Cold Blood (DVD)

Starring Barnes Walker III, Carrie L. Walrond, John L. Altom, Kendall Dryer

Directed by Brian Avenet-Bradley

Released by Heretic Films

Cold Blood has been around for quite a while, at least since 2001, but for the longest time it was known with much worse title, Freez’er. Shortly after the film was finished I had been sent a copy of it on VHS for review and for whatever reason, just never got around to reviewing it. Not that it’s a bad movie; it was just one of those that I watched and kept saying, “I need to sit down and write this review”, but never did. I was lazier then, I guess.

Anyway, Heretic now has it in hand and have smartly re-titled it Cold Blood, a title that’s still a bit generic but a lot easier to pronounce, and as is the case with all of their acquisitions to date have given it a very respectable DVD treatment.

Cold Blood opens with a murder (always a great way to start), specifically that of JM’s (Walker) wife, Andrea (Laurence Avenet-Bradley). We soon find out it was a crime of passion, JM had caught her cheating and smacked her upside the head with a baseball bat a little too hard. Suddenly he realizes he has to get out of there and to somewhere relatively safe, so he loads her body up in his car and heads out the semi-abandoned farm the two of them spent their honeymoon at.

Why not just bury her, you ask? He can’t seem to let go, probably thinking her body being around him at all times keeps him aware of what he did and serves as a form of punishment. Unfortunately, as previously stated, the farm he decides to hole up in is only semi abandoned, and pretty soon his redneck neighbor John (Altom) is poking around where he shouldn’t. From there Cold Blood sets in it’s pace as an almost Hitchcockian tale, as one murder leads to another and the lies pile on top of one another just as quick. Before he really knows it, JM is in so deep that there’s no way any of it can end well.

Avenent-Bradley’s debut feature (he followed it up with Ghost of the Needle, which I reviewed has a classic theme at its core, but suffers from some wooden performances and pacing that is slightly off. You can tell a sense of foreboding is supposed to be building as JM goes further and further down a path he won’t be able to come back from, but Walker’s performance is just a little too stoic to convey his steadily unraveling sanity, almost as if he’s trying too hard to pull off numb. The rest of the cast is average for a first-time indie production, no stand our performances one way or another, the only thing that really got on my nerves was the incredibly obvious overdubbing done on John pretty much every time he was on screen, which pulled me out of the moment more often than I would’ve liked. Overall Cold Blood is a creepy thriller that’s put together well, it’s just got the usual first-time feature weak spots that can be forgiven if you take into account the quality of the other elements, like the cinematography and sound design.

Heretic has, once again, taken a solid indie film and given it the DVD treatment of a major production. The primary feature is the commentary by Mr. & Mrs. Avenent-Bradley (she also served as cinematographer, as well as the dead body) and Barnes Walker. Walker comes across as a guy who’s in there to have some fun, where as the Avenent-Bradley’s, while still able to laugh a few times, seem too focused on the technical aspects of each and every shot, with special emphasis on the lighting. Granted, that is the most difficult part of any shoot and most of the lighting in Cold Blood looks damn good, especially for an indie, but to hear about what lights were used and how the tricks were pulled off over and over gets tiring. Walker’s jokes and recollections from the shoot give it a good balance, however, so it’s worth a listen, especially if you’re thinking about ramping up your own indie project.

Next we have a 15-minute “making of” featurette that is, thankfully, not just some guy walking around the set while the movie was filming with a camcorder; it’s actually studio-set interviews with the cast and crew discussing how the movie came about. Very professional, interesting (though the special effects guy goes on a bit too long about how he made some of the effects), and short enough to not get dull; all very important factors in a featurette.

The most interesting feature, I think, is “The Songs Behind the Story”. Back when Cold Blood was still Freez’er, and actually before a bulk of the script had even been written, Avenent-Bradley wanted to make it more of a dark comedy than a horror/thriller, so he had a group of songs he had written specifically with that tone in mind. This explains the original title a bit more, too, since it always seemed kind of silly to me for a horror film. Anyway, this feature is the collection of demo and studio recordings of these songs, a couple of which aren’t too bad if you link your country music twangy, which I occasionally do. I dug the feature just because it was different than the usual stuff you see on a DVD release, and gives you and idea of what the film could’ve been like if they’d stuck with the humor angle.

Rounding out the features are some deleted scenes, the trailer, and a few Easter eggs that, honestly, I didn’t spend too much time looking for. The menus are done really well, special attention given to each one, and thankfully there’s no annoying animation to sit through every time you go to a new one.

Another great example of how Heretic is treating their acquisitions with care and respect, and even though the movie is lacking in some areas the presentation on the disc, including the transfer job (excellent) and the surround mix (more effective than I had suspected) lifts it up a level or two, which is exactly what a DVD release should do for a film.

3 ½ out of 5

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