One must assume that APARTMENT ZERO director Martin Donovan, whose real name is Carlos Enrique Varela y Peralta-Ramos, knew exactly what he was doing with this genre-bending mood piece. Unfortunately, he chose not to share it with viewers.
A cross between Terence Malick's visionary western DAYS OF HEAVEN and THE WOLF MAN, Donovan's beautifully photographed cipher takes place on the American prairie of 1892. Angelic settler gal Jenny Hill (Mary Stuart Masterson) longs for the rough cowboy love of local desperado James Miller
(Stephen Blake), who's equally smitten with her. Jenny's domineering mother (Fionnula Flanagan) disapproves of the match, and marries Jenny off to the relative safety of the outlaw's half-brother, Miller Brown (Hart Bochner), a polite but charmless and inarticulate farmer. Brown adores Jenny in
his awkward way, but she can't bear to touch him, and the boredom of the remote homestead starts driving the young wife mad.
Then the full moon rises, and Miller Brown turns out to be a werewolf. A terrified Jenny watches from the locked cabin while her spouse, face and body distorted against the lunar orb, raves until morning. Mrs. Hill takes this news in stride; she tracks down the notorious James Miller and offer a
"business proposition" he can't refuse: authorization to spend a few precious nights out of every month with Jenny while Miller Brown snarls outside. All three seem happy with this arrangement, but when the moon rises and Miller goes into his contortions, James can't stand it. He runs out and
wrestles his feral half-brother to the ground, then departs, leaving husband and wife sobbing in each other's arms.
The sparse tale is told with a minimum of dialogue, leaving the small cast to exchange meaningful glances in lieu of character development. Only Irish actress Flanagan succeeds in establishing a screen persona, largely because she's got all the lines. Mostly MAD AT THE MOON is pure ambiance,
with magical realist cinematography and a leisurely pace weaving an ambiance of frontier loneliness and nostalgic introspection that suits the first half of the story but becomes an indulgence as the plot veers into a strange, underdeveloped werewolf saga. There are no pentagrams here, no silver
bullets, not even fangs or vulpine body hair, just one expository scene when Miller Brown fumblingly tells the tolerant townsfolk that his monthly metamorphosis should be considered no worse than "the shakes" or a fever spell; stay away and he'll be fine. This touches the historical basis for
lycanthropy lore as a folk view of epileptic seizures--or of recurrent eruptions of psychotic rage. But since Miller Brown's been suffering full moon fever since childhood (Daphne Zuniga has a cameo as young Mrs. Hill in enigmatic, monochrome flashbacks), sexual frustration can't be the root
cause. Or can it? An abrupt non-ending doesn't make things any clearer. Lovely to look at but hardly worth puzzling out, MAD AT THE MOON went straight to tape in 1993. (Nudity, adult situations, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: One must assume that APARTMENT ZERO director Martin Donovan, whose real name is Carlos Enrique Varela y Peralta-Ramos, knew exactly what he was doing with this genre-bending mood piece. Unfortunately, he chose not to share it with viewers. A cross betwe… (more)