2014 mystery thrills; classic 80s style
Cold in July Film Review
Another one of this year’s excellent retro 80s-style indie gems, Cold in July fits snugly amidst the likes of The Guest and Blue Ruin, again proving that these days a limited budget may be a good thing.With Hollywood stacking up its remakes, reboots and sequels; investing billions in known commodities, and largely ignoring (or mismarketing) original content, 2014 has brought us some surprisingly effective low budget gems which have the kind of imaginative stories, interesting characterisations, and undeniable style which Hollywood could only dream of.
Cold in July is an impossibly unpredictable little mystery thriller which sees a simple husband-and-father getting embroiled in a convoluted tale of corruption, deception and revenge, when he kills an unarmed intruder and finds himself under threat from the dead victim’s violent father.
Written and Directed by Jim Mickle, and loosely adapted from the novella by Joe R. Lansdale, Cold in July is a dark, moody and highly effective little mystery piece.With Michael C. Hall a long, long way from familiar Dexter territory, and excellent support from not only the ever-reliable Sam Shepard, but also a surprisingly good Don Johnson, the characters come to colourful life within the seedy backdrop, as conspiracies are layered on one another and the murky, twist-laded plot unravels.
One of the greatest elements has got to be Jeff Grace’s score, however, with the 80s-set mystery already feeling like a John Carpenter horror/thriller even before the unquestionably Carpenter-esque electronic synth score sweeps over you, pervading the piece with yet more insistent, engulfing style.
Although nothing has yet come close to topping Refn’s modern classic Drive, it’s nice to see that these superb retro gems just keep coming, undeterred by the Hollywood juggernauts thundering along besides them.
Cold in July Blu-ray Picture QualityCold in July hits Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. A very stylish movie, this bleeds into its highly stylised look, which sets the mood and tone for the piece. Detail still remains excellent throughout, with impressive clarity, fine object detail, skin textures, clothing weaves and background observations.
The film does sport a few minor digital defects; compression issues during the darker sequences result in a hint of peppered and sporadic noise, there's some motion blur that I haven't seen in a while (only in a couple of short moments when Don's candy red Cadillac convertible whizzes past the Red Epic camera) and also a couple of minor instances of haloing. But, despite these niggles, the image is otherwise so stylish and impressive that you can easily forgive the infrequent flaws.
This stylish and moody piece certainly looks striking, if not quite demo worthy, on Blu-ray.
The colour scheme has been flavoured by the tone of the piece, with plenty of dominant blue hues pervading key sequences. This may leave some colours feeling a touch unnatural, but it’s a deliberate choice, and whilst the flaws take it down a notch, the style of the piece almost allows it to burst back up into demo territory. A very nice looking video presentation.
Cold in July Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a more clearly demo-worthy affair, impressive throughout and rightly so considering that the synth score plays such an important part of the proceedings. Dialogue is given clear and coherent precedence over the duration, emanating from the front and centre channels and rising above the rest of the track’s elements when required.
A striking sound design gets keen promotion by this audio track.
Effects are well-observed, perhaps far more acutely than you’d have expected at first, with seemingly commonplace thriller elements – gunshots, car crashes and so forth – aurally dissected and perfectly replicated here with verve and style. The strong and tense 80s John Carpenter-esque electronic scoring is given keen presentation too, with plenty for the surrounds to do, and a fair amount of input from the LFE channel too.
Cold in July Blu-ray ExtrasAside from being available in a rather lovely steelbook edition which comes designed like a classic old VHS cassette, the UK has unfortunately lucked out in respect of its Blu-ray release, with a stripped-down selection of extras that loses one out of the two Commentaries available on the US disc, as well as the Isolated Score, Q & A session and Pre-Viz segments. All we’re left with is the remaining Commentary (which is only available via the Audio Selection portal) and the Deleted Scenes. Perhaps the greatest loss is the Isolated Score – given how great the score is – and, despite the clever design of the steelbook, it’s got to be tempting to look towards the US release as the preferred option.
Cold in July Blu-ray VerdictA wonderfully unpredictable little mystery gem, the low budget indie flick Cold in July embraces its 80s setting and sensibilities, delivering dark thrills with a shady group of misfits, and remaining yet another great film-you-may-never-have-heard-of in 2014's line-up.
It's great that these superb retro gems just keep coming, undeterred by the Hollywood juggernauts thundering besides them.
This UK Region B-locked Blu-ray - which comes in the optional flavouring of a wonderfully and suitably in-tone VHS-style steelbook package - boasts largely impressive video and excellent audio to promote its unquestionably stylish content. A few extras made it through on the trip from the States, although some good ones got lost along the way, leaving this a decent purchase, even if true fans may want to look to the US release. Still, that steelbook does look fantastic. Either way, well worth checking out, this gem comes highly recommended.
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