All the Moons (Review): A Subdued Vampiric Tale
All the Moons brings a more humanistic and delicate approach to vampirism in a story about mortality and how religion feeds on people’s fears.
Although the horror genre may have a massive array of monsters, ghouls, ghosts, and creatures, one of the most fascinating ones is vampires. They have been around in the scope of cinema since the early 1910s with The Vampire. Each decade has had its own approach to vampirism and the blood-sucking beasts: the 1920s with the classic F. W. Murnau silent picture Nosferatu, the 30s with Universal’s first creature feature Dracula (with Bela Lugosi as the self-titled count), and the 40s with House of Dracula. However, things started to change in the 1950s, where Dracula was reincarnated for a new generation, thanks to Hammer Films and Christopher Lee. That company was the first to colorize horror pictures, essentially creature features (and, as a bonus, made the aspect of sunlight as a weakness a more reinforced part of the vampiric lore). Nevertheless, vampires have never left the broad scope of cinema and pop culture, and with time, people have added more exciting ideas and topics to speak of when dealing with such entities.
What’s most interesting are the point of view, notions, and techniques directors use with vampirism, as they are connected with the concept of death and liminality. They are immortal, yet through unnatural existence; they live forever, yet only as monsters. Films like Let the Right One In, The Addiction, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Cronos, or even Werner Herzog’s reiteration of Nosferatu explore the different veneers of this topic. Some are dealt with more delicacy, others with brutality or artsy demeanor, and there are occasions where the movies have a more teen sensation, albeit still having their own sense of dread in its core (the over-hated Twilight franchise). Now, we have Spanish director Igor Legarreta’s beautiful take, which adds a coming-of-age element that isn’t interested in the fangs, bites to the neck, or a screen full of red ichor: the Shudder original, All the Moons.
The film is set during the final throes of the last Carlist War in Spain, where a little girl, Amaia (Haizea Carneros), is rescued from an orphanage collapsing during an attack by a mysterious woman (Itziar Ituño) who lives deep inside a forest. The girl is poorly wounded and is on the brink of death, albeit she is nursed to health; she describes the woman who saved her as an angel who has come to take her to heaven. A kiss heals her wounds, but it comes with a cost: she needs to avoid sunlight, and she’ll need to do the same for someone else. However, things don’t go as planned. A group of soldiers force Amaia, her caretaker, and the other members of their union to flee; in the process, Amaia gets separated from her group of blood-sucking ghouls. Now alone to fend for herself, Amaia learns about her new vampiric nature (although the word “vampire” is never mentioned), but soon finds shelter with Candido (Josean Bengotexea), a lonely farmer with a tragic past.
The title of the film comes from an early quote said in its first few minutes, where the vampire caretaker (aka. Amaia’s “angel”) tells the lead character that she will be now able to see “all the moons”, implying the immortality she has gained and the longing sense of containment due to her new nature. As she is alone fending for herself, she learns some of the traits of her new life, especially the need to consume blood – draining a lifeforce to enhance your own. Nevertheless, the film doesn’t want to focus on the daily life of a vampire and the hunt for blood to keep on living; All the Moons brings up the idea of the condemnation of living forever and the fear of death. It also brings up how that fear eats us on the inside and the ways various people in Spain dealt with it during that time of tragedy. People were looking for remedies or solutions to the hard questions in life and their trepidations, so they found religion. The church plays a crucial part in the morality and subjectivity of the characters, as it has fed on their fears and has offered solutions to the town’s folk worries.
Candido is a somewhat man of the church, to the point where the town’s priest (Zorion Eguileor) says he is an example for the community, primarily because of his past incident and how he has managed to keep on going after it. Meanwhile, Amaia, who grew up in religion, is now separated in essence since she has to survive by doing “demon-like” acts. Seeing how these two souls (even if one technically doesn’t have a soul) connect even though they have different ideals is beautiful to watch since the theme of vampirism is handled with care. Fragility is used instead of showing the usual barbarity that films like 30 Days of Night and Innocent Blood have. All the Moons feels like the one half of Let the Right One In where Eli and Oskar (one being the creature and the other a friend who is taking care of her) build a bond, and intertwine it with a speck of folk horror that is used sparsely to increase the sense of realism.
In an interview with Los Lunes Seriéfilos, director and writer Igor Legarreta spoke about how this film is an ode to mortality and the way that vampires are the representative of our desire to escape fate. Amaia first believes that she has been given a gift – a kiss that gives her the ability to live forever; yet she soon finds out that it is more of a curse, in a sequence that is quite touching, primarily thanks to Haizea’s performance. She feels the aftermath of death, causing her to search for a way to mend the internal wounds. The central concept Legarreta imposes is that you can’t live if you get to see all the moons, and Amaia realizes that later in the story. All the Moons isn’t one of the best vampire films out there, but it is a refreshing take on a “creature feature” and religion, as it has a more humanistic and empathetic tone than a lot of the recent ones. I’m very excited to see what Legarreta does next, and I’m hoping it is in the horror genre.
All the Moons is now available to watch on Shudder.