia, filming the majority of the film inside cars and caves. The theme throughout Sanchez’s film career is a focus on the isolation of characters in foreign surroundings, a concept that never gets old.
Smart and Chiou carry the entire film as they struggle to make sense of the chaos taking place around them. Smart, who recently starred in the horror Mirrors, continues her journey to become the Jamie Lee Curtis of our generation. By the end of the film you truly are pulling for her character to get out. Tim Chiou, who I haven’t had the opportunity to see before, displays humor and strength in his performance, not intimidated by the fact many viewers will go to see Smart in the film. Both characters make realistic decisions for the most part and shake off the trend of characters in horror films committing boneheaded mistakes that only serve to exacerbate the problems. Does it end up getting them out of their predicament? Well, you have to go see the film to find out.
Seventh Moon was largely shot in chronological order, a rarity in a film universe full of non-linear shooting and editing. The choice plays out in the actors’ performance and the overall mood of the film. It remains to be seen whether Sanchez will strike lightning the way he did with The Blair Witch Project. In Seventh Moon he brings the best of Blair Witch, lessens the need for Dramamine, and shows that he has learned quite a few new tricks on the way.