Lionsgate // 2006 // 78 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Jason Panella // May 24th, 2013
Death Comes Coldly.
If I had to guess which director would helm an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft short story, my choice wouldn't be Albert Pyun (The Sword and the Sorcerer) whose usual tricks -- cyborgs, kickboxing, kickboxing cyborgs -- are nowhere to be found here. Cool Air is an unexpectedly faithful take Lovecraft's story. Too bad it's also pretty boring.
Charles Baxter (Morgan Weisser, Space: Above and Beyond) is a failed screenwriter looking for a place to hole up and write a brilliant script. He finds a room for rent in a secluded Malibu mansion. Between making passes at the landlord's autistic daughter (Jenny Dare Paulin, Young Adult), Baxter toils away on his screenplay. He also unsuccessfully tries to heed the advice of the landlady: stay away from the room on the third floor, and ignore all of the weird noises and puffs of cool air that emanate from within.
Lovecraft's Cool Air is an effectively creepy piece that, like many of the author's best works, relies heavily on atmosphere and ominous implications. Pyun and screenwriter Cynthia Curnan try to nail the same tone, pulling whole sections of narration liberally from the story, while also making some changes. Besides moving the story to a contemporary west coast locale, Curnan beefs up the minor characters' backstories and wraps everything in a self-referential (and totally lame) framework. Fidelity does not necessarily equal quality, and the end result misses the mark.
For a movie that runs a bit more an hour, Cool Air feels painfully long. Characters explain themselves every chance they get; which, in a few cases, we get to both hear AND see their words scrawl across the screen). Plus, the opening titles and closing credits seem endless, robbing the movie of any element of surprise before the story even begins. Add in the fact that the small cast seems to sleepwalk through their roles, and...well, it's quite disappointing, especially considering that Pyun really could have pulled this off.
Lionsgate's release is as about as barebones as you can get: a passable 1.78:1 standard def widescreen transfer and equally passable Dolby 5.1 Surround track, English SDH subtitles, and no extras.
Credit where credit is due: despite all of Cool Air's shortcomings, Pyun tries to take a minimalist and reverential approach to Lovecraft, stretching outside of his comfort zone. Too bad it doesn't work.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13