To say that Olaf Ittenbach is a strange man would be a huge understatement.
To have the mind to come up with some of the things that play out in THE BURNING MOON, you’ve got to be one sick bastard. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with having the type of twisted thoughts he has – that is unless you’re acting them out in real life- but it takes a person who walks so severely far off the beaten path to allow for these types of film to exist and in many ways, I am thankful for their presence among us here on earth.
THE BURNING MOON is an intense telling of some stories by a character so extreme that he could only be played by the brains behind the anarchy himself, Olaf Ittenbach. Coming home from an intense street brawl, our aforementioned young no-good heroin addict, Peter, is forced to care for his younger sister as his parents are going out for a night on the town. Not able to shake himself of the duty, he gets a quick fix and decides it only right to indulge his younger sibling with two “bedtime stories” that should seemingly help her sleep through the night. Fortunately for the viewing audience, however, these stories turn out to be something way more sinister in nature.
Let the shit-show begin!
The first of the shorts, Julia’s Love, tells of the misfortune of the title character in her quest to find a perfect mate. Having a penchant for attracting the “crazies,” she heads out on this particular evening, hoping that she’s managed to shake herself of the curse and find herself a Mr. Right. Initially, it would seem as though everything is going well for her, but a radio broadcast quickly turns the tides of the night. While waiting for what appears to be the perfect guy to return, breaking news interrupts the music and Julia quickly discovers that her too-good-to-be-true suitor is actually a deranged, psychopath who had recently escaped from his psych institute and is on a murderous rampage. This further infuriates his inner monster and leads to all kinds of morbid mayhem as he slices and dices his way through Julia’s family and friends in his quest to obtain her love. It’s a pretty twisted account of a madman’s attempt at romance, but it completely pales in comparison to the next adventure strung out Peter has for his unsuspecting little sister.
The second tale is a quite a bit more chilling and it involves an extremely corrupt religious figure who lives his life on both extremes of spirituality. The Purity, as it is billed, follows the story of a well-respected man in his 1957 farming community who is seemingly a devout Catholic priest by day, but rapes and murders women by night in the name of the Dark Lord, Satan. In the midst of these sadistic happenings around town, the townsfolk begin to grow suspicious of an entirely innocent individual and, as the plot unravels, copious amounts of blood is shed as the story culminates in what is truly a sight that cannot be described - something that must be witnessed by one’s own eyes to even begin to understand the breadth of its depravity.
It’s in this closing scene – which seems to have been shot in a crappy, downtrodden basement – that Olaf’s effects abilities truly shine. It’s almost twenty minutes of the most disgusting, nonsensical, gore filled chaos I’ve ever bore witness to in any of my previous cinematic outings. Thinking back to some of the nastiest stuff I’ve seen before - HOSTEL, the SAW films, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, etc – nothing even begins to scratch the surface of this sequence. I’d thought that I’d witnessed some sick shit, but in relation to this, it doesn’t even compare. Not only are the on screen events conceptually off-putting, but the visually stimulating execution of it all is near –if not actually - vomit inducing. Those who haven’t a strong stomach need not even apply for this, and even for those who typically find handling intense displays of gore in films to be a walk in the park, it’s still quite unsettling. If the events taking place in Olaf’s Hell are any indication as to the purgatory one would expect from living a sinful life, I’m calling it quits on all the evil shit in my day-to-day. It’s fucking nuts.
All said and done, what truly makes this movie such a relic, one that has been heralded by its small fraternity of viewers for quite some time since its early 90s release, is Ittenbach’s attention to his craft. After watching THE BURNING MOON, it’s not surprising to know that he went on to direct a few other cult classics and lend his hand for the effects in some even larger affairs. Not entirely neglecting the story aspect of either of the two smaller tales he himself presents as the film’s “narrator,” the plot manages to be the perfect canvas on which to showcase the film’s disgusting details without being just an outright catalogue of filth. While there are moments when you may question the actions of some of the characters – Julia’s refusal to notify the authorities about the escaped psycho in the first bit had me going bananas for quite some time – the performances are not so bad as to be unforgivable in the grand scheme of things. There seemed to be an understanding of what this film was meant to do and everyone seemed to play their roles in achieving that goal. Like I said before, it isn’t for everyone but, to repeat the tired cliché, “it is what it is” and if you’re onboard with what they’re trying to accomplish here, then you’ll love it.
For all you rejoicers of the repugnant, torture porn loving, mentally deranged fanatics who get murder boners when the color of crimson fills the screen, you’re truly in for a treat with this one. Apparently, for quite a while, THE BURNING MOON was truly an uncommon wonder to come across, as it mainly circulated around the German underground on seedy bootlegged VHS tapes with tracking issues galore, but thanks to its recent re-release here in the states on DVD by Intervision Picture Corp., it is now attainable to the masses. I suggest that you get your greasy hands on a copy of this one and sit back and enjoy this treasured piece of trash. You’ll probably feel like less of a human being for doing it, but I’d venture to say that that isn’t always a bad thing…
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