I think the first time I ever became aware of a production company’s involvement behind the scenes of the movies they created was when I became aware of Full Moon Entertainment. Obviously, I knew who Disney was and who Warner Bros. were and I knew the iconic roaring lion of MGM, but to me, they just sort of existed. It didn’t matter who made what, who budgeted this or who released that because their level of quality was all pretty much the same to me. They were massive studios with massive budgets and they made good movies and they made bad movies and they were all sort of interchangeable.
But Full Moon Entertainment was different. They didn’t boast the millions of dollars that major studios had at their disposal, but nevertheless churned out titles they could be proud of. They actually seemed to have a mission: To make the best with what they had. Even when I was a kid, I could see the rough edges of their output, but it only endeared me to their work even more. There was something charming in it, allowing me to catch a glimpse into the filmmaking process by having to limit what can be shown and only hinting at what can’t be.
My mom managed a video store when I was a kid and different studios would send the video store screener tapes. The idea behind these screener tapes was she would judge the movie’s quality and, if it was good, she’d order multiple copies because it would spread by word of mouth and it would be in her best interest to have as many copies as possible. If it was a piece of shit, she’d either pass on it entirely or just get the one copy. Big studios like Disney and Warner Bros. didn’t need screener tapes, because they knew everyone would be lined up for their latest offering (MGM did, though, for their Polygram-released stuff like Fargo, I remember).
Not Full Moon. Video stores, word-of-mouth and screener tapes were their bread and butter. It’s how they made their money. So, they sent my mom, damn, I can’t even recall how many of their movies I’ve seen. The first movie I can recall seeing of theirs, though, was Bloodstone: Subspecies 2. I didn’t see the first Subspecies until years later (thanks, Hulu!), but it worked better that way, beginning in medias res, seeing a horrifying creature of a vampire, dead and torn apart into a million pieces, be put back together by its demonic, blood-based minions. I was six years old when I saw Bloodstone and I fucking loved it. It was scary, but not too scary. It was macabre, but not sadistic. It was bloody, but not disgusting. And it was effectively very, very creepy. Radu was like the perfect villain, a scenery-chewing villain with some actual skillful acting thrown into the mix.
For anyone even mildly curious, most of, if not all of the Subspecies series is on Hulu and it’s pretty much all good.
They also made movies for kids through their subsidiary, Moonbeam Entertainment, which I appreciated. Prehysteria!, obviously meant to cash in the dinosaur boom of Jurassic Park, wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I did love me some Dragonworld, directed by Ted Nicolaou of the Subspecies movies.
Back in the day, living in the country, we didn’t have cable TV and satellite was out of my family’s budget, so we ended up watching some weird shit to keep ourselves entertained if there was nothing good on. For this, I’ll always be grateful for Full Moon’s existence and for their liberal distribution of screener tapes. Because of their easy availability and my curious nature, I saw some real gems. Sometimes my mom would want us other members of the family to watch the movies and she’d just sort of take our word for it to see how many copies she should by, using us as a sort of focus group for the store.
Some of my favorites were the Puppetmaster movies. I actually saw one of the later ones simply because Greg Sestero was in it and I’d read about it in his book, The Disaster Artist. It was okay! The movie had its problems, but he wasn’t one of them. Then there was Dollman who actually had a crossover with those wacky puppet monsters, long before Batman was fighting Superman on the big screen. I loved Mandroid, the sort-of superhero movie with a horror edge. Robot Wars, the one that’s about exactly what it sounds like, was perfect for any fan of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Today, Full Moon has slid into full-on shlock territory, which is a shame. As much as I understand the appeal of knowingly-bad movies like Gingerdead Man, it’s all a bit too “Sharknado” for me. Not all of Full Moon’s features were a hit, but a part of their charm was that they always gave it their all, and sometimes wound up with something truly good like Castle Freak, keeping talented people like Stuart Gordon under their employee. Hell, the studio was assembled from the team that made the criminally underseen and underappreciated horror gem Tourist Trap.
Still, thanks for all the entertainment. Whether they want it or not, they were crucial to forming this (then-)young man’s tastes in movies.