Fantastic Fest 2019: ‘In the Shadow of the Moon’ is Genre-Bending Character Study

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In The Shadow of the Moon

Netflix is using October to expand their genre offerings, offering up a slate of new Netflix Original projects for horror, psychological thriller, and now, with In the Shadow of the Moon, science fiction. That being said, the film from Jim Mickle offers up more than just one genre as it effortlessly blends science fiction with detective thriller.

The film follows police officer Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook) as he finds himself at the center of a string of murders committed by a serial killer who resurfaces every nine years. Starting in 1988, In the Shadow of the Moon follows Thomas’ life and obsession with the serial murders over four decades. Through these decades we watch Thomas’ life and career as he moves from a beat cop, hungry to become a detective at the start of the film, to a detective, to a man obsessed with finding the truth. While the film lives in the thriller genre where we’re used to seeing where detectives agonize and obsess over the case they can’t crack, we quickly begin to understand that the killer’s crimes defy scientific explanation.

With an added element of science fiction as Cleopatra Coleman‘s Rya works her way through decades, we watch Thomas slowly lose his family and his sanity as he works to crack the case. The mystery that unfolds in front of us is one that beautifully genre-bends the typical psychological thriller. This is bolstered by Coleman’s athleticism in the role.

As the serial killer Rya, we get to see her perform well-choreographed fight scenes that consistently subvert the tropes that women play in this genre of film. More often than not in these tales of obsession, women are the victims, and only such. Instead, In the Shadow of the Moon gives us a different story and one that takes time to unfold and show Rya’s determination, skill, and resolve.

In The Shadow of the Moon

That being said, In the Shadow of the Moon is too long. At almost a two-hour runtime, the story twists and moves and for so long that as the mystery-solving deepens and the science fiction lightens, it’s hard to stick to the slow pace. Truthfully, it could have been a character study in three decades and not four, allowing the story to work in three acts seamlessly.

But even when the story begins to lull, the acting is superb. While Michael C. Hall also acts through the decades, he effectively remains the same character, a blunt cop with no need for niceties. Because of that, the standout of the In the Shadow of the Moon is Holbrook as Thomas. As we watch Thomas’ life it feels as if each moment that Rya resurfaces splinters his identity, shifting his story continuously and creating new characters for Holbrook to embody.

While each of his performances is for distinct moments in his life and each unique unto themselves, they are all connected as one whole character. The emotion and grief that Holbrook embodies are palpable. As we follow him through time we see the impact that not healing from grief has on a person.

In the Shadow of the Moon is a great genre-bending film that is filled with ambition. While it isn’t perfect, Holbrook delivers a stellar performance that may be the best I’ve seen in a Netflix film. In addition, the aging make-up is so well-done that it is believable in every decade, regardless of how little or how much is involved. Overall, In the Shadow of the Moon is worth the watch and a wonderful addition to Netflix’s films.

In the Shadow of the Moon is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 7/10

In The Shadow of the Moon
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

In the Shadow of the Moon is a great genre-bending film that is filled with ambition. While it isn’t perfect, Holbrook delivers a stellar performance that may be the best I’ve seen in a Netflix film. In addition, the aging make-up is so well-done that it is believable in every decade, regardless of how little or how much is involved. Overall, In the Shadow of the Moon is worth the watch and a wonderful addition to Netflix’s films.