In The Shadow of the Moon – Netflix (review)

Brief synopsis: A policeman makes detective in the late eighties after killing a seemingly vicious serial killer whose signature of killing is to liquifies the brains of her victims. Nine years later, she returns. The detective catches up with her again and she tells him that she is trying to save the world.

Is it any good?: In The Shadow of the Moon begins well and is quite gripping for the first hour. Unfortunately, after that it hits the bumpers a bit, turning into a confusing sci-fi come conspiracy thriller. An interesting premise ruined by an overcomplicated, too-smart-for-its-own-good script. The ever smarter than your average bear James Cameron already did a similar story you might have heard of.

Spoiler territory: it is 2024 and a catastrophic event has struck Philadelphia. Back in 1988 a concert pianist (Gregory Millar) takes the stage and begins playing, a diner chef (Stuart Dowling) is busy in his kitchen and a bus driver is beginning her shift. A woman, in a hooded coat (Cleopatra Coleman), walks unnoticed around town.

Blood begins to drip from the pianist’s nose, the cook also begins to bleed from the nose, as well as his ears and eyes. The same happens to the bus driver. All three die, the cook collapsing onto his hotplate, the pianist falling to the stage floor and the driver slumping on to her steering wheel, the bus careering along the road uncontrollably. A book about Thomas Jefferson lies on the tarmac.

Locke (Boyd Holbrook) is woken by his heavily pregnant wife, Jean (Rachel Keller), waking him for his night shift. He gets up and prepares a meal for her before he leaves. A police officer, Locke is picked up by his partner, Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine). The two banter as they move into the night traffic.

Maddox tells him there is a pile-up in town. The bus crash? Yes. They head to the scene of the incident. At the incident, Boyd’s brother-in-law, Holt (Michael C. Hall) is the lead detective. One of the other officers at the scene tells Locke that the driver’s death is unusual. Maddox does not want to get involved but Locke goes to take a look.

He notices that her brain seems to have exploded in her skull and seeped out of her mouth and ears. Holt comes over and gives him a bit of a hard time for being at the scene. Locke notices some puncture marks on the back of the driver’s neck. He shows Holt. Holt is dismissive, saying they could be birthmarks or created by the broken glass.

Another officer comes and tells them that two more bodies have been found in the same condition and with puncture marks on the necks. Maddox does not want to go to the other bodies. They do not need the aggravation. Locke heads to the other incidents. They go and see the pianist’s body and then go to the diner. Same punter marks in the back of the neck.

Locke tries to tell Holt that they need a toxicology report. Holt, in charge of the investigation, does not want the press to get hold of any inflammatory information. They both realise this is probably a serial killer. They head to the hospital and find out from one of the doctors, Hanson (Murray Furrow), that the bodies were infected by an isotope that nobody has ever seen before.

The two officers go to get some food and Locke keeps ruminating about the peculiarities of the case as Maddox tries to dissuade him from getting involved. They get back to the car and hear a report of a girl getting assaulted in a nightclub. They head over to the club. Locke goes to talk to the girl. She gives him a description of the girl in the hoodie and tells him that she pushed something into her neck.

Holt comes in and pulls rank, insisting on interviewing the girl himself. As she is telling Holt about the incident again, her brain liquifies and she dies. With the description of a black woman wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt in circulation, police start picking up every black woman in the area wearing blue.

Out in a parking lot, a police officer sees the woman trying to break into a car and shouts, ordering her to stop. She runs off. He puts out a call telling the force where she was seen. Maddox and Locke are preparing to go look for her when she walks right in front of their patrol car. Boyd locks eyes with her. She jumps onto the car bonnet and runs over the car, off down the road. Boyd gives chase, backing the car up after her.

She runs down a narrow path and Locke and Maddox are forced to pursue her on foot. She runs down into the subway. Joined by Holt and other members of the force, the men head down into the subway. They split up, Locke going down into the tunnels. He finds an unusual contraption that ejects three spikes, the instrument used to puncture the victims.

His radio jumps into life as a message goes out to everybody. Not wanting to alert her to his presence in the tunnels, Locke turns off his radio. He does not hear a message that is for him, telling him that his wife has gone into labour. On one of the platforms cordoned off and out of use, Maddox comes across the suspect. He engages and she quickly overwhelms him, breaking his leg during the altercation. Locke comes running as she runs off. Maddox tells him to pursue her.

