Warlock Moon (1974)

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, dead-end pace), all has a purpose in the end.

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.

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.

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