This has spoilers. I was initially going to put the word “spoiler” in the text when I approached something that would be one, but I quickly realized this would be annoying. Reason four-thousand, two-hundred and ninety-seven why I hate doing reviews. Anyhow, this thing is full of spoilers. If you read it, you’ll know the secrets. You’ve been warned.
My Netflix My List is out of control. It’s a stressful thing, full of movies I won’t watch. The knowledge that I wanted to watch them and now don’t makes me feel awful.
Rejection is so unpleasant.
I can be neurotic about almost anything. Looking at it logically, to be compelled to anxiety and stress over a list on Netflix, a thing that doesn’t exist except as a collection of electricity and code in a server somewhere is the height of ridiculousness. We are what we are, however.
Or rather, who. A long-ago lesson: don’t refer to yourself as a thing.
At any rate, I decided to cull. To get rid of “seen it but might watch it again,” “love it and might watch it again,” “should watch it but probably won’t,” and all good-for-you viewing (documentaries I’ll never push “play” on, mostly. I’m at my limit for grief and stories about ugly humans.)
Then came, In the Shadow of the Moon.
As an aside, I have another post almost ready to go about changes in my eating disorder (teaser). I was going to pull the trigger on that one, but this unfinished thing kept gnawing at me. I think it’s the rage: the movie seriously pissed me off. Every time I think I’ve forgotten, something reminds me, and I get mad again. So, here we go. My apologies for any format shortcomings: reviews are not my strength.
The trailer for In the Shadow of the Moon caught my eye a while back: it looks dark and dystopian, which always appeals to me. It also seemed to have a time travel or vampire element: that ticks the “yes” box again. It turns out to be the former, a pity. I’d be less raged with vampires.
It’s not because of the paradoxes [i] that inevitably pop up in time travel movies – if you really want your head to explode, try to figure out who learned to make a pipe bomb in 1984’s The Terminator. [ii]
It’s because they cheat: they ignore the rules of the reality they created to score easy emotional points.
I’m sorry I ever watched it, mostly because I can’t undo the lazy thing they did.
And then I woke up, and the whole thing was a dream.
First, the nitty-gritty. Directed by Jim Mickle, 2019’s In the Shadow of the Moon (Netflix) stars Cleopatra Coleman, Boyd Holbrook, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael C. Hall and a large cast of people you vaguely recognize from other projects. They all do good work. I’m a fan of Mr. Woodbine’s from way back, and Ms. Coleman’s work amazed me.
The write-up on IMDB provides a brief overview of the movie before introducing the trivia, goofs, quotes, and synopsis. And the reviews. Don’t forget those. I should’ve read them before I pressed play. [iii]
A Philadelphia police officer struggles with a lifelong obsession to track down a mysterious serial killer whose crimes defy explanation.
To expand slightly: the movie begins in 1988. You’re introduced to a bus driver, cook, and a pianist who begin to die, one after another, in a very odd fashion. As the investigation proceeds, a survivor is found, and a search begins for a presumed serial killer. Lockhart (Locke) (Holbrook) and his partner (Woodbine) are part of the efforts. Ultimately, they end up confronting the killer in the subway. Locke kills her by shooting her and throwing her in front of a train.
It’s a very bad day, and it gets worse. Not only is Locke forced to kill someone, he misses the call about his wife going into labour. The baby has decided to put in an early appearance on this symbolic day. I didn’t introduce you to Locke’s wife earlier but don’t be mad: she doesn’t have much screen time. Locke is now a single-parent.
It’s daughter Amy’s ninth birthday. This is to be the pattern of the movie: the same day, every ten years. And yes, our mysterious dead serial killer is back. Amy has a lousy birthday, and it becomes clear that her father is becoming obsessed. There’s a whole sexist subplot where he keeps co-opting female officers to look after her as he starts down the rabbit hole. Luckily, her uncle (brother of the dead mother, played by Michael C. Hall) is there to pick up the slack. You suspect there’s going to be slack.
I did learn that bears are crepuscular, meaning active mostly at dusk and dawn. I must let the bears that wander into my backyard know they aren’t adhering to the schedule.
Time jump again.
Locke’s life looks terrible. He’s become fully obsessed with the time-travelling serial killer. He lives in his car, which also functions as his investigative unit/murder board. His daughter has been raised by her mother’s family. His life has been a waste. But he’s getting close.
I’m going to skip to the end. It’s just more decompensating and a final time jump. The movie held my attention enough that I mostly ran it on regular time, a miracle in this day and age. I’m a fan of skipping through the parts that bore. The acting was good, the directing was good, and I’m not super-nitpicky about weird details like using the wrong version of Gatorade or playing a song that wasn’t released until the following theoretical year.
In case you didn’t think I was serious about the spoilers, this is where it gets real. You have been warned.
Locke has captured the time-travelling serial killer. She’s trapped on the beach. He killed her decades ago and spent the rest of his life chasing her. He abandoned his daughter for this, the daughter who just called him and told him that she wants him to be with her as she gives birth to her daughter even after everything.
As she gives birth to his granddaughter.
Are you there yet?
The time-travelling serial killer is his granddaughter. He killed his granddaughter. The one he loves and helps raise. We get to see a whole montage, just in case your heart isn’t shredded enough.
Being a time-traveller is her job. It relates to the domestic terrorism scene that opens the movie. She’s a time cop who goes back in time to fix things. [iv] It’s her literal job. She’s undoing the terrorist cell that led to mass violence and destruction (the references to US politics aren’t subtle). When Lockhart starts sobbing, telling her he killed her, she says, “shit.”
Actually, what she says is, “that sucks. We can’t change things that happen in the past.” There are some moving shots and a few tears, but the basic message is, what’s done is done.
Are you kidding me? Changing what has happened is her literal job. She goes around changing time and the past all over the place. Send back a co-worker to take care of the pesky “grandpa killed me thing.”
This movie gets two snarls. I was enraged. I was sobbing. I was sobbing for no reason because this is a cheap and manipulative trick played by the writers.
Enter at your own risk.
[i] “paradoxi”. I like the possible word so I’m not looking it up for fear it’s not a thing. I’m not using it for the same reason and also because, while adorable, it feels a smidge pretentious.
[ii] It goes like this: Reese teaches Sarah Connor to make a pipe bomb while they’re on the run, Sarah teaches her son when he grows up, and John Connor subsequently teaches Kyle Reese who comes back in time to teach Sarah who teaches John who teaches Kyle…
[iii] I don’t like the “x-ray” options for movie viewing (trivia shows up on the screen), but I often watch with IMDB (International Movie Data Base) opened to the movie in question. I try hard not to jump ahead and find out what happens. I mostly use it to answer sideways questions.
[iv] Quantum Leap