“Werewolf movies need to have those ‘rip and tear’ moments.”
Bad Moon (1996)
Commentator: Eric Red (writer/director)
1. The source novel, Thor by Wayne Smith, was sent to Red before publication by the William Morris Agency. He found it “the most original idea he’d ever heard for a werewolf movie.”
2. “I felt the movie should open with a bang,” he says, explaining why the opening scene is “heavy in sex and gore.”
3. Two different stunt women stood in as Marjorie during the opening werewolf attack. “Both stunt girls were nude,” he adds, oddly. The first was attached to a ratchet device designed to yank her from the tent and give the impression of real force and power The second stunt performer was held aloft in a harness device to simulate being held by the werewolf. “The stunt girl was naked and made me promise not to show full frontal nudity,” he says, “but I lied.” Cool guy, cool.
4. There’s a five-member family in the novel, but Red trimmed it down to just the single mom Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and son Brett (Mason Gamble) in order to heighten the immediacy and tension.
5. The film was budgeted at $6 million, and Red was perfectly happy with that. The same goes for the forty day shooting schedule. This is one of the very rare instances where a filmmaker doesn’t say he/she wished they had a bigger budget.
6. The book is told through the POV of the dog, Thor, and while the film drops that approach “the dog who played the role had to be a great movie dog.” Several dogs were used in the film, each with various skills, but “the hero dog,” the one used for close-ups and general scenes took months to find. After seeing multiple dogs in person Red was sent a photo of an untrained German Shepherd and knew instantly that was his Thor.
7. Dino De Laurentis was initially attached to produce the film.
8. Both Michael Biehn and Robert Patrick lobbied for the role of Ted, but Red chose Michael Paré “because of the power he has as an actor.” The dog trainer shared that Paré’s comfort performing with a canine co-star reminded him of Jim Belushi on K-9. “Along with Roy Scheider and Famke Janssen, Michael Paré is the best experience I’ve had with a star as a director.”
9. After praising both Paré and the dog performers Red turns his attention to Hemingway. He says she looked the part, “but ultimately I was ambivalent about her performance. Straight up, I found Mariel to be a limited actress.” Red says she couldn’t handle scenes requiring terror, stress, or emotion, but that she’s “beautiful and athletic, and moves well and looks good in the movie.” He goes on to say that she was intimidated by Paré “because he was there to give a great performance, and she was there for a paycheck.”
10. Ted’s Airstream trailer is meant to suggest a silver bullet. “That’s a nuance nobody ever notices.”
11. “In my opinion practical effects are superior to digital effects because they are actual physical effects in front of the camera.” Can’t argue with that.
12. “In creating the wolf man for Bad Moon our mandate was to design the ultimate werewolf.” Red chose Steve Johnson’s XFX company to achieve that because their animatronic effects were impressive and he trusted they could deliver a werewolf that would be seen in close-up and in bright light in that final fight.
13. The only instance Red’s aware of where a (dog-focused) feature used a single dog for every shot is in the Benji films.
14. Red prefers to have his editor create a cut first before he himself runs through it again with them.
15. “I’d gone off and written and directed a TV movie thriller called Undertow for Showtime in Lithuania that starred Lou Diamond Phillips, Mia Sara, and Charles Dance, and that film was the networks’ second highest rated original movie when it aired,” says Red, apropos of nothing, “so I had some heat.”
16. The film’s animal trainers play the animal control officers who arrive to secure Thor and take him to the pound.
17. The commentary track is available on the director’s cut only, and Red explains the difference between this version and the theatrical. It came down to one scene that he cut for this preferred version, “a transformation scene where poor visual effects ruined a sequence where Ted turns into a werewolf.” He’s hated the scene for over two decades, and he says fans have been complaining about it to him almost as long.
18. The sequence where Ted and Janet face-off before he transforms sees Red go off on Hemingway’s “anemic” performance again.
19. The bedroom fight includes an exchange between dog and werewolf that required the addition of a “Russian military attack dog” to stand-in as Thor. It’s smaller “but very powerful and dangerous, and we had to clear the set for filming.” The sequence required protective cases for the cameras and boxes for their operators.
20. Oh look, it’s time to bash Hemingway some more. Hoping to avoid a repeat of her earlier issues, “I resorted to psychological tricks during the filming of this [bedroom fight] sequence. I forced her to do take after take, yelling at her to play it bigger until she was absolutely exhausted and she hated my guts, getting so angry at me personally that the tears and rage finally came out, and we got it on camera.”
21. Morgan Creek opened the film the day after Halloween and spent almost nothing on marketing, so Red wasn’t surprised when it failed to find an audience in theaters. He’s happy that a fan base has grown around it in the years since though.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“The exploding head disappears in what looks like a hurricane of blood and flesh.”
“Actors, especially actresses, look better on film.”
“This scene where Thor is taken to the pound makes a lot of people cry.”
“Don’t show audiences something, and they’ll never know they didn’t see it.”
Bad Moon [Blu-ray]
The movie is still terrific, and Red’s scripts for The Hitcher and Near Dark remain genre classics, but this is one of the oddest commentaries I’ve heard as Red literally reads pre-written thoughts and observations instead of commentating “live” like every other commentary track in existence. It hurts the track as his reading is dull, rushed, and lacking in spontaneity. It’s over-written too with an abundance of flowery adjectives and detailed points that don’t really go anywhere. So why do it? It’s not like it stopped him from making disparaging remarks about Hemingway’s performance or unnecessary observations about nude stunt women.
But hey, at least he doesn’t accidentally bring up the incident in 2000 where he drove his Jeep into a crowded restaurant killing two people and injuring several others.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.