So Red Molly and I sat down Saturday night with some Mexican food from Refried Beans, our local eatery (the meal is great, but it’s really their nachos, guac and salsa ranchero that make them a movie night favorite in our household) and watched Full Eclipse.
You’ve probably never heard of Full Eclipse. I myself had only heard of it as source material for a fan-made supplement for the old White Wolf role-playing game, Werewolf: The Apocalypse.
Yes, I’ve just given away the nature of the monster, but I don’t think that’s much of a spoiler. What other kind of monster movie puts moon references in their titles?
Full Eclipse is a made-for-TV, HBO Original movie from an era when “HBO Original” meant pretty much the same thing that “SyFy Original” does now. It’s an amusing-enough thing to watch as you while away a cold, sleety Saturday night by snuggling up on the couch and using nachos to shovel salsa ranchero into your face. I don’t recommend it, per se, but if you turn off your brain, you’ll enjoy it.
It stars Mario Van Peebles, but since I’ve only ever seen him in this, Highlander: The Final Dimension and the…troubling…intro to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, I’m not sure how much of a recommendation that really is. The only other name that I was even slightly familiar with was Bruce Payne, who played Damodar (the blue-lipped guy) in Dungeons and Dragons: The Movie. Like Certain Other Actors in the latter movie *cough*Jeremy Irons*cough*, Payne puts in a much better performance here, reinforcing my theory that the director of D&D:tM was an idiot.
Full Eclipse was made in 1993, but it’s still very much an Eighties movie: the city of Los Angeles is a rotting hell-pit, and the only thing that can solve the problem is vigilantes – excuse me, Maverick Cops Who Get Things Done – killing every criminal in sight, which we shouldn’t feel bad about because every man jack of the criminals spends their time shooting up neighborhoods for no discernible reason.
Consider that your warning: if the fact that Full Eclipse is Eighties vigilante-movie backwash hasn’t deterred you, read on; spoilers start here.
The movie begins with a cliché storm: Max Dire (Van Peebles) is an LA detective whose partner, Jim Sheldon, is planning to retire soon, because he’s getting married and he’s getting too old for this shit.
I am dead. Serious. And so are they. This is not being done as a joke.
Of course, Sheldon gets shot in the first ten minutes while assisting Max in a truly boneheaded plan to break up a hostage situation (then again, since the hostage-takers were actively looking for reasons to kill hostages and weren’t making demands that were even theoretically meetable, perhaps they were correct to treat the situation as a mass murder instead).
Surprisingly, Sheldon lives…for a while…on machines…giving Max something new to talk about at his stereotypically useless marital counseling session.
While Max is at said useless counseling session, someone injects Something into Sheldon’s IV line. The next thing we know, he surprises Max at his precinct-house locker, hale and healthy.
(How is this even possible? I know 1993 was near the very beginning of the cell phone revolution and long before social media, but the precinct should be talking about nothing else. Someone should have run up to Max and shouted “Did you hear…?” the second he walked in the door.)
Despite the fact that Sheldon was about one more pin-scratch away from death not 24 hours before, no one thinks twice about him going out on patrol (does the LAPD send its detectives “on patrol”? I thought detectives worked on specific cases.).
In a surprisingly subtle touch, the next scene begins with the pair of them at a donut shop, with Sheldon loudly complaining about the lack of sugar on his donut…when he had started the movie complaining about his diabetes.
A car full of criminals cruises through the neighborhood and shoots everything for no discernible reason, and Sheldon promptly goes feral on their asses, demonstrating superhuman speed, strength and toughness. Though he seems to enjoy himself greatly as he does so, the next thing we see him do is shoot himself in the head with a silver bullet, because he somehow made the connection between “superhuman feats in broad daylight” and “werewolf”.
Despite his commendation for valor, Max’s life sucks pretty hard right now. He can’t even turn to his wife for comfort, because she’s gone to stay with her parents to think things over. At this low point, he’s approached by Adam Garou, a higher-up in the department who wants to Max to join a “group” for officers in situations like his.
At first, Max isn’t interested in what sounds like a self-help group for stressed cops, but Sheldon’s suicide prompts him to check it out. He quickly discovers that the “self-help group” is actually a hit squad of Maverick Cops Who Get Things Done (good job to the actors playing The Pack in this scene, btw; their behavior is very convincingly predatory and pack-like – it’s clear that their humanity is already fading and they’re well on their way to becoming wolves on two legs). He accompanies them on one of their missions, where they inject themselves with…something…and then proceed to tear what appears to be a white-tie event for gunrunners to shreds. Several of them are shot repeatedly during the proceedings, but they don’t seem to mind. What’s more, as far as Max can tell while watching events through binoculars, the members of the pack undergo actual physical transformation – most visibly, their hands sprout claws in the manner of a certain extremely popular superhero.
