Clive Turner had a decent run with The Howling series, writing producing, and acting in Rebirth and Original Nightmare and directing Original Nightmare, as well as being location manager for The Marsupials. New Moon Rising was his chance to break away from all the interference that had messed around with those previous works, to show what he could really do on his own. The end result was a testament to what he could do when left to his own devices and probably explains why no one let him be fully in charge before.
The film has two main plotlines going through it, that eventually come together in a marriage of convenience after one has done all the heavy lifting and the other has finished prattling about. Both contain substantial amounts of padding, and neither have a very satisfying werewolf story within them. That’s because this is, fundamentally, both a very dull, very cheaply made, and very bad film.
The one doing the heavy lifting is a recap and retcon for Original Nightmare, Rebirth, and The Freaks. This involves Father John (John Huff, the cast pretty much use their real names throughout) going over the details of the previous movies, in slow and measured to monotonous tones, to the detective, presumably named John (John Ramsden), and explaining the whole werewolf thing. Eventually, Marie Adams (Romy Windsor) from Original Nightmare turns up and recaps that film to Father John. Sadly, she didn’t bring the ghost nun.
This is mostly okay, assuming that you like montages and second-hand retellings of films a lot better than the one you’re currently watching. It’s just that it carries on for what seems like forever and moves from a quirky little set of plot points to a very obvious means of filling time on the cheap. Should you actually care about any of it, it does minimal damage to the previous movies, in fact, it actually explains why the castle in Rebirth was still standing, whilst adding very little to the current one being watched. It also has the best effects, because the werewolf makeup and visuals in New Moon Rising are shockingly pants.
The other part of the movie is Ted Smith (Clive Turner) dicking around with the inhabitants of a bar and motel. This ensemble contains approximately eleventy hundred people, three of whom can just about act, and has plot for two of them. I would like to say that it’s a bold attempt at showing the lives of rural people, who have consistently been a demonic danger within the series. However, it’s just a bunch of very mild country music, montages of stuff being done, and dad-joke level ribbing. it’s never made clear if any of it is an homage or parody of that world. Also, because of the location and cheapness of the film’s qualities, it ended up reminding me of Crossroads.
On top of that, there is a significant amount of live music, community sing-alongs, and line dancing, which is fine in and of itself but it doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t involve people having their faces eaten off by werewolves. When people do get killed, it’s far too brief and not what the movie actually cares about. There is a lot of red filter and shaky cam, and that’s about it. Back to the weakest 80s Saturday tea-time sketch comedy that you can think of.
Eventually, thankfully, the two worlds collide and then things really go to heck. There is convolution after convolution, and an ending that really makes no sense, but involves a community shooting-of-the-werewolf which I guess is kind of homely. It probably does all make sense if you wrote it all down, but my brain must of just switched off from outright indifference by the hour mark.
Whilst some of the prior movies have been weak, this is the first of them that was outright dull and that got me to go “Thank god that’s over!” when the credits rolled. As a horror movie, it has no horror or even mild peril. As a werewolf movie, it has a lot of them in flashback but the story treats that as a necessary indignity so you’ll watch Hillbillies Do The Funniest Things. Similarly, I should be giving it points for trying to tie the prior movies together into a single narrative, but it does it so cack handedly it ends up being annoying.
This film is Trash, irredeemable trash. I can now see why there were no new entries in the franchise for 16 years after this was shate out, and the only upside of it is that it makes the ropier entries prior to it look that much better and it convinces me that the final one to come can’t be that bad. Please, use this review as a means to avoid wasting your own time and do not watch this film.