There was an episode of “The Maury Povich Show” in which people confessed to serious but laughable phobias — birds, pickles, balloons — after which, for scientific purposes, you understand, a PA would come out and confront them with their object of terror. As I watched a housewife be chased around a sound stage, shrieking, by an intern wielding a balloon, it occurred to me that the segment was one of the most awesome things I’d ever seen on TV, and also that, in a far-off way, I could relate to the woman. I can’t stand the low-grade torture of seeing a balloon in the hands of someone with the intent to ultimately pop it — the pop itself is nothing, but the anticipation of it, the not knowing when it’s coming, is agony.
“Seventh Moon” is a horror flick based almost completely on that squirmy frisson, which is really the cheapest and most irritating ploy of the genre. The film’s a series of set-pieces in which you know, eventually, someone will leap out and yell “Boo!” Alas, that someone is always one or several of a pack of chalky, asthmatic monsters (“moon demons”) who look like shabby knock-offs of the cave dwellers in “The Descent” and the ogre in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “Seventh Moon” is third feature from Eduardo SÃ¡nchez, who, almost a decade ago, teamed up with Daniel Myrick to make the most financially successful indie film ever — “The Blair Witch Project.” Neither of the two co-directors has managed to make a blip on the radar since. Myrick’s dreadful “The Objective,” which premiered at Tribeca earlier this year and vanished, tried to recreate the “Blair Witch” scenario of people being menaced by supernatural forces in the wilderness in rural Afghanistan. “Seventh Moon” tries the same in China, where the American-born Yul (Tim Chiou) has taken his blond bride Melissa (Amy Smart) on a honeymoon trip to meet his extended family. The tour guide they’ve hired to drive them ditches them in an boarded-up village in the dark, where the locals have planned to offer the pair as sacrifices to the menacing creatures who return annually to add to their number. There’s much running through the trees, and then hiding in a house, and then running through the trees, and then hiding in a car, but precious little to make you care about the fate of the couple, who get scant moments of development: “You hate that I’m Chinese!” “I love that you’re Chinese.”
The film is roughly inspired by the Chinese belief that in the seventh month of the lunar year the dead return to the land of the living to partake in offerings, but the monsters are the filmmaker’s own creation, and a borderline insulting upping of a major cultural event into something including human sacrifice. “Seventh Moon” is, in a way, like “Hostel” or “Turistas,” a fantastia about the hostilities the rest of the world has to offer Americans abroad. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the broad but stinging subtext of either of those titles. It does have a lot of pale things leaping out of the dark. Boo!
[Photo: “Seventh Moon,” Haxan Films, 2008]
+ “Seventh Moon” (Fantastic Fest)