Locke catches up with the suspect. She turns to face him and seems to know him. Locke is not interested and tries to arrest her. She is not going to come quietly. They end up fighting, her overpowering him and handcuffing him to some seating. Locke takes the contraption out of his jacket and fires it into her leg. She falls into the path of an oncoming train and is killed.

The police recover what is left of her body. Another officer asks Locke why he is still there, did he not know that his wife was giving birth? Locke rushes to the hospital. As he searches for his wife, his superior, Sergeant Williams (Tony Craig), asks him about the woman. They cannot find anything to identify her. She has no record. She has a bullet wound from a service gun. Locke tells him that he never fired his gun.

Williams tells him nobody else fired their gun either. A nurse comes and tells Locke that his wife is having a complicated birth. He goes to see her and gives her a bracelet as she is in labour. Jean passes out. The baby is born and a nurse brings her to Locke. A doctor comes and tells him that his wife did not survive.

Nine years later, a news broadcast notes the anniversary of the death of the unidentified woman, it being newsworthy because she was a black woman who died in mysterious circumstances around a white police officer. Locke is now a detective and his daughter, Amy (Quincy Kirkwood), is preparing breakfast for the both of them.

It is Amy’s birthday and Locke has gotten her a trinket to put on her bracelet. The bracelet is the one he gave to Jean before she died. They go to visit her grave. There are fresh flowers on the grave. Locke gets a call, much to Amy’s disgruntlement. It is a work call. It is happening again. Locke meets Maddox at the crime scene.

He asks Maddox if he left flowers at Jean’s grave. No. They go and check the crime scene. The victim has died in the same way as before. Holt turns up. Locke asks if he went by Jean’s grave. He tells him he has not. They look at the victim, noting he has some extreme political views.

They get called to look at a videotape of the assailant. It is the same woman. Locke wants to keep the news from the press. Holt tells him it is not his call. Maddox thinks, logically, it is a copycat. Locke tells him about the things that the woman told him, things she should not have known. He looks at the evidence they found on the woman nine years before. There were some keys. He asks another officer, Tabitha (Gabrielle Graham), to look into the origin of the keys.

Maddox is watching Holt at a press conference. Locke joins him, praying out loud that he does not mention the videotape. Holt tells the press about the videotape and shows it. Another victim turns up. With tensions running high on the anniversary, Holt speaks at another press conference, reiterating that capturing the woman is their top priority.

Maddox and Locke cannot find anything that connects the victims. Officer Tabitha brings the keys. She tells them that it is for a plane that was produced the year before. Locke points out that the keys are from 1988. How did she have keys fora plane that had not been made yet?

A scientist, Naveen Rao (Rudi Dharmalingam), wants to speak to them. He has a theory on the case, telling the detectives that a specific lunar occurrence creates a bridge in time and space. Maddox tells him to take his notion to a television station. The detectives leave. They go to a small airfield to look into the plane mystery. The airfield is closed but Locke scales the fence and goes into the hanger.

He finds a man standing by a desk. He asks him if he has seen the suspect. The man tells him he has not but something about his demeanour makes Locke realise something is not right. He writes down on a piece of paper, asking if he is alone. The man draws an arrow, indicating where the woman is. She gets to Locke before he can sneak up on her.

She tells him to put his gun on the ground. She tells the man to tie Locke’s hands. Locke calls Maddox’s phone before his hands get tied. She tells the man to get her the keys to the plane. The man tries to grab a shotgun but she anticipates his action and takes the gun off of him. She hears sirens and sees Locke’s mobile on the ground.

Maddox tries to sneak up on her and she blows his head off, killing him. Locke tries to attack her, seeing his friend get killed but she knocks him to the ground. Locke wakes up in the plane with the woman talking to him. She tells him he needs to stop chasing her. She is on a mission to save lives.

He asks her how she is still alive, as he saw her die. She tells him that she can come back for a short time every nine years. She pushes him out of the plane. He swims to shore and sees the plane wreckage. The woman has disappeared. Holt turns up as the sun comes up. Locke tells him she has gone back. He asks where. To the future.

