New in select theaters and On Demand from Uncork’d Entertainment!
Directed by Griff Furst
Written by Griff Furst & Jack Snyder (screenplay), Michael McDowell (novel)
Starring Josh Stewart, Frank Whaley, Robbie Kay, Candy Clark, Madison Wolfe, Chester Rushing, Christopher Lloyd, Rachele Brooke Smith, Laura Cayouette, Stephanie Honoré, Michael Papajohn, Joe Chrest, Jaiden Kaine, Billy Slaughter, James Moses Black, Marcus Lyle Brown, Carol Sutton, Donald M. Krause, Han Soto, Isaiah LaBorde, Tori Wolsefer, Sara Catherine Bellamy, Brady Calhoun, Ryan Carlos Castro, & Tommy Wiseau
A promising lead in fizzles out by the end in COLD MOON – a film from late writer Michael McDowell who penned BEETLEJUICE and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, as well as one of the weirdest and coolest books I’ve read in ages, TOPLIN (read it if you can find it!).
In the opening moments of COLD MOON we see sweet teenage girl Margaret (Sara Catherine Bellamy) being run down and murdered by a hooded man on a bridge and then tossed over into the water on her bike. The rest of the film sets up suspects and reveals the reason why anyone would want to kill this teenage girl. The answers are more devious and depraved than one might imagine as the murderer and accomplices are haunted by the ghost of the slain girl.
The whimsy that comes to mind when mentioning BEETLEJUICE and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is sorely missing from this stone serious mystery about the death of a young girl. The fact that this is a girl with dark secrets reminded me more of TWIN PEAKS than anything else. But while the source material “Cold Moon Over Babylon” was published in 1980, before David Lynch’s TV series and movie, the fact that this film come after Lynch’s most popular effort hurts the film in some ways. The other thing that takes away from the impact of the film is that it wants to be both a mystery and a paranormal story about murderers being haunted by a ghost of the person they slayed. In structuring the story in this way, the killers are revealed early on so as to highlight the hauntings, which ends up undercutting the mystery and killing some of the suspense. Without a real protagonist trying to get to the bottom of the mystery (besides a rather bumbling sheriff in Frank Whaley and a hysterical mother played by Candy Clark), the who and why of the story which should be in the forefront is tertiarily important in exchange for the attention paid to the special effects laden hauntings.
There are a lot of strong performances here, particularly from Josh Stewart, Christopher Lloyd, and Candy Clark. Those looking for more Tommy Wiseau lunacy will be sorely disappointed as he barely gets a few seconds of screentime. The effects are really nice as well, though they are used in conjunction with jump scare tactics that litter most mainstream BlumHousers. Still, the image of Margaret’s ghost riding an invisible bicycle down a dark, lonely road is a haunting one.
But while strong performances and cool effects abound in COLD MOON, the story focuses on visual style rather than a more substantial mystery and, in the end, that lessens what could have been a powerful mystery.