DVD Review: The Burning Moon


From the fabled depths of Intervision Picture Corp’s murky, dank sub-basement, a freshly resuscitated slice of lurid deviance lurches to DVD this week. The Burning Moon comes to you courtesy of the same label responsible previously for belching forth pinnacles of reckless Psychotronia like Sledgehammer, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer, and of course the utterly incomparable (and incomprehensible) Canadian intergalactic mutant insect splatterfest, Things. Intervision’s most recent fix, The Burning Moon, is a video nasty from Germany that surfaced originally in 1992, sprung from the psychiatrically-challenged cerebra of splatter guru Olaf Ittenbach.

Ittenbach is a man revered and reviled to this day for his many contributions to the German “new wave” of barrel-scraping, shot-on-video gore atrocities which briefly dominated the fledgling VHS market during its initial ‘80s upsurge. Relished by a seedy underground of insane video fanatics, Burning Moon circulated for years on degraded bootlegs, traded and sold by covert trash syndicates organized through Xeroxed mail order catalogues, and the increasingly burgeoning networks of Usenet boards that grew to infect the World Wide Web. Burning Moon may have also achieved “official” oversized ‘80s porno box status at some point in its history (it seems like the type), but these details are irrelevant to us now.

Technically speaking, Burning Moon is an anthology with a wraparound framer that concerns a paunchy, heroin-addled teenager (Ittenbach) left alone with his prepubescent sister over a weekend while their parents are out of town. Busting at the seams from the combined internal pressures of adolescent sexual rage and creeping suburban ennui, Ittenbach’s unnamed youthful protagonist lurches into his sister’s bedroom one dark and stormy night, freshly loaded up on smack, and begins non-consensually regaling her with twisted and violent “bedtime stories.” The first is about an escaped mental patient who likes to cut up teenage girls, and the second involves a Catholic priest living in a rural 1950s community who secretly embarks on a raping and killing spree in service to his Dark Lord, Satan.

People say this about pretty much everything now, but there is seriously no possible way to adequately describe Burning Moon to anyone who hasn’t already seen it. Even highlighting specific, exemplary instances of visual brainf*ckery ultimately proves inadequate. Those with a prior taste for low-grade gore porn from the ‘80s and ‘90s may have a rough idea of the aesthetic this movie aspires to, but I can say without hyperbole that Burning Moon is the most fluidly synthesized and lethally f*cked-up dose of like depravity that I have ever personally experienced. So much, in fact, that everything in the movie pretty much started to blur and run together for me after awhile, congealing into a glorious, cosmic soup of facial explosions, forced eyeball ingestion, and crucified, froglike demons catching on fire.

The most remarkable thing about Burning Moon is that the intensity of its delivery prevents it from ever becoming a plodding, cynical mess, which is what often sinks movies like this. It achieves a level of visionary clarity that is actually kind of staggering – you never stop feeling like the movie was supposed to be about something, even if nobody really knew what it was about.

Intervision’s DVD, as usual, is as solid as it can possibly be, with appropriately lo-fi menu formatting and an endearingly roughshod, 45-minute behind-the-scenes doc, compiled from video shot during the film’s production, and including interview footage of Ittenbach and several other members of the crew. The doc is augmented by trailers for previous Intervision releases, and – best of all – an original trailer for Burning Moon, cut for the ‘90s video market, and complete with a gravelly Death Metal narration track and VHS distortion lines left reverently intact.