‘In the Shadow of the Moon’
The supernatural murder mystery “In the Shadow of the Moon” begins in 1988 during one wild night in the life of Philadelphia beat cop Thomas Lockhart (played by Boyd Holbrook). He races through the city with his partner Maddox (Bokeem Woodbine) and his detective brother-in-law Holt (Michael C. Hall), trying to find a serial killer whose victims have all spontaneously bled out. They locate the suspect, Rya (Cleopatra Coleman), but she leaps to her death. A few hours later, Thomas’ wife dies in childbirth.
The movie skips ahead nine years, and somehow Rya’s back, killing again. Then there’s another nine-year leap and more murders. Thomas becomes obsessed with the case, researching time travel and studying connections between victims, even as it costs him his career and what remains of his family.
Directed by Jim Mickle (best known for sharp genre movies like “Stake Land” and “Cold in July”) from a script by Gregory Weidman and Geoff Tock, “In the Shadow of the Moon” has real snap, making up for elements that are more predictable or nonsensical. Anyone who’s ever seen a “Terminator” movie should figure out early on where the story’s going and where its irresolvable paradoxes lie.
But Mickle and his cast keep the plot racing ahead with such momentum that there’s little time to nitpick. Revealing the mystery through one character’s limited perspective makes the movie’s world-saving fantasy more personal and suspenseful. This is an appealingly polished thriller, with something modest but profound to say about how selfish choices can ripple across decades.
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Playing: Available Sept. 27 on Netflix
In the offbeat indie dramedy “Sister Aimee,” the writer-director team of Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann fictionalize a bizarre scandal involving one of America’s first evangelical superstars. The filmmakers sometimes fail to follow through on the more interesting parts of their story, but a novel approach to the material mostly compensates for the drier stretches.
Anna Margaret Hollyman plays Aimee Semple McPherson, the faith healer who reached a mass audience in the 1920s and ’30s via radio broadcasts and vaudeville theatrics. “Sister Aimee” is mostly set in 1926, when McPherson disappeared for over a month before turning up in Mexico, claiming she was kidnapped.
Buck and Schlingmann insist that their version of what happened to McPherson in Mexico is “mostly made up,” drawn from rumors about her alleged affair with one of her ministry’s employees, Kenneth Ormiston (Michael Mosley). Much of the movie consists of Aimee and Kenny driving around the countryside, interacting with locals and trying to cope with her sudden lack of motivation.
The road trip scenes, frankly, become repetitive, with little variation in scenery or incident. But they’re broken up regularly with fun little interludes, where the police interrogate McPherson’s associates and hear anecdotes about her life.
The dramatizations of these flashbacks are cleverly staged, using props and careful lighting to make tiny sets look grander. And Hollyman lights up the screen with her performance, filled with charismatic sermonizing and song-and-dance routines, tinged with the melancholy of a woman whose remarkable career successes are leaving her increasingly unsatisfied.
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Playing: Starts Sept. 27, Laemmle Glendale; available Oct. 1 on VOD
‘The Curse of Buckout Road’
According to regional lore, on a haunted road near White Plains, N.Y., a cannibalistic albino cult springs from the shadows and rips apart anyone who honks three times. That’s the urban legend that inspired “The Curse of Buckout Road,” a horror film that tries — and mostly fails — to make a virtue of how much it’s swiping from genre classics like “Candyman,” “The Wicker Man,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “God Told Me to.”
Danny Glover — yes, Danny Glover — plays an ex-preacher who lost his faith and became a psychiatrist. Evan Ross plays his estranged, embittered grandson Aaron, who becomes involved with a group of college kids his grandfather is treating: a trio who tried to disprove the Buckout Road myth and are now plagued with shared dreams that compel them to do evil.
Director Matthew Currie Holmes (who also cowrote the script) has a hard time controlling this movie’s tone, which ranges from tongue-in-cheek to deadly serious, with some well-meaning but poorly executed attempts to examine the racial component of the old Buckout Road tales. Holmes’ best idea is to stage some of the flashbacks and dream sequences so they ape the look of the films he’s copying — though that ultimately may make horror buffs wish they were rewatching the originals.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Galaxy Mission Grove, Riverside; also on VOD
‘10 Minutes Gone’
In “10 Minutes Gone,” Bruce Willis — as in too many of his recent movies — seems to have shot all of his scenes in one location, in just a couple of hours. Every so often the film cuts back to Willis’ character, the mastermind of a heist gone wrong, as he makes angry phone calls in a bare room where the outside light never changes — even though this story takes the better part of a day to unfold.
The film’s real star is Michael Chiklis, who does the best he can playing a generic crook, hunted by bosses who falsely believe he betrayed them, in a story that’s like a mash-up of “Reservoir Dogs” and “John Wick,” minus the cinematic panache and snappy dialogue. “10 Minutes Gone” is clumsy and cliché-ridden, and populated by two accomplished action stars who look like they just want to get through this job as quickly as possible.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Starts Sept. 27, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD
Dora Madison gives her all to “Bliss,” a punk-rock splatter-flick with more attitude than ideas. As a desperate, drug-addicted Los Angeles painter named Dezzy, Madison delivers an impressively physical performance, throwing her whole body — and every bit of her vocal range — into a shrieking, out-of-control character who goes on a dope, sex and murder binge while trying to finish her masterwork.
The charitable take on “Bliss” would be that writer-director Joe Begos has made a raw, daringly abrasive film about the creative process, comparing art to a demonic possession that devours anyone standing close to the ravenous artist. But Madison’s work aside, this picture isn’t all that exciting. It’s 80 tedious minutes of shouting, swearing, nudity and gore, cut together with the deftness of a chainsaw.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Oct. 5, Beyond Fest; available Sept. 27 on VOD