MAY 11, 2010
Sometimes I don’t have any theories why a movie sits on the shelf for a while, but in the case of Cold Storage, my guess would be that it was damn near impossible to market. It’s not really a horror movie, it’s rich with odd/dark humor, and there’s not a lot of action to try to fake it into looking exciting. Even though Lionsgate releases a lot of non-commercial genre films, even they must have had trouble coming up with an angle on this one to get folks to rent it (besides serial horror movie renters such as myself). The trailer makes it look pretty standard, and thus hides the movie's off-kilter tone.
Luckily, writer/director Tony Elwood doesn’t try to hide his intentions in the movie itself. Early on, a woman is killed in a car accident, only to be discovered by a local crazy (Nick Searcy), who thinks she’s his dead wife come back to him. So he takes the body and tries to preserve it, as the woman's boyfriend and sister try to find out what happened to her in the surrounding town of Rainerspoint. But almost right from the start, we are spending time with superfluous characters that seemingly have full lives outside of their short scenes, as if Elwood was treating everyone like a main character. Someone can’t just go into a convenience store to ask questions; no, a drunk has to come in and try to buy beer in the meantime, which leads the clerk to begin yelling about buying excess alcohol because her friend’s husband died as a result of a drunk driver. And there are a lot of “what the hell?” moments, like when the sheriff drinks his egg yolk through a straw. You really get the impression that this is a fully developed town with living residents; something you don’t often see in ANY movie, let alone a low budget DTV horror movie.
Unfortunately, the main plot isn’t as interesting, and thus whenever we are stuck with our main characters (particularly the always dull Matt Keeslar), it’s just a slow paced variant on The Vanishing (I wouldn’t be surprised if the pitch was “Twin Peaks meets The Vanishing”, actually), or maybe the 2nd half of Psycho. But unlike The Vanishing, we know her fate almost right from the start (that she’s dead, though they do seem to try to keep us guessing for about a half hour by never showing her face), so it doesn’t have any urgency to it. Whether they find her today or next week or never, she’s still going to be dead, and there wasn’t enough investment in their characters for me to want to see them find her just for closure. Hell, even the Vanishing remake had that going for it. And there are no near misses with the character, something that gave Psycho some terrifically nerve-wracking moments, like when Sam and Norman talked at the motel; hell, Keeslar and Searcy never even really share a scene.
Nick Searcy’s performance almost makes this stuff compelling though. He’s a great character actor, and while he’s been the bad guy before (Timber Falls), he’s actually sort of sympathetic here. He takes the body because she reminds him of his dead wife, and since she’s already dead, it’s not like he’s torturing her or something. I actually felt kind of bad for the guy at first; it’s not until the 3rd act, where he starts trying to kill our heroes, that I was really seeing him as a villain, as opposed to a demented loner.
One thing the movie definitely delivers is gross out moments. In addition to the egg slurping sheriff, we also have Searcy squeezing a dog tick in close up, with its goo shooting off toward the camera. He then clears his teeth of buildup with a knife, which doesn’t go too well (more blood). And a character’s penchant for spitting chewing tobacco proves to be his downfall, as Searcy discovers the puddle of spit (and tastes it to be sure) and realizes who had been in his house. Oh, and the corpse-preserving doesn’t go too well. The moments may be minimal, but they are effective all the same - the dog tick alone is grosser than anything I’ve seen in a Troma movie.
Another surprise is the wealth of extras on the disc. So many of these movies have absolutely nothing about their production along with the film, but there are about a half dozen extras here: some typical making of stuff, a look at the three main actors, a rare collection of “crew” bloopers, a short bit of Searcy goofing off between takes, and a piece about the various locations. None of it is particularly long (it all adds up to about a half hour), but again, it’s so rare to have any sort of insight on these things, I was happy to have anything at all. I just wish that the film’s production company (synthetic fur) would lay off their logo a bit. Not only do we have to watch the same little animation for every bonus feature (which adds 2-3 minutes to the aggregate running time), but on the film proper, they also have the single most excessive and overproduced animated logo in the history of the form, making even the bloated Mandalay and Lakeshore logos seem subtle in comparison. Rule of thumb - if your tag is momentarily considered to be part of the movie, it’s too much. Scale the shit back.
So the film isn’t bad, it’s just sort of schizophrenic. The weird town stuff never really gels with the generic thriller storyline, and I ended up wishing that the focus was on one or the other. Maybe the town could be the backdrop for a good TV show, where each week some outsiders come for whatever reason, and their little drama gets resolved while we continue to learn more about the town and its residents. Like an inverse “Man on the road” show (Supernatural, The Fugitive, etc), where we stay put and the recurring, minor characters play a part in helping a revolving series of traveling "main" characters. And each week, the Sheriff drinks another thing that most people chew!
What say you?