Monday, February 28

Some info on that obscure Moonstalker (1989) DVD...

Michael O'Rourke's Moonstalker is pretty bad, but I'm not going to hold that against it. It's the tale of a psycho poppa's boy in a straitjacket and burlap sac-like head covering who went nuts after the death of his momma. Apparently the kin have been traveling via rundown camper across the country killing the unsuspecting along their path. Pops run across a family stupid enough to divulge details of how decked out their camper is and later that night ol' sachead is freed from his chains to kill the family so the pair can pillage their goodies.

During the act, the family's young daughter flees with the axe-wielding maniac in pursuit, but in the excitement Pops drops dead from heart failure. Soon the loose killer, named Bernie, sheds his jacket and mask to become a murderous Glenn Danzig in a white ten gallon hat, aviator shades, and red flannel. The same night, he runs across more hapless victims in the form of some teens and their counselors running a micro wellness camp thing.

That's pretty much the deal besides some little twists involving the psycho's tango with a police officer years prior who re-appears after hearing reports of hacked up bodies. If anything, Moonstalker at least gets a handle on the formula of the formulaic slasher. We've seen this all before and learned fans will quickly pick up on the parallels to classics like Friday the 13th, Madman, The Burning, and Happy Birthday to Me. The pitfall here, like many horror indies, is how everything seems to take a long time. Boredom soon sets in and the healthy bodycount doesn't really help since there's almost no effects to speak of. Most of the killings happen off screen or in ominous scene cutaways. There's no nudity besides some bare backs and shoulders. A prime example of a slasher that would have been spiced up into something more notable if it gave more of what we usually watch these flicks for.

Regarding the DVD, released by "Global Multimedia Corporation" in 2004, all signs pointed to a cheapo DVD when I found it at a church flea market over the weekend. First, the "case" is actually a cardboard envelope like the ones at dollar store checkout counters. No extras, eleven chapter skips, and (oddly) Spanish subtitles. Yet surprisingly the original full frame picture quality is quite alright, probably taken from an old video master and not simply a quick VHS rip. The transfer is interlaced, but the results are very nice and almost 16mm film-like when piped through a good DVD player.

Sound is mostly clear with a Dolby Stereo track. There is one possible "edit" to a shower scene where the picture degrades for a brief shot, but maybe the topless actress requested a zoom and it's always been like that. The original VHS release is ridiculously hard-to-find. So much so I've personally only seen it on eBay twice. So if you're a slasher completist keep your eyes open. Amazon has this disc, but $9.98 seems a bit rich and there are undated reports of this being found at dollar stores. It's well worth tracking down if you're already a fan for the picture quality alone.

(unresized captures)


Thomas Duke said...

I agree that it's pretty much a mediocre camping slasher, but the campfire singing rigged contraption scene (without totally giving it away) is pretty genius, and I like that the horror is kicked off because the father pines for the family's fancy microwave oven.

Moviemaster said...

For anyone interested, there are actually two edits on the disc. The first is the removal of the "F" word during the tent scene with Regis right after he picks up his gun,(If you've seen the movie you know exactly what I'm talking about.) and the one mentioned here in the shower scene. The rest seems untouched, though. For fans of the genre it's definitely worth the couple bucks. you dare tread upon the staircase?

Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, Basement of Ghoulish Archive, and all original material Copyright © 2009-present by Jayson Kennedy. All rights reserved.