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Cold In July (2014)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Cold In July (2014) I really wanted to like this one but it just didn't cut the mustard. Based on an awesome novella by pulp horror noir author Joe Lansdale (who also co-produced), Michael C. Hall (yes, DEXTER sporting a lame 70's porn moustache himself!) plays a simple Texas picture framer (now there's a wacky occupation!) forced to shoot an intruder in his living room one night, protecting his young son and wife. It's a simple case of self defense, but when the intruder's jailbird daddy (Sam Shepard) comes to town and threatens Hall and family, it becomes a bit like CAPE FEAR. Hall later sees a WANTED poster in the police station with the name of the man he shot on it but there's someone else's picture plastered on the flyer. Porn stashed Dexter (er, Hall) suspects the police are covering up the identity of the man he killed for some reason so he teams up with the dead man's jailbird daddy (Shepard) and a colorful P.I. (played by Don Johnson) to find out what's going on. When they do find out, it's VIGILANTE TIME! The novella worked great and the character motivations were so clear if not VERY far-fetched. The plot also seemed to hold resonance in the book- Lansdale weaves good words together, selling the lies. Not so in this adaptation. Hall's character has little reason or motivation to get so "obsessed" with murder, police cover-ups, and 'righting the wrongs of the world'. On film, the character just didn't work for me, plus there's the DEXTER baggage---seeing Hall holding in his murderous impulses seemed like a waste of a good actor to me, being that's what he did so well for 8 seasons (and it's one of my favorite shows of all-time!). The wife is completely written out to a cameo role (unlike in the novel where she participates in most things) and the whole father/son relationship aspect between Hall and his son and the Jailbird Shepard and his son ares completely muddy in this thing---unless you've read the book. They barely touch on it here. (The scene where Porn Stache Dexter gets mad at his son in a Crackebarrel lookin' place is downright ridiculous!) There's other annoying changes made from the novel that make little sense. The acting was okay by all, but ham sandwich Don Johnson aside, Hall and Shepard seem to really be phoning in their performances. The movie seemed REALLY low budget: set in the 80's, there's a scene in a video store where there's no VHS sleeves on the shelves, just clear plastic cases with tapes in them. I grew up in that era and have NEVER seen a store that didn't display color artwork to attract renters. All the locations seemed extraordinarily cheap and shoddy (budget obviously went into actor paychecks), and although the movie is supposed to be set in Texas, the rather obvious New Jersey locations don't help the proceedings---the flick resembles COPLAND terrain, not the blistering Texas landscape captured by the Coen Brothers in so many classic films (or even what's described in the book). So while the source material is classic stuff, this film adaptation of it fell mighty short. I'd like to note that the John Carpenter cloned score doesn't work well for this material either- TOTALLY takes you out of the proceedings listening to someone plagiarize ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and HALLOWEEN III so shamelessly. (Not since Richard Band committed that Re-Animator-PSYCHO caper...) I'll probably give it another whirl someday, but for me, this one left me cold not just in July, but all year long. By the way, the ending is TOTALLY ridiculous with Porn Stache Dexter getting his ear blown off and just driving home with a bandage over it to crawl back into bed with his wife. Next! (And to the director: "No more soup for you!")

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