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Monday, 20 August 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Chill

Directed by: Serge Rodnunsky

Produced by: Serge Rodnunsky
Justin W. Hill
David A. Hoffman
Shaun Kurtz

Screenplay by: Serge Rodnunsky

Based on: Cool Air by H.P. Lovecraft

Starring: Thomas Calabro
Ashley Laurence
Shaun Kurtz
James Russo
Victor Grant
Barbard Gruen

Music by: Nigel Holton
Kurt Oldman
Jeffrey Walton

Cinematography by: Serge Rodnunsky

Editing by: Serge Rodnunsky

Studio: Rojak Films

Distributed by: Safecracker Pictures

Release date(s): 2007 (United States: straight-to-video)
May 28, 2012 (United Kingdom: straight-to-video)

Running time: 88 mins

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $850,000

Box office revenue: Not available

Dancing with my dog to Scarface (Push It To The Limit) is a rather unorthodox way to start yourself off on the reviewing front. Hey, it's been near a month, and I'm resorting to these 'techniques' in order to try and concentrate. To each his own, right? Anywho, I've started seeing new movies again, so, expect a review for Ted, This Must Be The Place, The Expendables 2 and more in the coming weeks. As ever, I must insist you keep your eyes posted!

Alrighty then (Hello, Jim!), today's film for review is Chill. To put things in context (more so for the nitpickers than anything), the film was released straight-to-video in 2007 by Serge Rodnunsky, and won a number of festival awards, including a Commendation Award at the 2007 UK Festival Of Fantastic Films. Now, for whatever reason (I haven't been able to find out), distribution for this film from the United States has ensure that the United Kingdom release for this film only came around this year. As such, I'm including this as a newly released film, the same way Gone Baby Gone was delayed over here for a year, in respect to the Madeline McCann kidnapping. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's short story Cool Air, Chill follows Sam (Thomas Calabro), a struggling writer who finds work at a deli shop so as to make a living. Little does he know that his eccentric employer, Dr. Munoz (Shaun Kurtz), controls a serial killer who preys on prostitutes, for reasons to be later revealed in the film, as he and friend Maria (Ashley Laurence) become entangled in Munoz's activities.

This Is Horror's John Llewellyn Probert states in his review of the film that it "should only be watched by the very kind and forgiving." Now, while that may perhaps sound patronising, Probert highlights a valid point in that this is an ultra low-budget horror film, the implications of which are obvious in the film's production value. Also, the film is written, directed, shot, edited and produced by Serge Rodnunsky, who does, especially given his circumstances, an admirable job as the proverbial one-man film crew. The digital cinematography is well done, and his direction ensures a certain level of efficiency and consistency throughout the proceedings. His editing is a bit patchier at a few points, but for the most part it is kept tightly bound to the horror genre frameworks. Some kind words have to be said about the actors in here as well. Don't be expecting an acting masterclass, because it isn't, but each of the four principals, Calabro, Kurtz, Laurence and James Russo, give solid performances. Calabro is a likeable protagonist, while Laurence is charming as the 'friendly woman in the neighbourhood' trope. At first it bothered me, but Kurtz' Dr. Munoz grew on me as a character, and James Russo is a nasty bugger as the cop who once dated Laurence's Maria and has been assigned to work on the 'missing prostitutes' case. I hope I've got across the fact that I do think this is a decent flick and deserves a chance to be watched.

With these nice things being said, it is a troublesome beast that fails to overcome it's limitations. Some filmmakers use these limitations to their advantage. Robert Rodriguez always said "Creativity, not money, is used to solve problems." Just look at the example set out by the American independents in the 1970s, with Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter's Halloween and George A. Romero's films on the frontline of low-budget horror movies that matched, and for the most part topped their bigger-budget bedfellows. However, the difference here is that these films embraced their limitations, while the script for this film obviously designed for something bigger. As such, what is for the large part a consistent, solid, middle of the road film, has a completely botched climax that features some of the worst special effects I have seen in years. I could understand it if you do this in low lighting with dark tones, but this is done in full wide shots and close-up, in clear focus, so all the ludicrousness of the effects are openly displayed. Frankly, after Gareth Edwards' Monsters, there is no excuse for effects that look like something a great luddite such as myself might be able to conjure on Powerpoint or Photoshop. 'Hide the negatives, accentuate the positives' obviously wasn't on the agenda at the board meetings here. Also, while I wasn't expecting the script to be chopped liver, some of the dialogues lashes like a whip (in a bad way, I tend to enjoy a bit of BDSM on most occasions!), and certain plot elements, flashbacks and 'this is a reminder/Basil Exposition' moments just don't work and stick out like some thumbs. And finally, the score is pants, EHO strike again!

Chill is a real Jekyll and Hyde of a film, in that while I know fine rightly that it is uniformly pants, I can't help but think that this is a decent film. If I'm to compare to a similar film, such as Rogue River, I'll say that while Rogue River has one genuinely horrible set piece that is well-executed, it doesn't have the consistency of Chill. While it has no stand-out moments (aside from the horrible effects), Chill is a very well made, run of the mill horror film, the credit for which must be bestowed upon Serge Rodnunsky, not just by default on account of his many roles in the production, but because there is a solid level of control throughout the film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.2/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pumped (having the ultimate male macho/homoerotic day: gym session, Expendables 2 later on! After having watched Summerslam last night of course!)

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