Jason Palmer is having nightmares. Nightmares where he has visions of a mysterious woman in a tribal ceremony, and the priest who tries to break it up. When he wakes up in a cold sweat, he decides it’s time to go see his doctor. While his doctor can’t explain why he’s having these nightmares, he suggests that maybe Jason is under too much stress from all of his real estate deals, and he prescribes a nice long vacation. While Jason is deciding where to go, he sees a symbol in a travel poster for Hawaii that he saw during his nightmares, so like any logical person he sets off for Hawaii.
Now in Hawaii, Jason (played by Robert Foxworth, who bears a striking resemblance to The Brady Bunch’s Robert Reed) gets down to the business of maxing and relaxing. Chilling out poolside, he meets up with some hot stewardesses, and the hotel security head Rick (Joe Penny). He also meets Diane, who’s in town for a business convention, and they soon make a love connection. When night falls, Jason starts getting sweats and needs to get some fresh air. Anything after that point he can’t remember. He decides it’s probably best for him to see a local doctor who might be able to help him shed some light on this weird behavior. The doctor doesn’t have any real answers besides telling him that it’s probably something that’s stressed related, but he tells Jason that he’ll try to run some blood tests to see if he can get a better answer.
Jason finds out that this mysterious woman of his dreams has cast a curse on him because his great great grandfather was a missionary in Hawaii, and that’s what has been making him black out every night for 4 consecutive nights during a full moon (a full moon four nights in a row?). We find out that during these black outs he’s been turning into a werewolf and murdering those whom he comes across. To make it more complicated, there’s a rash of room robberies that Rick is investigating (the thief is played by Hill Street Blues’ Charles Haid), and as you can imagine he’s got his hands full between the murders and theft. After a run in with the werewolf, Rick is at a loss as to what in the hell is going on. Soon Jason’s doctor brings his test results to the hotel and when he can’t get ahold of Jason, he finds Rick instead and unethically tells him that Jason’s blood tests show that he is suffering from lycanthrope (I never knew there was a blood test for that). Now it’s Rick’s job to stop Jason before Diane becomes his next victim.
Death Moon was a 1978 made for TV movie, and this fact is readily apparent. Despite multiple scenes where nudity is implied, we never get to see any of it on the screen. The gore is very understated and we don’t really ever get to see either Jason doing any of the damage or the aftermath of his behavior. Every single body is simply presented after the fact as a black body bag being loaded into an ambulance. While in the beginning this makes the movie very suspenseful and almost edgy, it becomes very tedious as the movie plays on and you realize that you’re never really going to get any kind of payoff other than that same black body bag each time.
Most of the movie is very dark, and as a result the actual werewolf costume is rarely seen. The few times you do get to see it, it looks absolutely ridiculous and laughable, like a gorilla costume but with a little more hair on the face. In that respect it had great cheese appeal. You can almost guarantee they were near blowing their special effects budget on the werewolf transformation scene that appears late in the movie. It consisted of a picture of Jason’s face, then a transition to a picture with a little more hair on it, then another transition to a picture of a little more hair on it – all the way to the full werewolf look. I’m sure at the time it was probably a marvel of modern film making, but looking at it 30+ years later, it’s something you could pull together in about 10 minutes on your computer.
Death Moon was suspenseful and intriguing at the start and had great pacing, but by the end it dragged on and got boring. I found myself checking the run time constantly to see if it was almost over. While it has a great 70’s Hawaii vibe, it just didn’t have enough to keep me interested. Death Moon gets 2 Hawaiian shirts out of 5