2006 and Locke’s life, due to his obsession with the female serial killer, has unravelled. He digs up the corpse of a case from nine years before to see if they had been killed by the puncture device. He tries to find Rao but the doctor has disappeared. Locke goes to see the widow of one of the victims. He finds out that he too had extreme political views.

Amy (Sarah Dugdale), now in high school, lives with Holt and his family. Locke picks her up on her birthday. He gives her another trinket for the bracelet. Amy tells him she has not worn it in years. He goes to see Holt and tells him his theories on the case. Holt tells him he needs to get help. Locke pretends to be apologetic and steals Holt’s police badge.

He gets the address of a person connected to one of the victims who shared his ideology. He finds the woman dead, killed the same way as previous victims. The killer is upstairs and runs again. Locke fires a few shots and hits her hand. She finds a motorbike and is off. Locke forces a drive out of his vehicle and gives chase. He chases her to the same beach that she crashed on nine years before. He sees her in a futuristic sphere, the sphere filling with liquid. The sphere, along with her, disappears. Holt is waiting for Locke and has him arrested. Rao watches the whole scene from a high vantage point.

2015 and Rao is doing experiments on pigs. He has a device like the one Locke recovered in 1988 and injects all of the pigs in their necks. He then runs a program that liquifies their brains when he touches the screen. The doctor is alerted to the presence of Locke on the same beach that he was arrested on nine years before.

The doctor snatches Locke. Locke tells him that if they do not stop her, she will keep killing. Rao tells him that is the point. She is changing the world. Rao tells him that he is going to hold Locke for a couple of days, so as the killer can work. Locke manages to free himself and fights with Rao in the van. The van crashes.

Locke escapes from the van and makes his way back to the beach. The woman returns. Locke is waiting for her. He plans to kill her. She tells him that if he kills her, the world will end in the near future. Locke points his gun at her. She tells him that she has known him her entire life. She gives him the bracelet his daughter always wore and tells him it is from her mother. He realises that she is his granddaughter.

In the future, the woman remembers being nine years old in 2015 and a terrorist act the was the prelim to a civil war. When she grew up and a much older doctor Rao (Al Maini) had perfected his technology and also had found a way to breach time and space every nine years. He could also activate the brain liquify program over the same time/space route.

Locke goes to the hospital to see his daughter who is giving birth. Locke meets his granddaughter as a baby. The end.

Final thoughts: In The Shadow of the Moon is a mouthful of a title and a film which disappears a little up its own grandiose intentions. Taking ideas from The Terminator and Looper and many other time loop films, In The Shadow of the Moon, starts promisingly but, because of the muddied storytelling, comes almost to a stop halfway through.

Unlike the aforementioned films, this film suffers from one not knowing what the end goal is trying to achieve or, in this case, avoid. There is mention of a civil war but that would hardly warrant a person travelling back in time to assassinate random people because, in the words of the film, their ideologies and moral compass help to shape the ideas of some person who would cause civil war at some point in the future. What? Exactly.

The war or act is only alluded to and only seems to affect Philadelphia, even though the woman says it will end the world. Seeing as she has come from the future, meaning the world had not ended, what the heck was that supposed to mean? We do not get to know the people who are killed, nor meet the person or persons they supposedly influence.

There is some vague allusion to Jefferson – admittedly, not being an American, I have very little idea what this has to do with proceedings. – and some oblique references to extremism but that is as far as it goes when it comes to a reason for the shenanigans going on in this film.

The acting is fine from all concerned and is directed by Jim Mickle, for the most part, quite well. The dialogue in the script is not bad and sounds natural, though there is the wretched, dreaded, exposition scene with Rao and Locke towards the end when they try to explain the films quite convoluted premise.

Written by Gregory Weidman and Geoffrey Tock, it is the story that this film falls down on. At just under two hours long, In TheShadow of the Moon – there are so many better, catchier, titles they could have come up with – is ultimately let down by the too-smart-for-its-own-good plot which brings an initially gripping thriller to a grinding, laborious trudge midway through proceedings. In The Shadow of the Moon is not an unwatchable mess but you will be underwhelmed if you take a couple of hours out of your day to watch it.

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