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Full Moon High (Blu-ray Review)

The early 1980s wasn’t just high time for the horror genre with just slasher films. Though those took a lot of the spotlight, the werewolf film was proving a pretty lucrative and prosperous business as well. An American Werewolf In London and The Howling were the bigger names of them, but there were many others sprouting out. Schlock master Larry Cohen contributed one in 1981, Full Moon High. The film starred a young Adam Arkin as a high school werewolf, beating Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf to the punch by about four whole years (Six if you want to count that this movie started film in 1979). Like Teen Wolf (And Teen Wolf, Too), Scream Factory has their hands on this one and is bringing it over to Blu-ray on April 10. You can already pre-order it by clicking the link below.

Film 

During a family vacation to Transylvania, Tony Walker is bitten by a werewolf. As a result, he’ll live forever, but is also cursed with incurable wanderlust — not to mention a wolfish appearance and the urge to bite other people. He drops out of high school shortly after his transformation, but later Tony regrets never playing in the big football game against a hated local rival, so one day he decides to re-enroll. While he makes new friends, his curse leads to major complications.

I wouldn’t expect anything less than some weird, charming silliness from legendary B-movie director Larry Cohen. Between the It’s Alive sequel (It Lives Again) and Q: The Winged Serpent (There was a TV movie in there too, but speaking theatrical releases) he went for a more straight comedy route with the high school werewolf fuzzy funny film Full Moon High. This film served to be the sort of prototype for the Teen Wolf movies that came later down the line. Unfortunately, its nowhere near as funny or as endearing as those films are.

Cohen’s film is an interesting excursion and it is fun to check out a really young Adam Arkin in a wilder role. However, the film is a bit too all over the place and has an overly long first act. It almost feels as if the movie changed its mind or had a late idea on the plot. It then makes it feel as if another run at the same movie has started. It features some kooky characters that don’t quite gel with the narrative or style the film is trying to convey. Its not awful, mind you, but this is a very one, done and forget it about it a couple days later ordeal.

Since this is a 1980s were wolf film, and during the beginning of the revolution of practical gore effects and makeup, the one saving grace to a film like that would be the required werewolf tranformation sequence. The Beast Within isn’t the greatest movie, but that damn werewolf transformation sequence elevates it a tier or two in terms of being a classic. Full Moon High can’t quite achieve that. In fact, it doesn’t ever even really try. It shys away from really showing any details of the transformation as hands just kind of appear and even when we know what the full bodied werewolf looks like, the very next scene with treat it as a murder mystery as we only see hands or feet.

Full Moon High is an attempt at trying to go for a comedic spin on the onslaught of werewolf genre films coming out during the early 1980s. While the film has a couple snickers here and there, overall it doesn’t really seem to come together or fully work out. A saving grace could have been special effects work, but its a film that really holds back in that avenue. I’m sure there are fans of this film, and good for them. I’m envious. But, this one really just didn’t quite come together well for me as I’ve seen it succeed with other films.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Full Moon High is making its debut on the Blu-ray format in this transfer from Scream Factory. As is, it looks like its a very nice, clean print used. Details come across very strong as you can make out fabric textures and wear as well as things like wood grain, scratches, scuffs and such on a school desk. The image has a pretty crisp look to it as well.

Depth: The film features some genuinely good spacing, with characters and objects looking free and separate from their environments in the frame. Movements are smooth, cinematic and have very minimal jitter/blurring issues to them.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich. In night sequences, things can get very dark and details hidden (Possibly source and by design). Otherwise, in well lit areas, most of the details on clothes, hair and surfaces still come through clearly.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong, and full looking in the image. Yellows pop quite well here and there is a lot of usage of it as its the school colors for the high school. Greens are also a pretty looking color coming through in the image.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features are pretty clear and discernible from medium and close up distances. Though, there are some areas where its a bit smooth and they aren’t as crisp or evident.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a light layer of grain and some very minimal spots with some nondistracting crushing.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Full Moon High’s mono track is a pretty loud track that took me a little by surprise hitting play. Overall, its a pretty good, loose mix. Vocals still have a little analog limitation to their clarity, but overall the mix sounds pretty fresh with solid depth and layering contributions in the effects and score.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and set to a good volume. It does have a kinda analog sound to it.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Larry Cohen, Moderated By King Cohen Author Steve Mitchell

Trailer (HD, 2:58) – Plays a bit choppy.

Summary 

Full Moon High has a great title, but its only really a slightly amusing venture that would later be done better. For fans though, this Blu-ray looks pretty terrific and doesn’t sound half bad as well. Bonus features are super light, but the commentary with Larry Cohen is more than enough, honestly. At a decent price, this would be a solid pick up to add to your vintage 80s horror or werewolf collection. Scream Factory is releasing an It’s Alive trilogy set in May, so this April Larry Cohen release feels like just the right warm up.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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