JULY 6, 2012
You can't really see it until around the halfway point when he removes his overshirt, but the hero in Cold Sweat (Spanish: Sudor Frío) wears a Sorcerer T-shirt throughout the film, which is a fun little joke. See, both William Friedkin's film and this one involve nitroglycerine and how easily it can be set off, albeit in different contexts - Friedkin's film was an action drama with drivers trying to get trucks full of the stuff across dangerous terrain, this is a spin on typical survival horror tropes.
However, the hero never even points out the coincidence of his wardrobe choice (he had the shirt on all day, long before he entered this nitro-ridden house), which would have been nice as it would have told us that he had seen the movie Sorcerer, and thus we would actually know something about him. While it does wonders for the movie's pace, we learn precious little about any of our heroes throughout the movie, and the structure finds them in danger by the 15 minute mark. Thus, there's very little reason to get really invested in the proceedings - at times it almost seems like writers Adrián (who also directed) and Ramiro García Bogliano care more about the two villains than the three heroes.
Then again, maybe we should too, especially since the male hero is a bit of an idiot, having but skipping several chances to subdue his nemesis (a half blind old man!). The bad guys' goal seems to be trying to get the youth of today to care more about their education, their place in the world, etc. During one torture session the lead villain explains that he knows around 150,000 words and their definition, but today's teens only use about 200 - not sure if those are true facts, but it certainly sums up his attitude quickly. And the generation's carefree attitude provides the movie's most comical moment; for some reason the hero can get wi-fi but not a cell signal, so he updates his Facebook asking for help, only to be met by nonsensical replies from his "friends".
If only this "old vs new" approach could be extended to the entire movie! Instead, if you strip away this stuff, you're left with a fairly rote "we have to escape from these insane killers" movie, where neither side's intelligence or lack thereof has any bearing on the proceedings. It's the same old stuff - lot of hiding while a villain pokes around, contrived reasons to keep the action contained inside the building, etc. The hook is the nitro - one girl is drenched in it and thus must move slowly after being stripped of her clothing (and given an impromptu haircut) - but even that stuff isn't really a factor, and I never really felt much danger from it. Those episodes of Lost where they'd go get some dynamite were more tense, and did a better job of explaining its temperamental qualities (RIP Arzt).
It's also a 60 minute movie stretched out to 80 thanks to all of the slow motion shots; even Zack Snyder might be offended at how much the movie is padded out by simply slowing the action down. While it does allow for some great shots (i.e. things exploding in gory slow motion), it just further exemplifies the fact that there really isn't much of a movie here. The girlfriend is captured before the movie begins, our two heroes go in to get her almost immediately, she's found by the 20 minute point, and then the rest of it is just a (real time?) account of their escape. This would be fine if the suspense and tension were firing on all cylinders, but without any real reason to care about the characters, I was never able to really get into it. On that note, the Boglianos didn't really do themselves any favors by starting the movie with a wall of text and newsreel footage about the theft of the dynamite during the 1970s (the start of the "Dirty War"), which is fine for context but probably could/should have been explained during the movie, once we had a firm grasp on its actual plot. This stuff makes it sound like we're going to watch a movie about a civil uprising or something; had it been explained by a character who just happened to be an expert on the topic, it might have killed two birds with one stone - we'd know more about one of our heroes, and we'd have an easier gateway into the movie itself.
Still, it's so short that I can still sort of recommend it based on a few sequences, such as the first attempt to rescue someone from a nitro bath (that's another issue - there are two characters in this predicament, so the 2nd time around is repetitive), and the climax where everything comes to a head. I also enjoyed the interplay between the two villains, old men who have been together for decades and haven't stopped fighting their fight despite some handicaps (it's a rare horror movie where the villain needs a walker). The pulsing techno-y score was also enjoyable, despite the fact that I'm not much of a fan of that type of music. And it's certainly better than the Boglianos' Penumbra, which was their followup to this. They've made like ten movies together - perhaps I should work my way back? Anyone have any recommendations? I admire their seeming penchant for presenting unusual spins on familiar horror plots, but it seems character development and strong stories (two key ingredients for me) are not their strong suit. However, I see they make at least one movie a year, so perhaps they've already used up their best ideas in those areas in their earlier films? Anyone have a recommendation?
What say you?