Cold in July
Directed by Jim Mickle
Starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell
Review by Jordan
Cold in July begins and ends with a single bullet to the head, one delivered by a shaky hand and the other a firm… while the 1st act is unfolding in this Southern-fried crime thriller and proceedings seem somewhat conventional, good luck guessing who the second bullet greets, and from whom it is delivered.
Based on the 1989 novel by cult author Joe R. Lansdale, and directed by unsung independent hero Jim Mickle (Mulberry St, Stake Land, We Are What We Are), Cold in July, while farfetched and unpleasant at times, is brimming with a literary energy that denies its crime/thriller roots. Mickle picks his shots well, utilizing open space to instill dread of what might occupy it rather than as a brooding landscape as witnessed in his most recent outing, and through slowing the pace down towards the half-way mark he allows us to realize and appreciate just how absurd and unexpected the plot has become, before again racing down the road to perdition littered with violence and featuring a strange sense of redemption.
Proceedings kick off when unassuming picture framer and “good citizen” Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) is woken by a bump in the night, and with his wife and young son both still in bed sneaks into his lounge room, handgun in tow, where he accidentally shoots the intruder through the eye and witnesses a gush of blood cake the wall and couch, signalling the beginning of a journey towards that dark red splatter, and away from his loving and concerned family. The police are initially helpful, especially when the paroled father of the trespasser (Sam Shepard) arrives in town silently threatening to take from Richard what was been taken from him, but before long things become awfully murky, and unravel in a fashion that only Lansdale could imagine.
Previous film adaptions of the novelist’s works (of which there haven’t been many) that I’ve seen have been handled by passionate fan and fine creative talent in his own right Don Coscarelli, with Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (2005) an exiting entry in Mick Garris’ Masters of Horror Season 1, and Bubba Ho-Tep (2002, starring Bruce Campbell in arguably his best role), one of the most beloved cult classics of all time. Cold in July may not reach the heights of seeing an elderly Elvis battle a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in an East Texan nursing home, but in being one of the best films of 2014 I’d say its still boxed above it’s weight division and timed its punches to perfection.
4.5 Night of the Living Dead screenings at the drive-in out of 5