Judge David Johnson was struck by the fact that much of this suspense film takes place in a barn and the lead actor's name is Barnes. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.
Love can make your blood run cold.
Heretic Films provides this shot of psychological suspense, detailing the violent misadventures of a scorned husband and the swath of corpses he leaves behind him to cover his foul deeds. Also known, more cleverly, as Freez'er.
Facts of the Case
J.M. (Barnes Walker III) walks into his bedroom one day to find his wife shagging some stud. Enraged, J.M. takes a baseball bat to the head of his spouse, killing her. Then, confused and afraid, J.M. does what anyone would do in his situation: wraps his dead wife in plastic and heads for his sister's farm way out in the sticks.
There, he tries to sort things out, while hoping to avoid the authorities as long as possible. His wife, meanwhile, has taken up residence in a freezer. But fending off the prying eyes of a pair of local yokels will prove to be J.M.'s biggest challenge—and his subsequent attempts to quell their curiosity lead to more and more dead bodies.
Cold Blood is a so-so exercise in suspense, with some unimpressive performances and a fairly slow pace. However, writer-director Brian Avenet-Bradley has a good sense of what makes the psychological-thriller genre tick, and he's got some decent stuff going for him in this, his directorial debut.
First the bad news. The acting is pretty much uniformly bad. Barnes Walker has a great look for the unassuming killer character, and his soft-spoken manner certainly contrasts with his multiple slayings, but the guy's line delivery is stilted and wooden. Likewise is John Atom's portrayal of John, a redneck with a plan for blackmail. Sure, the guy has an awesome name ("John Atom" sounds like the secret identity of a superhero or a globetrotting teenaged adventurer), but his staccato dialogue is laughable.
Now the pacing. Cold Blood plays like a jumbo-sized episode from Tales from the Crypt. And while that can be taken as a compliment, I couldn't help but feel it seemed a little too bloated, even for an 80-minute film. If it had been done in a shorter medium, I think it would have been much more effective. Really, not much happens throughout, and so a lot of the film's run time is padded with extended sequences of J.M. walking around outside or John snooping in the barn or other blah filler.
What works is the story—bogged down by a slow haul, sure, but fairly compelling nonetheless. J.M.'s downward spiral as he kills to cover up his initial deed is pretty meaty stuff. Yes, it's been done before, and better, but for a film operating on low budget, Cold Blood tells the time-honored crime-of-passion story well.
Bolstering the onscreen shenanigans is the setting. The deserted farmhouse and surrounding land is an inspired choice—literally. Brian Avenet-Bradley reveals that an actual stay in the farmhouse prompted him to use it all as a backdrop to his thriller. Taking place so far out in the boonies, and boasting only five (live) characters, the proceedings seem tense and claustrophobic. And on that last point, let me just say that the film packs a great ending.
Is the good enough to outweigh the not-so-good and mandate a purchase? Not in my opinion. A viewing? Perhaps. Cold Blood doesn't suck, but it's really just a few notches north of decent.
You know what else doesn't suck? This disc treatment from Heretic Films. The audio quality (5.1 Dolby Digital) and video (1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen) are both very good. Cold Blood is a quiet film, and as such doesn't capitalize much on the discrete channels, but the mix is clean. While the lack of anamorphic treatment hurts the overall score, the video quality remains sharp.
A decent set of extras accompanies the film, including a director's commentary, a lengthy and well-done behind-the-scenes feature, an interesting look at the role of music in the formation of the story, and a few so-so deleted scenes. Overall a nice assortment, and a typically well-executed release by Heretic.
While I don't love this film, I certainly don't hate it. There are some nice moments to enjoy and the ending is pretty dope, but poor acting and a plodding pace take away from the pluses. To its credit, Heretic Films doesn't give Cold Blood the cold shoulder.
Kinda sorta not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Heretic Films
• Director's Commentary
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