Warlock Moon (1974)

aka Bloody Spa
Directed by Bill Herbert
Media Blasters DVD

To the normal person, sweat and zits are anything but attractive. Thankfully, normal people have no business watching Warlock Moon.

Mystery is a beautiful thing. For Warlock Moon aka Bloody Spa, a movie that’s draped with ambiguous affairs, that’s a rebel yell. This is what happens when fringe filmmakers chance upon something special and run with it. Warlock Moon is imperfect, yet commanding; cumbersome, yet frightening. It’s the kind of exquisite, scattered 1970s cheapo-horror film that can only result from a fluke occurrence. Director-writer Bill Herbert should know. He was never heard from again.

Since the plot is pasted together with hopeful intentions, we don’t need to delve that deep. Subsequently, the less you know about the film’s storyline, the better. Jenny is a college student in San Francisco. John is that special kind of moron who communicates through celebrity impressions. For reasons unbeknownst to you and me, Jenny agrees to join the grating John on a picnic in the country. Wrong turn. Welcome to the Soda Spring Spa, a decayed 1930s health resort, now occupied by kindly old Mrs. Abercrombi. Or is it? Sharpen the Viking axe and dope up the tea, ’cause Jenny’s about to find out.

It’s cryptic, it’s marred, and most of all, it’s raw ‘n’ real. Warlock Moon has a couple of major defects, but they can’t stop the base payoffs from dishing out. In fact, the stuff that really detracts at the outset (John’s shitty Inspector Clouseau impression, spotty overacting), all has a purpose in the end. Now, enough with the problems. On with the zits.

No matter the region, there’s a special preoccupation in cheap American trash-horror films from the early 1970s. They like genuine desolation. It’s easy and it works. From Terror At Red Wolf Inn to Hands Of Blood, the presence of an enveloping, sinister setting can carry more clout than any other element. Warlock Moon is the apotheosis of this fascination. Complemented with beautifully composed shots and an on-the-fly aloofness, the massive atmosphere takes center stage. Plaster falls constantly. The wood floors crack with every move. A general sense of direction is completely lost. On its own, the dilapidated spa would make any film. Luckily, the mood is embellished with backwards sound effects, abrupt scares, and a series of supernatural events that make little sense. The whole thing escalates into mayhem at the end, complete with a capper that I wouldn’t swap for a gazillion bucks.

The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen print is bursting with vintage grain and balmy colors. Nice 70s grit. The picture is slightly soft, scratchy, and a little flat. The crunchy mono sound does an excellent job of capturing the boom-boom acoustics of the locations. The beginning and end credits looked a little too crisp to be true, but what do I know? An alternate Spanish language track is also included.

Starting out small, there’s a 3 minute alternate opening sequence. If a difference exists between the actual opening and this “alternate” take, I didn’t see it. Also included is a “Recreated Original Theatrical Trailer” for the film, which contains a scene not found in the feature, and four trailers (three newly created, one authentic) for other Media Blasters DVD releases.

Icing it off is a full length commentary track from genre savant Joe Bob Briggs. Towing the line between smart jokes and historical significance, Joe Bob adds another notch to his impressive commentary library. Little is known about Warlock Moon, but you get it all with one listen of this outstanding track. Get the dirt on William Herbert, fine-toothed details on the cast and locations, and that trademarked wit, which never comes at the filmmakers’ expense.

Shrugging off flaws like dandruff, Warlock Moon is a living urban legend that’s supported by a fine haze of low budget, 1970s goodness. It’s not for everyone and that’s what counts. If you’re in tune with your tastes, this film is a modest miracle drug. Own it and take it.