Full Eclipse: An Action/Horror Hybid That’s a Howling Good Time
Werewolf cops run amok in LA in Full Eclipse (1993).
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of different movie genres coming together. For whatever reason, two differing movie types combining always seem greater than the sum of their individual parts. I think this is true in the case of action movies, more than any other movie genre. Think about it. A combination of action and comedy gave us Beverly Hills Cop. The marriage of action and fantasy yielded up Big Trouble in Little China. The cybernetic bonding of action and science fiction gifted us with the masterpiece that is RoboCop. Hell, even combining poplar opposites like action and musicals can sometimes surprise you with just how very epic they can be, with the oft overlooked Streets of Fire being a prime example of this. Obviously, some genres work better when teamed with the action genres than others, war and westerns being the most obvious. Right now though, we’re going to take a look at a movie that tried to bridge the gap between horror and action. That movie’s name? Full Eclipse.
The storyline to this classic is as ridiculous as it is awesome. Los Angeles is becoming a haven for criminals, and the police are unable to keep up with the scum taking over the city. Their solution? A covert team of cops who operate outside the law. It all sounds pretty formulaic so far, right? Well check this out; the cops in question are werewolves. With amplified speed, strength, and endurance, they’re going to bring law and order back to L.A., one dead gangster at a time. And trust me, this city is in serious need of some Spring cleaning. The mood and tone is set immediately, and in a similar manner to the polarising Predator 2, with L.A. being depicted as as far removed from its City of Angels namesake as possible. Hobos huddle around flaming trash cans, hoodlums spray graffiti on road signs, and something deeply unsettling is about to go down in a hotel room.
Meanwhile, cruising down the freeway, we are introduced to our main character, the gloriously named Max Dire, played by the ever cool Mario Van Peebles. Dire is the classic action movie detective, with his marriage on the rocks because of how gosh darned invested he is in his work. He becomes even more of a “cop-on-the-edge” stereotype (which is no bad thing) following the death of his partner a few scenes later. This sets him up to meet the police department’s grief counsellor, Adam Garou, who also just so happens to be the leader of the aforementioned lycanthropic hit squad. Dire is eventually enlisted into the fold and that’s when the real fun begins. Of course, a wolf pack can only have one alpha male, so it’s only a matter of time before Dire and Garou are on a collision course. Want to know what happens next? Then go watch the damn movie! You’ll find no spoiler here, beyond the fact that this monster mash is truly a graveyard smash.
John Woo-style Action
One thing that this movie really has going for it is the fact that the action scenes are just as ridiculous as the story. Action lovers are truly in for a treat here. Dire is a super cool cop who thinks nothing of dual wielding his guns and firing them in public places while he dives through the air in slow motion. The John Woo influence is strong here. Bullets send thugs flying backwards, and there’s plenty of blood and gore on display. And all this is before the werewolf angle is even revealed. The movie really comes into its own following this revelation, which allows it to differentiate itself nicely from many other action movies of the time.
Case in point, a simple car chase scene early on in the movie really shows us what these hybrid cops can do. With how fast they can run and how high they can jump, a vehicle isn’t even needed. Fear not though, as a good few are still smashed up along the way though. The action scenes themselves seem even more impressive when one takes into account the fact that Full Eclipse was originally created as a TV movie, before eventually seeing a release on VHS. It’s amazing how much action director Anthony Hickox, best known for previously helming Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, managed to fit into this movie on a smaller budget and shoot time. Full Eclipse dwarfs many of its bigger budget action movie contemporaries despite this. It’s that good.
The Ageless Mario Van Peebles
Full Eclipse has a lot going for it beyond its zany premise and fantastic action scenes. Mario Van Peebles is as cool as ever as out lead character, and really makes you wonder why he was never a bigger star than he was. I blame Highlander III: The Sorcerer, but that’s just me. Speaking of immortality, I firmly believe that Mr. Van Peebles is either an immortal or a vampire. The man does not age. I’ll keep my conspiracy theories to myself though. A hero is only as good as his villain however, and Bruce Payne is amazing here. Best known for his villainous role in the Wesley Snipes vehicle Passenger 57, he gives another fantastic performance here as the alpha male of werewolf pack.
He really throws himself fully into the role and his body language and facial expressions in his wolf form are terrific and put the lacklustre performance of some of his co-stars to shame. Check out his stance and ferocity in some of the group scenes to see what I mean. That dude could make me believe he was a werewolf even without the movie magic appendages. English actress Patsy Kensit, best known to action movie fans as the doomed lover of Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 2 rounds out the cast as the female lead, another cop with issues of her own.
Ultimate Easter Eggs
There’s a nice bit of comedy thrown into the mix too to keep things from getting too heavy. Take Van Peebles character, Max Dire for example. His name is an obvious nod to the extinct dire wolf, and is something that Game of Thrones fans should pick up on almost immediately. The best character name however is certainly that of the villain, Adam Garou. The word garou of course translates to werewolf in French. I love goofy little Easter eggs like that in movies, and Full Eclipse doesn’t disappoint. There’ll be a nice X-Men reference or two along the way also, a nod to the superhero-esque costumes the werewolf cops don before a mission. It’s all really great, fun stuff.
An Epic Action/Horror Hybrid
So there you have it. Full Eclipse is an epic action/horror hybrid with enough twists and turns to keep every viewer engaged. It’s a shame that this movie never saw a sequel, especially since the ending leaves itself wide open for one. Even a TV series continuation would have been nice. Had this movie been made today, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would be a big budget, sure-fire hit. The Underworld movies are still doing big business, the current trend of superhero movies doesn’t show any signs of stopping, and there will always be those brave soles amongst us who love our action movies. Full Eclipse is the perfect movie for anyone who loves all, or even some, of these things. With a great soundtrack, fantastic action scenes, and some memorable performances, this is one forgotten action movie that’s a scary good time. Highly recommended.
A childhood spent watching Jean-Claude Van Damme kick people in the face led to Dan Shanahan becoming the well-adjusted human being and all-around nice guy he is today. Having spent the majority of his twenties kicking ass, taking names, but mostly teaching English in Japan, he now resides in his native Ireland. He lives in constant fear that a team of ninjas may have followed him home and now secretly share his house with him.
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