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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Full Moon High  (1981)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
1 Star
(Release Date: April 10, 2018) – One of the least talked-about of the 1981-'82 horror spoofs (a subgenre which includes 1981's "Student Bodies," 1981's "Saturday the 14th," 1982's "Pandemonium," and 1982's "Wacko"), "Full Moon High" aims to turn the classic werewolf movie on its head. The film, a rare misstep for cult director Larry Cohen (1974's "It's Alive," 1982's "Q: The Winged Serpent," and 1985's "The Stuff"), doesn't take itself seriously for even a second, yet laughs are few in a dull-edged slapstick that falls flat time and again. Adam Arkin (son of Alan, who appears in a supporting role as an investigator) stars as Tony, a high school football star who accompanies his father (Ed McMahon) on a business trip to Romania and narrowly survives a werewolf attack. Now an immortal lycanthrope, he cannot stop himself from nibbling and clawing nubile young women whenever there's a full moon. Over twenty years later, Tony returns to his alma mater, this time posing as Tony, Jr., in the hopes of picking up where he left off.

"Full Moon High" features less of a clear-cut plot than a series of meandering events that only sometimes make sense. Scenes arrive and abruptly end without closure (on his way back from Romania, Tony transforms into a werewolf and begins to thwart plane hijackers, only for it to never be mentioned again). Because Tony only scratches his victims rather than kills them, one would assume the town would be swarming with werewolves in short order, but the curse doesn't seem to affect anyone until it is convenient in the third act. Roz Kelly (1980's "New Year's Evil") appears as a classmate with an insatiable attraction to Tony, but nothing much comes of it, her character treated as a one-note joke.

"Full Moon High" is a blazing misfire, but that doesn't stop it from being of interest as an early-'80s curiosity. Strip away the non-stop barrage of ridiculous gags and there is a rather sad undercurrent to a lead character destined to wander the earth for eternity as those he loves grow old and pass away (sort of a werewolf twist on "Interview with the Vampire"). Of course, there is no time for pathos in a trifle that can barely keep interest in itself for long enough to cohesively finish out each scene. For viewers who fondly remember seeing it on cable when they were younger, however, it may still hold a bit of charm—even if they, too, will have to admit it's simply not very good.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Unreleased on home video since the days of VHS, "Full Moon High" makes its high-definition premiere with a looker of a 1080p transfer. Short of a frame-by-frame restoration, one cannot imagine this Blu-ray looking any better than it does here. The film elements used are in terrific shape—there are only a handful of brief age-related specks and scratches on the image—and colors (such as the gold football jacket Tony wears) frequently jump off of the screen. Grain looks beautifully organic, only a time or two in nighttime segments threatening to wade into mosquito-noise territory. Additionally, detail and clarity on everything from clothing to Tony's hairy face and hands are excellent for a film of this age and era. A softer shot arises here and there, but this is to be expected and accurate to source. The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono starts a little rough, but quickly improves. It is difficult to say how much of the not-always-intelligible dialogue in this opening ten minutes is a result of the characters seemingly yelling all of their lines as if they're performing on a stage and not in front of cameras, but it's worth noting. Otherwise, this is a capable track with few issues that stand out.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with Director Larry Cohen, Moderated by King Cohen Director Steve Mitchell
  • Trailer (2:58, HD)
Bottom Line
Scream Factory continues to rescue a great many catalogue titles which otherwise may have permanently evaporated into obscurity. While I wasn't a fan of scattershot horror-comedy "Full Moon High," I am nonetheless happy it exists on the Blu-ray format for fans. Be on the lookout for not only Ed McMahon in a rare acting role, but Elizabeth Hartman (an Oscar nominee for 1965's "A Patch of Blue") as mousy teacher Miss Montgomery and Bob Saget in his film debut as one of Tony's classmates. For fans and big-screen spoof completists, this earns an easy recommendation. Others should be more cautious.

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© 2018 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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