Dark Sky Films // 2010 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // January 27th, 2012
Any drop could be your last.
In the late 1970s, with Argentina held under a totalitarian regime, a right-wing revolutionary front called the Triple A (standing for the Argentinian Anticommunist Alliance) attempted an overthrow of the government using torture and violence to try to change their world. Their run ended without success, but the group made off with 25 cases of dynamite, which was never recovered. In Adrián Garciá Bogliano's (Room for Tourists) ultra-tense Cold Sweat, we learn the explosive fate of these boxes.
Román (Facundo Espinosa, Esperando la carroza 2) has recently been dumped by his girlfriend, Jackie (Camila Velasco), for some blond guy she's been chatting with online. When he can't contact her and doesn't answer his emails, he enlists his friend Ali (Marina Glezer, Possible Lives) to make contact with the guy and try to set something up. She finds the blonde kid, starts chatting, and he invites her to his house for a romantic dinner. The duo drives out to the house but, just as she's about to head in, Román finally gets a response from Jackie, a kiss-off letter. Ali, though, realizes that the email came from the same IP as her chat friend and they see that something is not right. So, as Ali heads in the front, Román heads in back and, just as Ali discovers that Blondie is a sham, Román discovers the two old men behind it all doing what they've been doing now for decades: luring young women to their lair to torture and kill them, using chemicals they derived from the munitions they stole from the Argentinian government many years before.
Though the length of that synopsis may make Cold Sweat seem overly complicated, writer/director Adrián Garci#225; Bogliano gets through all of that within the first ten minutes. After a brief historical setup, the film jumps right into the action and doesn't let up until the very final moments. Though it's a mere eighty minutes long, the film uses every one of those minutes to deliver an intelligent, extremely tense horror picture. It isn't particularly scary, I suppose, in that nothing ever jumps out at you and there isn't any really creepy imagery, but the suspense is ridiculous.
This suspense works on the same principle that worked in Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic film, The Wages of Fear, and William Friedkin's reimagining, Sorcerer. It's the simple idea that dynamite is really freaking dangerous and you shouldn't mess with the stuff. The twist that Bogliano puts on this idea, though, is that the kids in the house don't control the explosive material, so we're left in suspense over when, not if, something goes boom. In an effort to spoil nothing, I'll leave that ambiguous, but suffice it to say that the device works really well.
It's a little surprising that it does, though, given the geriatric nature of the film's villains. Rarely do you look at a man in a walker as a threat, but here we are. Two relics from revolutionary times, their disturbed political ideals still in place, and a cache of TNT make for an effective cocktail full of menace and evil. Their methods are obscure and never fully explained, which is just the way I like it. Some kind of confession or justification for their actions at the end would have destroyed everything Bogliano had built. These guys are unrepentant evil, but a human, accessible evil one can imagine emerging from what became known as the "Dirty War."
To that end, it's the performances that really make the movie, helping to obscure some problems with the plot. The villains, played by Omar Musa (36 Steps) and Omar Gioiosa, have a great old married couple relationship that gives up the small bits of comedy in the film, while also remaining as sinister a pair as one could possibly want. What they lack in speed and youthful vigor, they make up for in knowhow and evil ingenuity. Bogliano flashes back to their political origins, showing them discussing the fall of the revolution and their changing relationship, and does a really good job building the slow tension that comes from an old man trying to walk the stairs. It may not sound terribly exciting, but it works very well. The three leads are effective as well. Facundo Espinosa isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but comes through when it counts and is an overall likeable protagonist. Camila Velasco is a model in her first movie role and, while she doesn't do a whole lot, the conviction in her eyes is apparent. Though her job is to be the hot one, she does a little more than that here. The best performance, though, comes from Marina Glezer who, despite some questionable motivation, shows a ton of strength both in her survival instinct and the believability of her crush on Román that causes her to act in the first place. Above average performances all around, especially for the genre.
Bogliano doesn't inject a lot of original style into Cold Sweat, but rather than the common quick cut action of many genre film, he takes it very slow. Some might say it goes too slow, but this decision helps greatly with the suspense. There are more than enough explosions in the film already, making it more action-packed would have detracted from it. Still, he switches between long, creeping shots and quick edits, making them an effective combination and giving the only genuine thrills in the film. Cold Sweat won't make you jump out of your seat and there's nothing particularly scary about it, but this is much more about the suspense. Like the Clouzot and Friedkin films he was inspired from, Bogliano is much more interest in the suspense inherent in the knowledge of what the explosives can do and it works.
Cold Sweat comes to DVD from Dark Sky Films in a very good edition. The standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is decent, but not perfect. Shot on Red Camera, it has a sharp film-like look with decent black levels and good contrast, but there's a little murkiness at times. The surround sound is excellent, though, with good clear dialog and solid surround separation. The dialog is crisp and the music booms around the channels for a very good all-around mix. The extras are numerous, much more so than I expect from indie genre films. They open with a strong audio commentary with Adrián Garci#225; Bogliano, who goes into detail on most every aspect of the filmmaking, from his intentions in the story to the production details of casting and production to the details of the film itself. It's a good listen for anyone interested in indie film production. The behind the scenes featurette is just that, footage of the filming without any commentary. Adrián Garci#225; Bogliano comes back to briefly describe some of the historical basis of his film, not that anything presented in the film actually occurred, but how the events of Argentina's past shaped the way he looked at the story. The deleted and extended scenes run nearly half an hour, but none of them really add anything to the film. An excerpt from a comic book based on the movie is of little interest and a bank of promotional materials round out the disc.
The night after watching it, Cold Sweat made its way into my dreams, infecting them with some of the more horrible images my precious sleepy-time have prevented me with in a good long while. This never happens to me, ever. It may not be the perfect movie and the story may have some big holes, but if I'm judging something on how it affects me personally, I'd say it worked pretty well.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dark Sky Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended/Deleted Scenes
* Comic Book
* Photo Gallery
* Official Site