J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Cold Moon: The 1980s Fan Favorite Horror Novel, Now in a Handy Movie Format

Although he is probably best known as the screenwriter of Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, horror fans considered the late Michael McDowell one of the best writers of 1980s paperback originals. (Of course, those awesomely lurid covers always helped.) Maybe he should have had a chance to adapt himself or maybe you just had to be there. Whatever the case, something definitely seems to be lost in translation in Griff Furst’s Cold Moon (trailer here), based on McDowell’s Cold Moon Over Babylon, which opens tomorrow in New York.

The Larkin family blueberry farm is poised on the brink of foreclosure by the Redfields’ bank, but they have more pressing issues. Jerry’s little sister Margaret is missing and will soon be discover dead, lashed to her bike in the river and surprisingly four months pregnant. As we soon learn in flashbacks, the killer also happens to be the father: Nathan Redfield, the disappointing son and heir of James Redfield, the patriarchal banker cut from the same cloth as Lionel Barrymore in It’s a Wonderful Life (and presumably the author of The Celestine Prophecy).

The sociopathic Redfield thinks he got away clean, but Margaret’s spirit starts haunting him after it is raised by some sort of snake demon. Inconveniently, Grandma Evelyn Larkin also has visions of Nathan Larkin killing her granddaughter, which she shares with pretty much everyone in town. Soon the stress of Margaret’s haunting and Evelyn’s lawsuit talk has Redfield killing again and again. It gets to the point where he needs to recruit his horrified but complaint younger brother to help juggle the balls in his cover-ups and frame-jobs. Fortunately, Sheriff Ted Hale is dumber than a bag of hammers and his daughter Belinda works as some sort of bikini-clad part-time companion to old man Redfield.

Cold Moon is kind of fun in a ludicrous one-darned-thing-after-another kind of way, but logic, common sense, and convincing CGI are in short supply throughout it all. Furst manages to class up the joint with accomplished screen-thesps, including Candy Clark (Oscar nominee for American Graffiti) as Ms. Evelyn and Emmy winner Christopher Lloyd (who is becoming a horror movie regular after I Am Not a Serial Killer and The Sound) as really Old Man Redfield. You have to give Josh Stewart credit for freaking out with gusto as Nathan Redfield, but could Frank Whaley’s Sheriff Hale be anymore plodding? Fans will also be disappointed Tommy “The Room” Wiseau’s heralded appearance is an incidental, non-speaking, blink-and-you-missed-it cameo.

One could argue Cold Moon is the movie equivalent of a mass market-original, but you would expect more given the online love for McDowell’s original novel. It is never boring, but it often goes over the top in the wrong sort of way. Still, you can’t say Furst phones it in. In fact, he rather goes for broke. Defiantly ragged around the edges, Cold Moon will be a potent, whippit-like brain-cell-killing fix for fans of southern swamp gothic when it opens tomorrow (10/6) in New York, at the Cinema Village, but the rest of us more discerning horror consumers can wait until it streams on Shudder or Netflix, or longer still.

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