New Horror Releases: Cold Moon (2019) Reviewed

Adapted from the novel “Cold Moon Over Babylon” by Michael McDowell, who is known for supernatural tales like Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Cold Moon, successfully creates a creepy vibe a few times, but ultimately falls flat.

It’s 1989 in swampy southern Babylon, Florida. The Larkin family has multiple tragedies, and Nathan Redfield (Josh Stewart), oldest son of James Renfield (Christopher Lloyd), a prominent banker, is the culprit. He uses his position to manipulate Sheriff Ted Hale (Frank Whaley) and his daughter Belinda (Rachele Brooke Smith) into getting away with murder, but soon enough, the spirits of those he has murdered haunt him, seeking their revenge.

While the late 1980s wardrobe worn by Belinda Hale throughout the movie is enjoyable, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why it should be a period piece, other than book that it was based on was published in 1980. The plot could have taken place in any small town in any time period, and there isn’t anything else nostalgic to bring the audience into the zeitgeist of the late-80s. Maybe someone blasting “Welcome to The Jungle” would have given me more context for the decade. The plot reminds me of a recycled Stephen King plot; a man being haunted, literally or figuratively, by his past actions. This makes sense since Michael McDowell also wrote the screen adaptation for Stephen King’s Thinner.

Damn, dude. Stop with the fog machine already. I'm trying to eat. 

One of the most memorable and stand out aspects of this movie is the manner in which the characters speak. I’m assuming they are all trying a southern accent for the sake of realism, since the movie takes place in a Florida town, but especially in the case of Nathan, the actors incredibly difficult to understand. By the middle of the movie, it had become sort of a joke to me whenever he spoke. Though that was fun, unfortunately, that did cause the plot and the relationships between the characters to be tough to follow.

The two top billed actors in this movie are Frank Whaley and Christopher Lloyd. Don’t expect to see either one of them that much, especially Christopher Lloyd, who only has two scenes. The majority of the film follows Nathan Renfield. Tommy Wisneau is one of the top billed cast, too. He is briefly seen in the background of an outdoor crowd scene.

The characters are one dimensional, the special effects are good enough, and the plot is convoluted. While I sit and try to write this review, I try to piece together exactly how everyone in town fit in, and all I can think is “what a mess”. This movie also fails as a mystery, since the audience knows who the killer is fairly early in the movie. Sheriff Hale is perhaps the most ineffectual character in the history of cinema.

All in all, watching the movie isn’t a bad experience, but it also isn’t that enjoyable either. The aesthetic of a southern small town is pleasant, especially here in the middle of a Michigan winter, but even though the scenes with the ghosts were effective, they weren’t enough to save the film. Fans of the supernatural subgenre might enjoy this one (though not one of McDowell’s best), but fans of mystery could find it tedious.

-Mara Powell