With so many substandard horror flicks coming out seemingly every day the genre has been heavily diluted of late. Much of the problem appears too be the lack of creativity from the first moment of pre-production to the final cut. The stories are all the same; a bunch of teens, including some naked cheerlead types, run from a guy who cant be killed and is intent on finding unusual methods to torture and kill the kids. These slash and dash flicks might be better if the story was a bit more original and interesting. One new Indy film maker, Serge Rodnunsky, has at least tried to give a novel twist to this fading genre. His movie ‘Chill’ has an interesting premise and some solid performances to give it an edge over the rest of the pack. While missteps were made and this is far from a perfect or great film it is a step in the right direction. At least it shows there are still film makers out there who want to try to capture some degree of quality on film. A strong attempt is made here to return to the old school way of presenting a horror film. I guess now that would be called retro but for those of us who have been fans of the genre since before many of these new directors where born it is taking us back to how a horror flick should be made. Ultimately this is a fun movie that may not stand out against the classics of the genre but it was far more enjoyable than the blood and boobs variety of horror flicks that are everywhere now. The film was made with a reported budget of only $850 thousand. Yes, that was thousand. This would barely cover the between takes snacks on most movies. It also demonstrates the true purpose of the independent film movement. Without the financial expectations and demands of the big studio a new film maker is free to experiment. While many of these experiments fall shout of their goals they do provide for much of the innovations that keep the art of cinema alive and moving forward. All of this goes to the point that you might watch this movie and see little difference from other horror flicks. If you take the time to examine the movie you will find some moments that show real promise. Watching this film is now possible due to a DVD release from Lion’s Gate. Keep an open mind and you just might be pleasantly surprised.
Serge Rodnunsky can hardly be considered a new comer to the film industry. He has been writing, directing and producing his films for almost twenty years now. In the last decade he has also branched out to editing and cinematography. With ‘Chill’ he takes on all of these aspects of film making. While he has been moving to a specialty in horror films Rodnunsky has made several forays into genres ranging from thrillers to family friendly faire. This has provided him with the range and understanding of movies that is obvious in his work here. As a writer the source material is all important. Rodnunsky went to a story from one of the masters of the craft of scaring people; H.P. Lovecraft. His story ‘Cool Air’ was the basis for this loose interpretation. The foundation for the story is a man who cannot bare normal temperatures and must live extreme cold. Yes, this was ripped by Batman with the heinous villain ‘Mr. Freeze’. This is a more seriously geared treatment that slants more towards the psychological thriller than the straight forward horror flick. It is this aspect of the story that makes it a throw back to older films of the genre. If you look at the classic horror films from those pre ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ days this was the way to frighten an audience. You pull them into something that on the surface appears to be a rather normal situation and then twist it. It also plays on one of the favorite themes in movies; the reasonable man placed in the most unreasonable of circumstances. The main characters could have been more fleshed out. It is important to get the audience to sympathize with the protagonists and for that you need to understand them more that is permitted here. This makes this thriller into a situational instead of character driven film.
Rodnunsky directs this movie with an eerie style that does set the right atmosphere. There is a problem with the pacing. The film drags with the set up and during some of the required exposition. I think I can understand what Rodnunsky was working towards. The film is thankfully light in the use of visceral shock special effects. He wanted to build the suspense but takes a bit too long in getting there. This is juxtaposed with the all too quick transformation of the antagonist from a kindly older man to a raving psycho. Once Rodnunsky gets this tendency under control we will see a budding new master of horror. He is definitely on the right path and just needs some fine tuning with his next project.
The film takes off with a man running from a strangely garbed man in a van. The driver has gloves, winter cap and mask across his face; not exactly looking too friendly and out of place in the warm climate. The driver finally corners his prey and uses a meat hook to pull him into the van as a hooker looks on. It’s two for one night and the hooker is also hooked. Sam (Thomas Calabro), wants little more out of life that to realize his dream of being a successful writer. Unfortunately writing doesn’t pay the bills; publishing does. So while crafting his work he has to find some means of making ends meet. He finds employment that will bring in some income but leave time for writing; a clerk in a small grocery store. The store is owned by an odd sort of man; Dr. Munoz (Shaun Kurtz). He tells Sam that due to a rare skin condition he has to live in sub freezing temperatures. The job may have its creepy elements but Sam does find an unexpected benefit when he becomes friendly with a boutique owner, Maria (Ashley Laurence). This quickly turns into a love triangle when she mentions that her ex-boyfriend, Detective Defazio (James Russo) is investigating the disappearance of some local prostitutes. It is disclosed that Munoz died sometime ago and has been keeping himself upright through sinister occult methods that required extreme cold and the fresh flesh of the living.
While the story does differ from the original Lovecraft tale it does retain the spirit of it. The story becomes one of Sam fighting for his life against the horrible plans of the dearly departed doctor. This is a return to the ‘B" horror flicks that we used to see on the old Friday night fright fest television shows years ago. This is not intended as a negative. Those flicks were corny but a whole lot of fun. Now you can bring this type of film back with this Lion’s Gate DVD so go for it; give this movie a chance and enjoy.