Starring Luke (Blade II) Goss, Kevin (The Last Horror Movie) Howarth, Matt (Shaun of the Dead) Lucas, Carly Jane Turnbull
Directed by Andrew Goth
In many ways Cold & Dark is reminiscent of Full Eclipse, the Mario Van Peebles flick from a few years back about a pack of vigilante cop werewolves. Whereas Full Eclipse was made in a dumb American action movie sort of way, Cold & Dark is done in a plodding, talky, overly stylish British manner. Seeing as how this vigilante cop movie revolves around a pair of detectives named Mort Shade and John Dark, the latter returning from the dead with the supernatural ability to transform his hand into a claw with a worm-like appendage that comes out of his palm in order to drain the blood of his victims, I can’t help but think that maybe going the dumb American action movie route might have been the better choice.
Cold & Dark is clearly an ambitious film but it just doesn’t work. It’s little more than another tale of police partners that end up on a collision course after one of them begins taking the law into their own hands, quite literally. I suspect that the whole supernatural claw hand that he used to kill the criminals was meant to be a metaphor of sorts about the hand of justice. Problem is, being infected with this supernatural parasite is more or less the only deviation from the typical good cop, bad cop formula, and the supernatural aspect is treated as an afterthought in favor of philosophical arguments over whether or not vigilantism is justified, all of which just proves tedious given the slow pace by which the needlessly confusing story is told.
It certainly does not help that the whole film has a coldness to it that keeps the viewer at a distant. The majority of the characters display such icy demeanors they should be checked for a pulse, none more so than the two main characters.
Dark was already established as an ineffectual loner willing the bend the rules even before he obtains his supernatural power, and the only real personality differences after his transformation are his repeated declarations of how great he feels being more than human and his ability to stare even more intensely into the camera than before. It’s nearly impossible to feel anything for Shade as he wrestles over the dilemma of helping or stopping his partner since he initially not only willingly goes along with the killing spree but doesn’t even seem all that disturbed by the fact that his partner can transform his hand into a claw with a blood-sucking nematode coming out of it. The guy doesn’t have any problems with what is going on until Dark mistakenly kills the wrong person. Only then does he finally come to the realization that vigilante executions done by inhuman monsters may not be such a good thing after all.
Shade also has a romantic relationship with an oversexed investigator but their combined iciness makes it impossible to generate any heat.
This collective coldness may have been intentional on the part of the filmmakers but it doesn’t translate into entertainment. You don’t care about anyone or what happens to them. On top of that, the story is a confusing mess.
The movie starts out with Shade providing a running voiceover narrative, a technique that is inexplicably used less and less as the film goes on. Later on, Shade is approached by someone that knows all about the supernatural parasite and gives some intriguing details about it but never are we given any clear information as to just who this guy is or how he happens to know all this. Near the end, one character has a bizarre encounter with Dark that may or may not have been a dream sequence, and when next we see that character they at Shade’s front door bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head with no explanation as to who, when, or where they got shot or why they’re still able to walk around with a such a potentially fatal wound.
There really is an awful lot of confusion in this film.
The worst moment of all is the very scene where Dark experiences his transformation. We never actually see what happens other than a few screams and gunshots from off screen. Shade comes running into the room to find Dark’s lifeless yet unmarked body only for him to get right up and walk away as if nothing happened, followed moments later by a corpse spontaneously combusting up in the rafters. Not only does this one scene make less sense than the entire running time of Alone in the Dark, it is never explained or even discussed again.
Cold & Dark is a very frustrating movie to watch because you can sense that it wants to be more than just a typical vigilante cop film with a horror movie twist but for all the ambition, the movie still ends up being hopelessly mired in mediocrity. This is all quite a shame because the movie does have some interesting ideas and some effective scenes.
The first time Dark uses his newfound power is done from the point of view of a young man in a bathroom stall who can’t see what’s going on outside. The execution of this scene is a heck of a lot more thrilling than the rest of the film where Dark just stabs his claw into somebody’s gut and makes a face like a guy that’s just knocked back a cold beverage after performing manual labor in the hot sun.
When Shade approaches his superior to report that Dark is responsible for the string of murders, the eccentric Scottish captain gives him an absurd speech using golf as a metaphor for police work. This is one of the few moments of humor in an otherwise lifelessly grim movie.
The few scenes involving Shade and the portly fellow that knows what is really going are amongst the few scenes where the dialogue actually crackles. When that character finally shows up during the second half the movie almost seems as if it’s about to do a complete 360 degree turn and spring to life. These hopes are quickly dashed as things quickly return to being dull and confusing until the film limps towards a flat, open-ended twist.
Andrew Goth makes the same mistake a lot of young directors do these days, as certain moments are filmed in a needlessly arty style that just feels like a director trying to show off instead of doing something that contributes to the film itself, and virtually every single scene is dimly lit in a bluish glowing manner. The dreary look only makes a movie already overflowing with dreariness all the more so.
Between the coldness of the characters and the perpetually dim lighting, Cold & Dark isn’t just a title but an apt description for the film as a whole.
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