Cold and Dark (2004) Movie Review

Besides being one of the rare British horror films to incorporate a plot that is as “out there” as some of its American independent brethrens, Andrew Goth’s “Cold and Dark” is of interest to another group of fans, namely followers of Chow Yun Fat. Goth is also the director of the upcoming “The Wretched”, a supernatural Western film to star Fat as a bountyhunter of the undead, i.e. zombies. As such, “Cold and Dark” is an introduction to Goth, whose style is distinctive enough to warrant keeping an eye on. Which doesn’t mean Goth (who has either chosen a really obvious pen name or was born into the right family tree, considering his preoccupation with horror filmmaking) is the “next big thing”, since although “Cold and Dark” shows bursts of promise, it’s nowhere near as good as it could, and should have been.

“Cold and Dark” opens with intentions of being your standard cop movie, complete with a loose cannon cop named Dark (Luke Goss, “Blade 2”) and his older, more experienced partner Shade (Kevin Howarth). After the law is unable to bring despicable human slaver Einstein to justice, Dark and Shade (Gotta love those names!) decide to take matters into their own hands. Or hand, actually — as in Shade’s possessed hand, specifically. You see, early in the film Shade and Dark found themselves trapped inside a giant warehouse that doubles as a freezer, where Shade was killed, and then infected by some sort of ancient evil creature that thirsts for blood.

Although the creature inside Shade (which looks very much like the chest burster aliens from “Alien”) doesn’t care whose blood it consumes, Shade uses it, and the super strength and speed it imbues him with, to dish out some justice. At first Dark goes along for the ride, reasoning that they’re still the good guys, even though Shade is technically dead, has an ancient parasitic creature inside him, and gets this insane, evil look whenever he lets the creature out to feed. But of course all good things must end, and soon Dark realizes he has to take down Shade, because the Guv’ner, as Dark likes to call him, is getting a bit antsy around Tommy (Rhys Moosa), a young boy who Dark has taken upon himself to protect.

Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, “Cold and Dark” might just be too breezy and fast-paced for its own good. The film jams a ton of subplots into its 90 minutes, which wouldn’t be so bad if the film wasn’t so clich’d and predictable to begin with. As such, the fractured mess that is the film’s narrative comes across more like an attempt by Goth and company to confuse and confound the audience, believing that the simplicity of their story would be too apparent if shown with clarity. Speaking as someone who has seen enough of these movies that I could predict “Cold and Dark’s” every major plot point, the film should have trusted the audience to be entertained by what’s there, and not attempt to engender complexity by making the movie as muddled as possible.

The script does do a smart thing by providing some lighthearted moments that help to shed humor into an otherwise bleak, visually oppressing film. There is a running gag about how Goss’ Dark always seeming to end up on the wrong end of a fight. For much of the film, Dark is constantly getting thrown around and knocked on his butt, which is all the more funny because Dark carries himself like a streetwise brawler, complete with facial hair, dark clothes, and skull cap. In short, the guy looks like a tough guy, but proves ill equipped in a fight. In fact, it’s not until the very end that Dark actually shows some physical prowess, and, unbelievably, actually fires a shot from his oft-drawn weapon.

Surprisingly, there’s really not a lot of visceral action in “Cold and Dark”. Most of the attacks by Shade take place offscreen, with the after effects shown in sometimes gruesome detail. There is one excellent attack inside a filthy public bathroom that plays out from the perspective of a male hooker who becomes witness to the mauling taking place in the stall next to him. Dark himself never actually gets into any real physical tussle. Not surprisingly, the final, climactic action scene is very low-key and has all the pop of a wet firecracker. But that’s the British for you, so the fact that “Cold and Dark” ends with a whimper is no real shock.

Visually, Goth has elected to coat “Cold and Dark” in a somber mood, with much of the film seen through darkly tinted blue lens. Although Goth relies on handheld cameras to get that immediacy during some of the attack sequences, for the most part “Cold and Dark” insinuates more violence than it actually shows, which is actually not a bad idea, as the more we see of the parasite, the more unrealistic the whole situation seems.

Of the cast, Goss is the only big name, and he plays the tough guy who keeps getting knocked on his butt well enough. If nothing else, Goss certainly looks the part of a loose cannon cop. But the real meaty role belongs to Kevin Howarth, who does sinister very well, and it’s too bad there isn’t a real fight between the two ex-partners to cap off the film. Special mention goes to newcomer Carly Turnbull, who is impossibly gorgeous as an icy special agent who falls in bed with Dark. It’s too bad that her character, like much of the film, is sometimes indecipherable for reasons unknown.

There’s a lot of promise in “Cold and Dark”, and director Andrew Goth certainly seems to show an affinity for the genre, something that bodes well for the upcoming film “The Wretched”. The film’s nihilistic atmosphere is appropriately brooding and cold, and much of the film really does look quite good. Alas, the film’s biggest handicap might be its pacing, as well as a script that is entirely too convoluted for no discernible reason. There’s nothing overly complicated about “Cold and Dark’s” plot, which makes the messy nature of the narrative doubly unnecessary.

Andrew Goth (director) / Joanne Reay (screenplay)
CAST: Luke Goss …. Dark
Kevin Howarth …. Shade
Matt Lucas …. Dr. Elgin
Rhys Moosa …. Tommy
Carly Turnbull …. Albany

Buy Cold and Dark on DVD