The release date might say that we're in the bright and shiny new decade of the 1990s, but everything about Bloodmoon feels hungover from the '80s in the most mortifying way. Not least of these things - indeed, arguably foremost among these things - it is a slasher film, plain and simple, and it took a lot of guts to put out a slasher film in 1990, when the genre had just finally died off completely. And then there's things like the hair, and the music, and tremendous quantity of nudity, and the "townies vs. preppies" subplot, and all sorts of things that just feel more comfortable in '80s cinema than '90s cinema. All these decades later, I guess it doesn't actually matter, but it's important to get it read into the record as early as possible that Bloodmoon feels like a profound miscalculation, right from the jump.

Because, just to be very clear about it: it's a pretty terrible late slasher film. Admittedly, there really is no such thing as a good late slasher film, and Bloodmoon isn't the very worst one I've ever seen. But it is deeply, deeply misguided and dysfunctional, trying much too hard to go beyond the banalities of formula and screwing it up every time.

The bulk of the problems start firmly in Robert Brennan's screenplay, so let's begin with the story. There's this Catholic girls' boarding school in the sleepy town of Coopers Bay, and at this school there is an aging nun, Sister Mary-Ellen (Hazel Howson). Two characters in the first scene make sure that we learn all about the sister's backstory and why she is the solitary nun still attached to the school, and it's enough to make you suppose that she'll be important. Heck, I figured they were setting her up to be a red herring, if not the actual killer. Nope, Brennan just wanted to make sure we weren't confused why a nun was wandering around a Catholic school. Anyway, on we go, into the shower room, where we are given our first clue that Bloodmoon is substantially more interested in boobies than murders, and you can make of that whatever you wish. We also meet Michelle (Suzy MacKenzie) and Jennifer (Anya Molina), who will drift in and out of the movie like a chorus of sorts, and get at least as much screen time as some of the ostensible protagonists, despite being completely extraneous.

And from here, it's into a dorm room, where Jackie (Jo Munro) is freaking out over her poor academic performance, while her roommate Mary (Helen Thomson), tries to comfort her. The better comfort, though, will come from her trip into the woods where all the girls go to tryst with the boys from the other boarding school in town, and she has just such an assignation lined up. Unfortunately, when she spots her boyfriend, he's missing both eyes, some fingers, and his throat has been torn out. Whoever killed him is still around, and Jackie ends up getting killed with the same barb-wire garotte that left her fella's throat in such a rough state. The killer gestures a couple of times to a very shitty effects shot of the moon looking like it was colored in by a pink crayon, which is pretty much the entirety of what we'll get to justify the title.

A development like this can only mean one thing, of course: almost a full act of the movie devoted to the tension between the townies and the boarding school teens, culminating in a showdown at the boarding school dance that night - a dance that includes several full performances of musical numbers while nothing happens involving the main characters. Nor any other characters, for that matter. This is where we learn that, even more than Bloodmoon is interested boobies, it is interested in meandering, extraneous subplots. I don't know how, but the entire film somehow is made up of subplots. The reason that the townies show up is to introduce us to Kevin Lynch (Ian Williams), who will be Mary's love interest; he has a kind of mullet-perm and a freakish amount of chin, which is the closest he gets to a personality. But she has a freakish amount of forehead, so it balances out. We can hope that their children might end up looking like the mo'ai of Easter Island.

Given that Mary has a love interest, and a connection to the first victim, it would be natural to assume that she'll be the central focus of the movie. She is, instead, merely the most robust of the subplots. A little before the midway point, she and Kevin pretty much fall out of the film, except for a couple of scenes to remind us they're alive; instead, the film brings in a new candidate for protagonist, detective Matt "Dez" Desmond (Craig Cronin). And it's also right around this time that we start to get to know the school's headmistress, Virginia Sheffield (Christine Amor), and her husband Myles (Leon Lissek), the science teacher; they have a preposterously unhealthy relationship based on her screwing students from the boys' school and making sure he knows  about it. And not too long after this, the film tells us who the killer is - again, we're not that far past the midway point.

The sudden reveal of the killer and the shift to make that person the main focus of the film, and the psychological torment that cause that person to kill, both make it very clear what the goal was: this is a Psycho knock-off. More to the point, is an especially dreadful Psycho knock-off, too involved in the junky thrills of a stale slasher movie to have any real insight into human depravity. But the flipside of that is that it's too bogged down in trying to analyze the killer to be especially thrilling as a grotty, exploitative horror movie. So it ends up being not much of anything at all, and it divides its attention between too many characters with too little connection between them - the connection is meant to be that Mary is the killer's next target, but that literally only comes up in two scenes. Bloodmoon is like somebody emptied a dump truck full of plot points and left the work of sorting through them to... well, us in the audience, apparently. Anyway, what the hell the townies' revenge on the boarding school boys has to do with anything is a question for the ages, and while this is the most spurious of the plot threads, by no means is it the only spurious plot thread.

It's all so miserable and confused and messy, then; it's a shame, because other than its wasteland of a screenplay, Bloodmoon isn't terrible. Thomson and Williams aren't much as the young lovers (and Thomson, having been unnecessarily specified to be playing an American, makes no effort whatsoever to hide her Australian accent), but Amor is fantastic as an imperious hypocrite, and Lissek, simultaneously blobby and desiccated, is pretty fun himself, in a pathetically slimy way. Cronin doesn't end up with very much screentime, but he uses it well to make Desmond come across as thoughtful and bright, curious enough that he somewhat forgets that he's meant to be annoyed about being pulled from his family.

The film also looks pretty nice, for the most part. The budget was low, and you can tell, but director Alec Mills was a camera operator and cinematographer before making this, his directorial debut. And it's very clear that he has a cameraman's eye for setting up compositions and extracting the most atmosphere out of the fewest lights. He and this film's cinematographer, John Stokes, get some pretty find, moody shots into the film; it suffers from looking flat and even in daytime exteriors, but there's a lot of nice imagery smuggled away.

Still, nice shots, in the face of that script, doesn't mean much. And the script isn't the only problem: besides the milquetoast teen leads, I might also point to Brian May's score as a problem, a tinny bit of electronic piano that sounds like the preset tunes on a Casio keyboard. And not even thriller presets: presets with names like "Victorian Garden Party" and "Among the Wood Elves". Plus, the score is unerringly literal, addressing what we're seeing right now regardless of its narrative context, so when we see a couple making out in the woods that we know beyond a doubt contain a killer, the music plays light, playful romantic cues, and then shifts abruptly into heavy tension when we see the killer stalking up.

So yes, pretty shots notwithstanding: this is garbage. It was made in a hurry to exploit some tax breaks, and to try to squeeze one last slasher film out before the bottom entirely collapsed under that subgenre. The results are ungainly and so sloppy that it's downright insulting: the filmmakers cared so little about our time that they didn't bother even pretending that their film was anything but a collection of random scenes that ultimate make it all the way to 100 minutes, a good 30 of which are cohesive. But you know, '90s horror - a period that was apparently just as dire in Australia as the rest of the anglosphere. You take what you can get, even when that's only a step or two above literally nothing at all. And hell, it's got plenty of boobs and blood, and those are the only standards on which such a late slasher film has any expectation of being judged.

Body Count: 10, though we only see seven bodies.