Casey Spencer, one of the two female werewolves, is clearly in heat for Max, and despite the other members of the Pack acting like Eighties caricature drug pushers, she’s the one who finally manages to bring him in. First by seducing him (of course they do it doggie style), then, when that fails, by shooting him and injecting him with the Pack serum to save his life.
Adam is pleased to have Max aboard, and he doesn’t mind the shooting, but he does not like the seduction. Not. One. Bit. He is top dog, and Casey is only allowed to fuck him. He re-establishes his dominance by raping her, just in case the other hints that he was a bad guy were too subtle.
Note that, in neither the rape scene nor the sex scene do we see any actual naughty bits. Nor do we see a lot of SFX-heavy gore during the werewolf attacks. Sometimes this movie’s made-for-tv origins are painfully obvious.
The next few scenes go pretty well for Max, with the Pack killing criminals with impunity and walking away from car bombings unscathed. But then one of his higher-ups asks him to speak to a prisoner: it turns out that Adam has done this whole werewolf death squad thing before, and the only survivor of the last one is trapped in a pathetic, monstrous state by withdrawal from whatever Adam has been injecting into the Pack. Adam kills him before he can say anything else, of course, but that just tells Max that there’s more to what the prisoner was saying.
A bit of research reveals that Adam has been around since at least the Twenties (because werewolves are immortal now?) and has done this repeatedly: moves to a city, becomes a high-ranking but independent operator in the police department, creates a Pack, kills criminals until the streets are safe, then moves on. The climax of the violence always comes on the night of a lunar eclipse, and, almost without exception, Adam is the only one to ever survive.
And wouldn’t you know it? There’s a lunar eclipse tonight.
Max hurries to confront Adam. When he arrives, he finds most of the pack sleeping and Adam sticking hypodermic needles into his brain. Turns out that the “drug” the Pack has been taking is Adam’s cerebral fluid.
Pause. Take a moment to appreciate the surprisingly subtle – for this movie – symbolism of having the first werewolf, from whom all other werewolves are derived, be named “Adam Garou”. Continue on.
Max tries to break Adam’s hold on the rest of the Pack, but between gratitude, addiction, belief in The Cause, and sheer lupine instinct, most won’t go – especially once Adam tears the omega wolf’s throat out for hesitating. However, Casey (whose gratitude was apparently erased by being raped, go figure) decides that she’s had enough and flees with Max, even though his escape plan is to jump from a high rise window. Of course, they would have survived even that, but Casey chose a bad time to kick the habit.
Max rushes to the scene of the Pack’s rampage, only to find that he’s too late to prevent them from killing pretty much all of the major organized crime figures in LA. Because we can’t have an Eighties-backwash vigilante movie where criminals are allowed to live. Still, the real goal here was always to prevent Adam from killing the remainder of the Pack and moving on to continue the cycle. Max marches up to Adam, who doesn’t resist as Max shoots him with a silver bullet.
Like the vampire who should have taken that person with the Super Soaker and the confident expression seriously, Max should have been suspicious that Adam was so amused by the idea of silver bullets. It turns out that werewolves, at least full-blooded werewolves like Adam, are completely invulnerable during a full lunar eclipse.
I refrain from screaming “bullshit” aloud because the movie foreshadowed this at least a little. After all, there had to be some reason that Adam’s rampages reached their climax on the night of a lunar eclipse. If he’s invulnerable, it makes it a lot easier for him to clean up his clawed, super-strong, regenerating loose ends. One would think a lunar eclipse would diminish a werewolf’s power, but whatever.
Adam finally changes into something that most people would recognize as a werewolf –
…and for some reason, this prompts the surviving members of the Pack, who’ve stuck with Adam through everything else, to finally turn on him. They slow him down just enough, and Max stays ahead of him long enough, for him to be vulnerable to the silver nitrate hollow point that Max is packing. Dying, Adam begs Max not to let it end here: “Lie in my blood…take my power.”
Okay, now I call bullshit.
Bullshit. Complete, out-of-nowhere, not-even-thematically-connected-to-werewolves, ass-pull bullshit!
And even if none of that was the case, how is that supposed to work? Adam was born as a werewolf. He learned how to control his powers through (pseudo)scientific means. How is lying in his blood supposed to transmit that? He’s been injecting people with his brain fluid for years, and none of them have become true werewolves!
No bonus points for guessing Max’s decision. We must, after all, have our “it’s not over” ending.
In the end, Full Eclipse doesn’t have a plot so much as it has a series of events that occur in sequence. Things happen because they’re supposed to happen in a movie like this. Actors do a fine job of portraying people becoming something that isn’t human anymore, then recite lines that no human ever spoke because the screenwriters came straight from hokey sitcoms. And yet, whatever else you can say about Full Eclipse, it isn’t boring. Cliched, occasionally ludicrous, but never boring. My best recommendation is, if you have a Bad Movie Night, that’s the time to watch it.