Reuben Soady (Daniels) is about to become the oldest man in his family not to have shot a deer. He, his father Albert (Harve Presnell), his brother Remnar (Joey Albright), and their friend Jimmer (Wayne David Parker) are together at deer camp when Reuben decides to take spiritual remedies from his Native American wife, Wolf Moon Dance. The remedies cause all sorts of issues at the camp, with Reuben, Jimmer, and a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer (whose help they enlist) all getting possessed at various times. Reuben eventually meets up with the spirit of his great-grandfather, who guides him to a successful shot.
Escanaba in Da Moonlight provides examples of the following tropes:
- Answer Cut: Played for laughs when Tom shows up.Reuben: (voiceover) And den, we heard da scariest ting you can hear in da back woods in Michigan...(ominous pounding on cabin door)Tom: Open up in there! DNR!
- Arc Words: "All good tings come to dose who shoot straight."
- The Alleged Car:Jimmer Chevy shook a shit!
- Awesome Mc Coolname: Jimmer Negamanee from Menominee
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Aliens, bears. [beat] Alien bears.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The hunting potion recipe.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Jimmer.
- Demonic Possession: Jimmer, Ranger Tom and Rueben. Though whether or not the spirit is actually antagonistic is up for debate.
- Earn Your Happy Ending:
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Smells like porcupine piss! It is.
- I Ate WHAT?!: Reuben and the guys drink one of Wolf Moon Dance's potions, and promptly Spit Take upon learning that it contains such unsavory ingredients such as moose testicles except for Jimmer, who happily guzzles down the rest.
- Magical Native American: Played with. Wolf Moon Dance shows some pretty savvy intuition, knowledge of spirits and potions, and can sneak up on Rueben pretty well.
- Mind Screw: The whole movie is... a little... weird.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Great Grandpa Alphonse sure has a unique way of getting a point across.
- Powers via Possession: Ranger Tom is imbued with feral strength while possessed by the Bearwalk. Complete with heavy metal music.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Yoopers bag bucks. At forty-three, Rueben is in danger of becoming the oldest man in the history of his family not to do so.
- Verbal Tic: Jimmer, who often puts "sh" sounds in the middles or ends of words (e.g. "Chevy shook a shit! Bursh inna shameish!")