Film Review: Cold Moon Is a Solid, if Flawed, Indie Horror Flick for October

Cold Moon

The latest feature from actor-turned-writer/director Griff Furst (who most recently appeared in such films as The Magnificent Seven and The Founder) is a curious serial killer story for a couple of reasons. First, the identity of the killer begins as a mystery but is quickly revealed; second, the killer is haunted by those he has recently murdered, making this a ghost story as well. Cold Moon (based on the book by Michael McDowell) begins when 14-year-old Margaret Larkin (Sara Kathryn Bellamy) goes missing not long after cycling away from her rural home in Babylon, Florida, leaving her already-on-edge mother (Candy Clark) and brother (Chester Rushing) searching for her.

The townspeople make it a priority to find the missing girl, who eventually turns up floating in a river near her home, tied to her bike to make sure she drowned. During the course of the investigation by the local sheriff (Frank Whaley), a few fingers are pointed toward one of the least likely men in the area, Nathan Redfield (Josh Stewart), who just happens to be the son of local banking legend James (Christopher Lloyd).

And as I said, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that, in fact, Nathan is the killer, and he quickly gets rid of the mother and son of his original victim for getting dangerously close to the truth about him. But before long, the water-logged spirits of the Larkin family begin popping up in Nathan’s life, and while he seems to be the only one who can see them, they are terrifying enough to make him think he’s losing his mind.

Cold Moon doesn’t have high production values, but it makes the most of its budget with impressive and genuinely frightening ghost effects. The strange appearances by more familiar actors such as Lloyd and, for whatever reason, The Room’s Tommy Wiseau (who barely registers on screen in his cameo) seems unnecessary and frequently distracting. The film works best as both a psychological thriller and a murder investigation story, as it poses questions about whether Nathan is a cold-blooded killer, or was he pushed by a father who knows what his son is capable of doing? I also think the battle of wills between Nathan and his unwitting accomplice son (Chester Rushing) works fairly well.

I have an affection for swampy horror movies, and Cold Moon is certainly that, with its Southern drawl characters and use of vintage locations. It has a handful of genuinely creepy, bordering on scary, moments, and I like the use of the lead actors, especially Stewart as a murderer troubled to some degree by his actions. Hardly a flawless film, it still manages to fit the bill of another solid indie horror release, perfectly suited for the month of October.

The film opens today for a weeklong run at Facets Cinémathèque.
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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.