In late 19th century Spain, at the end of the Third Carlist War, a bomb levels an orphanage and everyone perishes—except one girl (Haizea Carneros), who’s pulled from the wreckage by a mysterious woman (Itziar Ituño). As vampire movie All the Moons explains, what happens next is a miracle wrapped in a nightmare.
Vampires are a well-worn pop-culture subject by this point, so for filmmaker Igor Legarreta to find a unique way of approaching this material is an accomplishment right off the bat. All the Moons (already distinctive because it’s told in the Basque language) is gorgeously photographed; its rustic beauty comes alive in scenes lit with fireplaces, campfires, lanterns, and golden sunshine beaming through trees. But this dreamy world is full of darkness, with a passage of time marked by two wars (the Spanish Civil War arrives in act three) and the anguish inherent in a coming-of-age story where the young protagonist doesn’t age.
On the verge of death, the little survivor acquiesces when the kindly stranger offers to heal her. The woman is motherly and she offers assurances the girl has been longing to hear, though to us her promise of “you’ll never be alone again, and neither will I” feels ominous, because... how can that be? A big focus of All the Moons is the fear of loneliness, something the girl must endure after she’s separated from her newfound mother figure. But she’s tough and resourceful, training her skin to allow her to go out into the sunlight, and feeding on animal blood to quench her thirst.
Fear of loneliness really comes into play once she stumbles into the life of Cándido (Josean Bengoetxea), a widower still mourning the loss of his daughter; it’s implied she perished when she was around the age Amaia (the name he gives the girl) appears to be. There’s a rough adjustment period; though All the Moons doesn’t lean too hard into vampire tropes, there is a wryly amusing moment when Cándido blusters at the girl for not eating the soup he’s made—the garlic soup. They soon form a makeshift family, offering a lightning-in-a-bottle moment of happiness for both of them.
In visions reminiscent of You Won’t Be Alone—another recent film about a young girl unwittingly transformed into a supernatural creature—Amaia imagines her “mother” dropping by to remind her that “this isn’t your place” and “We’re not like them,” and that her condition is permanent. And she’s right; it’s all well and good until the deeply Catholic people in the village notice that something is off about this waif who wandered in from the woods.
You could almost imagine Guillermo del Toro directing All the Moons, as it has some of his favorite touchstones: an orphan, a haunting curse, even the Pan’s Labyrinth-like wartime backdrop. But Legarreta turns away from anything overtly gothic (aside from a couple of scenes of frightened villagers with torches, which feel very classic monster movie) to embrace the natural beauty of his setting. His vampires blend in with the trees and stalk the wartime wounded rather than ripping out throats of random victims. (In fact, beyond her initial “turning” we never really see Amaia drink human blood; she’s more of a chicken thief.)
The acting is also very naturalistic, particularly from young Carneros, who is absolutely convincing as “only a girl... an old girl” as Amaia calls herself when she’s probably around 50 years old but still looks like a tween. The sweet relationship between Cándido and Amaia is the heart of the film, and it makes the agony of her immortality—something she realizes she’ll never be able to force anyone else into, thus dooming herself to being alone forever—all the more poignant.
In some ways, All the Moons is reminiscent of Let the Right One In, another story about a father protecting his vampire daughter. But while that film is chilly and gory, All the Moons has an almost fairy-tale quality; it’s low on gore (and special effects, really, unless its spectacular cinematography counts), pulling its terror more from the emotional fallout of a choice made at a desperate moment that ends up reverberating for eternity.
All the Moons is now streaming on Shudder.
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