Jesús Franco is probably best known to casual genre fans for his psychosexual, psychedelic sexploitation horror films from the 60s and 70s. Characterized by incessant zooming, groovy music and languorous pacing, at their very best they crossed over from pure “exploitation” into experimental cinema. Films like LORNA, THE EXORCIST zip and swerve through the story, stop for a full five to ten minutes to admire a curvaceous female body, and jump-cut spasmodically in synch or, more often, against the beat of their own visual rhythm like delirious modern jazz. And the music! Franco was a huge fan of all sorts of music and many know of his work through various anthology releases of his soundtracks rather than his his films themselves. VAMPYROS LESBOS, in particular, was an extremely popular soundtrack for the “hipster” crowd in the last 10 or 15 years and was reissued and remastered for their delectation.
There are many fascinating articles about Franco that you can find on the netz, but the most comprehensive study of his work was done by Stephen Thrower: “Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco.” Thrower is the most literate, insightful critic of Franco’s work, so I am linking to a short video of him discussing Franco’s films and I recommend you check it out before watching today’s horror flick: BLOODY MOON.
You’ll notice that in Thrower’s interview he refers to BLOODY MOON as one of the less distinguished Franco films…one of the movies that initially made him dismiss Franco as a hack. Well, it is true that BLOODY MOON is less “delirious” than Franco’s more personal films, but it is nonetheless a strong, stylistically distinct slasher that rises heads and tails above most of its ilk. Furthermore, while it may be less apparent to those unfamiliar with his total work and require looking past the slasher film tropes, I think BLOODY MOON contains all the elements that make Franco great while still being accessible to a general viewer.
Though Franco was forced to stick to a script for BLOODY MOON that he did not write, he made the movie his own. His camera is always zooming and moving expressively in a controlled manner (rather than the nausea inspiring abandon of his “better” films). There are moments of visual poetry that diverge, unnecesarily, from the narrative. The retarded handyman and wheelchair bound old lady – reoccurring characters in Franco films – make their appearance along with the usual “gothic” family intrigue. Most importantly (to some) for a slasher film, the murders (once they get started) are violently explicit, visually inventive, and punctuated with psychosexual symbolism heavily inspired by Freudian analysis.
I should also mention that the murderer sometimes wears a Mickey Mouse mask. That, alone, makes it worth a watch…
A STEPHEN THROWER INTRODUCTION TO THE FILMS OF JESÚS FRANCO:
BLOODY MOON (1981):