Cold & Dark

COLD & DARK. 2005

Director: Andrew Goth

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

For "Cold & Dark" read "Starsky & Hutch," then give them hard-to-understand Aussy accents & unshaven steely jawlines. Right off the bat, when we are introduced to cop-heros with the goofy names John Dark (Luke Goss) & Mort Shade (Kevin Howarth, who gave a similarly good performance in a similarly bad film, The Last Horror Movie), one has the sneaking suspicion we're entering amateur comic book territory where everyone has a comic book name, including director Andrew Goth, which has got to be the name he gave himself either while attending dungeons & dragons conventions as a kid, or when he had a garage punkband & wandered around his neighborhood wearing plastic fangs.

On the other hand, the film has a vampire noir attitude that is visually competent. It's even charming that our good cop/bad cop have "heavy" meaningful conversations of the sort most people will have had by age thirteen if ever (I completely believed cops would be precisely that immature). This juvenile attempt to be philosophic mixes with pacing which is deadly slow, & this surprisingly enough gives the film a veneer of seriousness that non-stop bloodletting would have lacked. It's only too bad the individual elements of the story are so silly.

The film's nihilism & the scruffy working class hunks are really quite promising elements for a first-rate exploitation film, but the amateurish story totally undermines the mood & the performances. Officer Shade, known for reasons we're never told as "The Governor" (rather than "The Dungeonmaster" is my guess), is found dead in the opening bloodsplattered scene. Nothing whatsoever in the scene conveys what crime has been encountered & why it has led to slaughter, & even the slaughter happens off-camera while Officer Dork is running around having kanniption fits trying to reach the location, only to find his partner dead. But there is a giant meathook with corpse hanging precisely (by the most amazing opportunity) directly above Shade's open mouth. When blood drips into his mouth, the Governor leaps up fine & dandy. "I thought you were dead," sez Dork, who is mighty slow to catch on.

Shade, the box promised, would soonafter morph into an unearthly species. This morphing turns out to be just one hand, which morphs into a spidery CGI claw that has a toothy penis-monster that extends from it & bites people with surprising destruction given that it's small enough to go in & out of the palm of the hand, & this Cronenbergian penis-hand sucks all the blood out of victims, addicting Shade. The masturbation fantasy of having a penis growing right in one's hand would certainly amuse Freud, but for all its visual uniqueness, it actually looks pretty damned stupid. The fact that the film is so serious about being stupid makes it, at moments, unintentionally funny, but not particularly suspenseful.

Other scenes are intentional comic relief, but the humor misfires & is out of place, as during a pointless scene when Dork tries to tell his police captain about The Governor's murderous vigilantism. The captain with a heavy Scottish accent & Victorian duffer costume hoot-mons a pathological speech about how if Shade is killing criminals willynilly, that's great, because golf is great. Rather than a police captain, this guy comes off as a renegade from a rejected rough-draft for a Monty Python script.

There's a negligible love story subplot for Dork, & there is revealed about halfway thorugh the film that the police department has an X Files like department. An interesting bald-headed character actor (Matt Lucas, obviously a skillful comic) plays a sort of Fox Mulder. He doesn't actually do anything in the story but watch, but he does have one piece of important information. The penis-monster is called The Grail. That's right, it's The Grail. Why it should be named after an object from Arthurian legend is never explained, so like all the other elements of the story, it is just stupid.

For a while Dork & his living-dead vampiresque partner with the lamprey penis in his palm have a good time wasting criminals, & it's kind of an old-hat Vampire Cop story. But the lamprey-penis or "grail" changes the host corpse's personality over time, & eventually Dork has no choice but to kill his best friend as though he were Old Yeller, his first attempt involving burying him in salt which he was assured would do the trick but it apparently had no effect at all, we're never shown why that time either.

During the climax in a hospital, the totally psychotic Shade is killing everyone with his penis-hand & is impervious to bullets, but when the girlfriend stabs him in the back with a vaccum cleaner hose, it goes right through him as though jelly (by now, nobody expects even a rudimentary internal logic). Shade's blood is sucked out of him by this unlikely hospital device & the blood is deposited in a jug.

Officer Dork gets killed, falls down underneath the hospital's improbable blood-vaccuuming gizmo, & just like in the opening sequence when Shade "just happens" to be lying dead with his mouth open underneath where blood drips down, so too the blood-jug tips over & spills right in Dork's mouth.

The X Files paranormal investigator cop is outside the hospital & just sort of blithely knows what just happened without having seen it, & knows that Dork is the new host for the penis-monster. This seems to make him happy & he does nothing about it, though until that moment he was very certain the previous host absolutely had to be killed, no way around it. Dork walks off into the moonset carrying his slain tepid love-interest (Cassandra Bell), fade to black, The End.

There is one thing that can be said of this film that is total unmitigated praise: Kevin Howarth looks cool in a leather duster. And sometimes something like a cool leather duster is the most one can expect from a film.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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