High Moon review: Western and horror mix you didn’t know you need


High Moon offers a combination of various elements that might seem odd but are very well-balanced.

If you heard “gunslinger from the Old West who comes back from the grave to stop a gang of werewolves in the present day,” you’d probably think it sounds too weird. If we add “motorcycles” to the mix, you would think there are too many things in one package. And it’s true; but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or saturated. That said, meet High Moon, a western/horror movie that has all those elements and a bit more.

High Moon, written and directed by Josh Ridgway, follows a mysterious gunslinger named Colt (played by Chad Michael Collins) with a mission to kill every living werewolf (or “howler”) after a gang of lycans killed his wife. Now, all that happened centuries ago, in the mid-1800s. Things take a major twist when Colt and the werewolves come back from the grave, creating chaos in a small town.

When clichés don’t matter much

Listen, I’m going to be honest with you: High Moon is packed with clichés — and that’s OK.

Stay with me, OK? You have a mysterious cowboy, a skeptical sheriff, a girl who is dragged into the situation and who doesn’t know what’s happening but still actively participates, a corrupt mayor, a magical object and a mysterious character with magic/mystical powers.

These are elements you can find on many genres, and while it sounds like it’s too much to have in one movie, turns out it works well on this one. More so because, all in all (and without spoiling anything), the #1 cliché that you could expect doesn’t happen and that actually makes it quite refreshing, even if it has all those other elements we see everywhere.

It’s really that simple.

Not your regular werewolves

Every story involving werewolves will have its own interpretation and imagery, and that’s the beauty of it. We are used to having werewolves that, once they transform, they completely lose their humanity.

Well, not here and not today. The werewolves in High Moon are more of a human/beast blend, as they don’t get the body of an animal and can still talk and walk like any other human. And it works, because, honestly, what would be the point on seeing a cowboy slaying a bunch of wild dogs? Come on.

When the trailer was released, I mentioned that these creatures were, essentially, zombie werewolves as they came back from the dead. I’m proud to announce that I was wrong. These werewolves didn’t rot and their consciousness is better than ever (and so is Colt’s so, it’s fair), so they don’t really fit the “zombie” category —  sigh of relief to those who thought there was yet another element to add to the mix.

High Moon (2019) – courtesy of Distribution Solutions

Blood, practical effects, and… a western Van Helsing?

As much as I appreciate and respect CGI, there’s nothing like practical effects in horror movies. One of the things that surprised me the most about High Moon was the use of practical effects (or at least they look like they are, which is also great). There’s a certain charm on crafting a scene where a werewolf pulls a man’s heart out of his chest that you just can’t have when computers and technology are involved.

That said, the movie has a fair amount of blood, but nothing major. After all, it’s not gore we’re talking about, but there is one scene that has some gory vibes, which I’m sure many horror fans will appreciate.

And then, there’s our main character, Colt. I got some major Van Helsing vibes, not only in the outfit (yes, here I am referring to Gabriel Van Helsing and not Abraham) but also in the weapons and the mission. Let’s say Colt is our B-movie werewolf-hunting Van Helsing.

The good, the bad, and the best

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Let’s start with the bad that isn’t too bad.

The movie’s title card is still Howlers, the original title, which honestly made me giggle (maybe they will change it, maybe not), there are some bad cuts here and there but nothing too critical or that could break the flow, and the acting from some characters could have been better.

That’s it. That’s the bad.

The good: Chad Michael Collins. Again, we’re talking about a cowboy that kills werewolves. A character that could have easily been either exaggerated or super plain, but Collins gave it the perfect balance. It’s not cheesy, it’s not overly dramatic, and it isn’t annoying. Thank you, Mr. Collins.

The best: as mentioned above, there are a lot of things in this mix, but Ridgway and company found the way to balance it all, and the result is a fun movie that flows smoothly. If given the chance, it could become a cult classic. That said, it’s absolutely worth the time and you should give it a watch (or two or more).

Next. Five werewolf movies from the '70s. dark

High Moon will be released on VOD/Digital on May 14 and it’s already available for preorder on Amazon and iTunes.