Cold Moon

There often isn't a lot of breathing room between the haves and the have-nots, especially in small southern towns. In Cold Moon, for instance, everyone knows everyone in the fictional town of Babylon, Florida, where only a few miles separate a family struggling to survive from a family that has all the money in the world.

The patriarch of the latter is James Redfield (Christopher Lloyd, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), now ill and wheelchair-bound but still a force to be reckoned with, and the owner of a good percentage of the town. His son Nathan (Josh Stewart, The Dark Knight Rises), runs the local bank since his dad gave it to him to play with, and he's leapt right into various shady financial dealings.

The Larkins are one of the ordinary families that will suffer from those dealings. Grandmother Evelyn (Candy Clark), along with grandchildren Jerry (Chester Rushing) and Margaret (Sara Catherine Bellamy), runs a struggling blueberry farm and Nathan is practically drooling at the prospect of foreclosing on their land, since he already has a buyer lined up.

But tragedy strikes when Margaret is killed and Sheriff Hale (Frank Whaley) must investigate a murder in a town where no one's been killed since the last time a fight broke out during a poker game, and there was zero mystery about that death. Without evidence, the shattered Evelyn insists that Nathan killed her granddaughter. This puts the sheriff in an awkward position since his rather wild daughter Belinda (Rachele Brooke Smith) is often at the Redfield mansion helping to look after James.

It isn't long before other deaths follow Margaret's, though this is far from a typical slasher movie. The killer's victims aren't willing to wait quietly in their graves for justice and take matters very effectively into their own cold hands, targeting their murderer's sanity as the sheriff follows the more mundane evidence to the truth.

The horror here is strange and surreal, dancing along the edge of dark humor -- the novel it's based on is by the screenwriter for Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. There are a few jump scares, but the real terror lies in the fact that despite how bizarre the hauntings are -- and they're strange, believe me -- there are ordinary, utterly real characters facing these horrors. It's a beautifully shot film, visually fascinating without forgetting that movies also need plots and characters. And the acting is stellar across the board, from the flighty Belinda to the stolid sheriff to James, clinging stubbornly to life and wealth. It's a genre-bending, thoroughly enjoyable horror film that will haunt you.

Image: 
Movie poster. Margaret was a nice girl until after she was dead.

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