A vicious biker gang wakes from a night of partying in the woods to find one of their members murdered. While all fingers point to each other, another more sinister presence moves in. This is Sean Cranston’s The Full Moon Fathers.
The Full Moon Fathers is a bit of a throwback to the Grindhouse cinema of the 60s and 70s where the low cost of production was seen as a blatant attempt to get some financial success. Grindhouse films would usually exploit a current trend or a niche genre by focusing on the more lurid subject matters of sex and violence. Since those hedonistic days though, more and more movies have followed the formula but the reliance upon exploitation remains much larger in grindhouse-style flicks. Full Moon Fathers is a grindhouse biker film that mixes violence with bizarre rebellion – a theme that has been popular cinematic fodder since the 50s when Marlon Brando rode into town on his Triumph Thunderbird in 1953’s The Wild One. What helps Cranston’s film differ from many others is the added supernatural element and his decision to look at the psychological effects that the biker lifestyle has on those that choose it.
Set in 1979, the movie begins with a police raid on The Full Moon Fathers’ most recent hideout. A nomadic biker gang created out of revenge by a group of former WW2 and Korean War veterans, the Fathers have left a trail of crime, violence, and destruction in their wake and as the police get close to capturing them, a booby trap set by the gang blows them all up. The rest of the film sees our bikers on the run from the law and hiding out in the woods, but while they are keeping out of sight, it becomes apparent that not only is the law after them but something far more frightening.
The first thing you notice with The Full Moon Fathers is that Jim Powers’ cinematography is very good, many interesting compositions see good use of blocking, especially when the gang is all together. There is a distinct pecking order to the group and each individual has their own place and sense of status. The use of lighting is also well done, there is a consistent red light that occurs during scenes of death, destruction, and fear, when similar lighting is used during ordinary nighttime scenes it makes them more visually effective. The sound mix also helps create tension and adds to the eeriness of supernatural elements. There is a large ensemble cast involved in the film and most of them get to show some teeth, and the performances range from okay to great. The majority of the cast are quite mature and, although it’s difficult to believe them as vicious, murderous bikers, there is more than a nod to The Wild Bunch here with a group of older outlaws succumbing to their age in a time and world in which they no longer belong.
The music is also a major plus as director Cranston is a musician, and this is evident in his ability to compose some great tracks for his movie; there are similar guitar riffs to those heard in David Lynch’s Wild At Heart spread around the film, with some heavier vocalised music emphasising the pain and angst that these elder criminals are dealing with.
With The Full Moon Fathers, director Cranston evokes the spirit of old grindhouse pictures. His film is interesting and imaginative with a little shameless padding, but overall he brings us an enjoyable biker/western/horror/ hybrid.