Moon takes place in a small Southern town that is instantly recognizable by its clear separation of its classes. The Larkins, a farming family tryin to make ends meet while staving off the predatory local bank’s attempts to seize their property and the Redfields, proprietors of the bank, rich, living in the lap of luxury, oblivious to the plights of their neighbors. Tragedy quickly descends upon the Larkins when Evilyn Larkin’s daughter fails to return home after school one evening. We see her struggle ultimately ending in the abrupt end of her life, at the bottom of the water beneath the bridge sitting just outside the Larkin’s property. Finding the girl’s killer and ultimately justice for her now restless spirit is the crux behind the plot of Cold Moon; a plot that we can only guess must be more robust in its literary counterpart.
The problem with Moon is a tricky one.The cast is so solid that at times we were scratching our heads wondering how so much talent could go into a film and it still not not hit its notes when it counted. Josh Stewart is wholly capable and plays the eldest Redfields child (now VP of the bank after his father’s retirement and turn of health), Christopher Lloyd, the eldest namesake of the Redfields, likewise brings his own experience and presence. Frank Whaley as the town sherif and Candy Clark playing Evelyn round out the rest of the veterans here, each one a great compliment to each other under most circumstances.
The story, based on a novel from Michael McDowell, famous as the scribe behind both Beetlejuice and A Nightmare Before Christmas, is simple and compelling enough to stand on its own. Not responsible for the script (McDowell passed in 1999), director Griffin Furst is cited as penning the screenplay, which unfortunately is where we think some of the blame begins to distribute itself.
The killer, Josh Stewart, is identified early in the film. Likewise, the supernatural elements are also quickly established. With the who-dunnit and the suspension of disbelief quickly dispatched of in the first half, Mom’s script doesn’t give itself much to do for he majority of the film. Instead it plots forward deliberately, leading the audience by the hand when clearly we already know the way. It is the paint-by-numbers straightforward storytelling that undermines the more interesting elements here, resulting in more than a few missed opportunities. The Larkin girl is resurrected by a snake that manages to poke itself out of her corpse whenever it feels like it, but fails to give us any insight as to its true purpose. Stewart, dons a black leather mask that again, peaks our interest, but also is never fully explained. We get a graveyard sequence rich with hallucinatory visuals that could have Ben carried totally through the out the film, but instead only feel out of place, when compared to its bookended scenes. With a film he gives us so many answers so needlessly quickly, it’s a shame that can’t get get the ones that might work to elevate its shortcomings and expand upon its qualities that sadly just work to frustrate the audience.
The look of the film is also bothersome at times, an offense that again, I feel falls on the shoulders of Furst. Furst, with a long list of tv credits to his name, switches betwee an attractive art house style and a made for tv palette so quickly that the film’s look starts to feel uneven and at times cheap. Not that Furst isn’t a competent director, but the film FEELS out of his wheelhouse.
The big question is of course whether the film is watchable and the answer is a confident yes, but the follow-up question about its ability to resonate and entertain despite its tropes and shortcomings remains in question.