New To Blu: Moon Child (1989) - Reviewed

Moon Child is available now

It is rather surprising that after releasing one of the most colorful and morbid horror dramas ever, In a Glass Cage AKA Tras el cristal (1987), director Agusti Villaronga’s extravagant second film would be relegated to VHS and bootlegged DVD’s for many years. Now available on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time from Cult Epics is Moon Child AKA El niño de la luna, a beautiful adult fantasy film that deserves to be seen. While the plot may seem a bit too confusing, muddled and absurd at times, you can’t help but get lost in the overall aesthetic of the production. With its stunning cinematography and distinct visual style, outstanding costume and production designs, a fine score from Dead Can Dance, and solid acting, Moon Child is a superb piece of cinema that cinephiles and cult film fans alike would want to see.

Inspired by occultist Aleister Crowley’s 1923 novel of the same name, the film tells the story of 12-year-old David, an orphan with special mental powers who is adopted by a treacherous scientific cult that seeks out people with unique mental abilities. David learns of an African tribe that has prophesied that a white boy will arrive to be their God, the Child of the Moon. Believing that this is his destiny, he escapes the cult compound with Georgina and Edgar and travels across two continents in order to become the Child of the Moon. Any similarities between the book and the film appear to go no further than the attempts by the occultist group to produce a child with special properties through the use of magic, with the child not even being a main character in the book. Villeragas also appears to borrow from other sci-fi horror films of that time period, such as Scanners and Firestarter, but opts for more fantasy elements than horror. There are definitely plot holes and and some confusing and questionable moments that leave things open and not fully explained, forcing the viewer to decipher the puzzle or ponder the variety of possibilities.

Nonetheless, this is still a feast for the eyes, with its combination of interesting set and shooting locations, WWI period costume and makeup, and the use of architectural symmetry, composition of frames, lighting and colors to create unique imagery. From the grand church-like building occupied by the occultist group to the dry sand-crusted scenes in Africa, there is always something to behold. It’s no wonder that the film was nominated for Best Production Design and Cinematography at the 1990 Goya Awards, while also winning awards for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyles. Another appealing aspect of the film is the moody and haunting score from the Australian music group Dead Can Dance, who are known for “constructing soundscapes of mesmerising grandeur and solemn beauty” through the use of African polyrhythms, Gaelic folk, Gregorian chant, Middle Eastern mantras and art rock.

As with most of Villeronga’s productions, the acting is great. Enrique Saldana has an unusual quality and presence as the central character David, there is both an innocence and a selfishness in his desire to become the Moon Child. He desperately want a mother, if for anything else so that he can become the Moon Child, and is willing to sacrifice everyone around him for it, seemingly unaware of the consequences. Lisa Gerrard (co-member of Dead Can Dance) is Georgina, the young woman who has been chosen by the occult group to be the mother of the Moon Child. Despite being portrayed as a rather dimwitted drunk, Gerrard still has a strong on screen presence and beauty that makes Georgina a sad and tragic character. Maribel Martin does a fine job as Victoria, the member of the occult group that serves as a caretaker or teacher for David. She represents another potential motherly figure in David’s life and she not only shares a special psychic connection with him, but also her own personal desire to have a child of her own. Rounding out the cast are David Sust and Günter Meisner, who both starred in Villaronga’s In a Glass Cage.

Overall, Moon Child is a must see for fans of Villaronga or his disturbing first feature In a Glass Cage. While it doesn’t quite push the intense boundaries that In a Glass Cage does, its occult themes and eroticism may be considered offensive to some. Featuring a pristine transfer from the original 35mm film and an isolated score by Dead Can Dance, Moon Child is a marvelous piece of cinema.

You can order the limited edition Blu-ray here.

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-Raul Vantassle