All the Moons (Spain/France, 2021)
All the Moons is another random selection for this month’s challenge. Many of my favourite horror films have come out of Spain, and the poster made it look like the kind of historical fare I enjoy. Beyond this, I knew nothing about the film. Let’s see if Lady Luck has been kind with this one.
This selection also sort of satisfies my desire to see horror films from as many different countries and cultures as I can. While All the Moons is a Spanish/French co-production, it is rooted very much in the Basque country that lies between them, and all the dialogue is in the Basque language.
All the Moons is currently streaming on Shudder in the UK.
It is 1876 and the Third Carlist War is raging in the Basque country. We are introduced to a young girl, whose real name we never learn, when the orphanage in which she lives is shelled. Although the nuns and children take shelter in the cellars, they are buried under debris when the building suffers a direct strike.
The badly wounded girl is rescued by a woman she comes to know as “Mother”, who offers her a chance to not only survive her injuries but to live forever. As we soon discover, Mother is part of a roving band of vampires who live in the chaos of war, feeding upon the wounded and dying.
Although Mother promises to teach the girl all the ways of this new life, they are separated while fleeing an assault by villagers. The only lesson the girl has managed to learn is that the sun burns her, and she takes shelter in a cave. There, over the course of the next ten years, she slowly builds resistance to the pain and damage inflicted by sunlight, peeling away layer after layer of burnt skin. Eventually, she is free to leave.
Seeking shelter in a nearby village, she is caught in a wolf trap set by a farmer called Cándido. Although wary at first, he takes the girl in and tries to care for her. This is tricky, given that the girl will only eat blood, but he persists. It turns out that Cándido lost his daughter, Amaia, a while ago. The girl adopts both the name and clothing of his late daughter and starts to integrate herself into this new community.
Will Amaia overcome the suspicions of the local priest? What will happen as the years pass and Amaia shows no sign of ageing? And will she ever see Mother again?
The version of vampirism presented in All the Moons is an unusual one. Here, the vampires are more scavengers than the predators we are used to seeing. They prowl battlefields, feeding on those too weak to fight them off. There is no hint of fangs — they just lap at wounds like hungry dogs.
Similarly, the way vampires are made is subtly different from most interpretations. Mother tells Amaia that she can only pass her gift on to one other person. Like Cándido, mother is desperate for a child and has decided that Amaia is who she has been waiting to spend eternity with. When, later in life, Amaia encounters others who want this gift for themselves, she spares them. She has learnt the terrible cost of such immortality.
It is hard not to compare Amaia to other ageless vampire children from fiction. Unlike, say, Eli from Let the Right One In or Claudia from Interview With the Vampire, Amaia never seems to be an adult trapped in child’s body. She retains the innocence of childhood, no matter how many decades pass. Where Claudia, for example, grows increasingly frustrated at being perceived as a child in an adults’ world, Amaia’s pain comes from the loss of loving mortals only to see them age and die.
Speaking of comparisons, it’s also hard not to see Guillermo del Toro’s influence here. Between the child protagonist, poignant tone and reinvention of classic monsters, All the Moons feels like kin to The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. Hell, part of the story even takes place during the Spanish Civil War!
All the Moons is an absolutely beautiful film. It makes full use of the gorgeous countryside and rustic villages of the Basque country. Given how little dialogue there is in the first half, this visual appeal is vital. It keeps us engaged even as the story takes its time unfolding.
For all the blood, vampires and death, All the Moons is a surprisingly tender story. At first, it appears to be a straightforward tale of a mortal being inducted into vampire society. It soon turns into a meditation on love, family and loss, however.
Amaia loses family after family, always having to reinvent herself and come to terms with what she has become. She may be a vampire, but it is hard to see her as anything other than a sad, frightened child. Still, it is only natural that others are afraid of her. There aren’t any villains in this film — just desperate people trying to do the right thing.
Whether or not All the Moons is for you depends very much on what you want from a horror film. Although it is unashamedly a vampire tale, and one that addresses many themes and tropes of the genre head-on, it aims to enrapture rather than frighten us. If you find yourself in the mood for something more lyrical this October, All the Moons has a great deal to offer.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Werewolves Within (USA, 2021)
- Crystal Eyes (Argentina, 2018)
- Super Dark Times (USA, 2017)
- Thirst (Australia, 1979)
- A Ghost Waits (USA, 2020)
- Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
- I Came By (UK, 2022)
- 100 Monsters (Japan, 1968)
- Sea Fever (Ireland, 2020)
- Mill of the Stone Women (Italy, 1960)
- Glorious (USA, 2022)
- All the Moons (Spain, 2021)
- Broadcast Signal Intrusion (USA, 2021)
- Incantation (Taiwan, 2022)
- The Gore Gore Girls (USA, 1972)
- Luz: The Flower of Evil (Colombia, 2019)
- Butterfly Kisses (USA, 2018)
- The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italy, 1971)
- Saloum (Senegal, 2021)
- The Addiction (USA, 1995)
- Good Madam (South Africa, 2021)
- The Freakmaker/The Mutations (UK, 1974)
- The Long Walk (Laos, 2019)
- Errors of the Human Body (Germany, 2013)
- Eyes of Fire (USA, 1983)
- Caveat (Ireland, 2020)
- The White Reindeer (Finland, 1952)
- His House (UK, 2020)
- Tourist Trap (USA, 1979)
- Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Sweden, 1922)
- Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!