That said, it’s roots remain literary. Lansdale’s book is largely preserved in this film, but it does lack a bit in the flavor of Lansdale’s prose. That may be something that’s beyond the ability of film, but I don’t know. It’s not like people haven’t captures the flavor of other distinctive prose stylists before. Chandler, for instance, or Ray Bradbury. For want of a better word, this film is colder than what you find in Lansdale’s novel, perhaps because it substitutes a schematic sense of style for the writer’s local color and verbal humor. Mind you, it has his appetite for the grotesque. The scene near the end when Dane is struggling for a gun and it goes off, painting the light fixtures red, is pure Lansdale, as is the sick humor in the titling of a snuff film that figures in the plot. This is a weird thread of criticism for me to pursue, actually, because Lansdale’s prose is partly derived from an immersion in cinema culture. I dunno how else to describe it, though.
The closest this comes to Lansdale’s prose is in the portrayal of Don’ Johnson’s Jim Bob, who is almost a cartoon. The actor relishes the outlandishness of the role and whenever he’s on screen, the film has a kind of manic glee behind it. Oh, don’t get me wrong: Michael C. Hall is terrific in the lead, a character who is dramatically different from either Dexter Morgan or David Fisher. Hall is one of those chameleonic actors who seems to fade into his characters. Sam Shepherd, for his part oozes menace as Russell, before settling into a groove as a man whose very manhood is offended by what his son has become. For that matter, Jim Mickle continues to evolve into one of the few solid genre guys still working, one mostly untouched by self-conscious post-modern reflexivity. I’m not going to complain about the feast laid out by this film even if it tastes different than what I was expecting.
Read the rest of the Morbius review at Krell Laboratories.
The movie tie-in edition of Cold in July is currently available from all finer outlets.
Cold in July the movie, starring Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Sam Shepard (Black Hawk Down), and Don Johnson (Miami Vice), is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Book cover design by Elizabeth Story.