Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Cold Blood | Dark Remains

By Steve Anderson
February 1st, 2006

Cold Blood
****
DVD
Directed by Brian Avenet-Bradley
Written by Brian Avenet-Bradley
Starring Barnes Walker III, Carrie Walrond, John L. Altom
Produced by Laurence Avenet-Bradey
NR
80 mins

It's a bit out of sequence, but this is Brian Avenet-Bradley's first film. Longtime readers will remember my "Ghost of the Needle" coverage about a month back, and now, thanks to Heretic Films' recent rerelease, Brian Avenet-Bradley's first film is back in video stores.

And man...is it ever a winner.

"Cold Blood" is the...well...let's face it, downright chilling story of a man who murders his wife in a fit of insane, homicidal rage.

And yet, strangely, he's still in love with her. He even goes so far as to wash the blood off her face after braining her with a baseball bat. The man actually cleans up the crime scene himself, down to the coffee mug spilled and broken when she fell after getting hit with the bat.

In a quick fifteen second montage, we discover that she's been cheating on him (actually, he caught her in bed with the other man!), and this is why he gave her a Louisville divorce.

No one actually knows he did it. He's free, and uncaught, no trouble there. But naturally, he's feeling pretty guilty about what he's done, and thus packs up to go to the family farm.

Interestingly enough, that's where our boy J.M. (the wifekiller) married our girl Andrea (the cuckolding wife).

Oh, yeah...did I mention that he goes back to the farm almost one year to the day after marrying her?

This can't end well.

Now, the sequence just ahead of the seven minute mark, where JM tries to get Andrea's corpse out of the building without anyone noticing is just fantastically well done. This is a full minute of the most creative and tautly plotted suspense I have seen in a long time. Incredible stuff, really.

There are, to be sure, some positively chilling stretches in "Cold Blood". Lots of shadows moving for no reason and upon investigation have no causes. JM gets frequently shocking discoveries of random people just suddenly cropping up in and around the farmhouse he took up residence in.

And the plot just becomes more and more complex with every passing minute, putting an enormous onus on the ending to manage to tie up so very many loose ends. Murder, blackmail, any of a dozen other crimes crop up in a thriller that is easily the rival of any of the greats. There are a great many harrowing sequences where he is very nearly caught, or even IS caught, red-handed in his crimes, and only quick thinking (or worse) on Jim's part.

In fact, given the slate of recent releases from Heretic Films, this is easily the best I've seen from them.

The ending is one long string of surprises that actually manages to wrap up all of the loose ends, which is a daunting task in itself given the depth of the plot.

The special features include a making of featurette, deleted scenes, cast and crew bios, a featurette revolving around the music behind the story, Brian Avenet-Bradley's commentary, French and English subtitles, and a trailer for "Cold Blood."

All in all, "Cold Blood" is the shining star in Heretic Films' lineup--easily their best. It's also the best thing Brian Avenet-Bradley has ever done, not to slight his other work, but this one's just fantastic.

 

 

Dark Remains
****
DVD
Directed by Brian Avenet-Bradley
Written by Brian Avenet-Bradley
Starring Cheri Christian, Greg Thompson, Scott Hodges, Jeff Lyons
Produced by Laurence Avenet-Bradley
NR
93 mins

Okay, I'm gonna sound like a fanboy one of these days. Because the more and more I see roll out of Avenet Images that has to do with Brian Avenet-Bradley, the more I wind up squealing and clapping my hands like one of those Wolverine fanboys who only crawl out of their parents' basements for cons and New Comic Day.

This is just the case with "Dark Remains," the latest from Avenet and probably the best thing they've done yet.

Now, most of you were here when I did "Cold Blood" and said THAT was the best thing Avenet ever did and now you get to see me retract it feeling like a right bloody imbecile because I didn't wait long to blow my hyperbole wad.

When you start off a movie with a pair of suicides in the first two minutes, you know you're in for a wild ride.

But anyway, "Dark Remains" serves up a vicious little story. A young couple's, Allen and Julie's, daughter is murdered in a surprising discovery late one night, and in their grief they move to a cabin in the woods.

Would YOU want to stay in the same house where your daughter was killed mere weeks ago? Not hardly, says I.

But of course, when you move to a cabin in the woods in a horror movie, you can pretty much forget about a restful experience. Especially when this cabin is within walking distance of a graveyard and an abandoned prison camp.

I've made trenchant points before about real estate and horror movies...this is the perfect underliner. How do you rent out the house that makes the Amityville property look like Trump Plaza? In this case, you don't tell anybody.

From there, of course, Allen and Julie begin to find out more about the area, its bloody history, and how it relates to their recently deceased daughter.

Now, let me make something perfectly clear. Calling "Dark Remains" the best thing Avenet has ever released is not mere hyperbole. This little fella is going to redefine your standard of creepy by virtue of the fact that something creepy will happen between every five and ten minutes.

It's like clockwork. I counted creepy scenes at four minutes ten seconds, eight minutes ten seconds, nine minutes twenty one seconds, fifteen minutes thirty seconds, twenty minutes nineteen seconds, thirty minutes twenty eight seconds, thirty nine minutes twenty five seconds and forty eight minutes twenty eight seconds.

And that's just where I stopped counting.

Here's the killer part. Avenet can't even use the standard array of horror cliches without making them vehicles for creepy delivery. There's a shower scene. There's a scene where the grieving mother blows lots of time on watching home movies of her now-dead daughter. There's a cemetery. There's an abandoned prison. But Avenet manages to take every scene that would have so much as a grain of cliche in it and turn it into this thoroughly cringeworthy affair. He's got stuff coming out of nowhere at every opportunity.

If you're not scared by the one hour mark, then you're either way too jaded or just plain superhuman.

Avenet has a gift for building tension in the simplest things, and he's supported by the work of a fantastic cast. Christian, Thompson, Hodges, and Evans, et al, are just spectacular. There isn't a bum performance in the lot. Makeup effects are blatantly jaw-dropping, and I only wish there were more I could say about this thoroughly satisfying and thoroughly scary masterwork.

Hell, go get a thesaurus and insert your favorite synonym for good right here:

Go ahead. It'll work.

The ending, in no uncertain terms, takes the creepy cake. If I elaborate on this any further I WILL destroy the plot, so I'm sticking to my original statement.

The special features will include a trailer, audio options, display options and probably plenty more once a distributor gets hold of it.

All in all, unbelievable. "Dark Remains" is a suspense film the like of which hasn't been released in a long time. Direct to video suspense is relatively rare in the industry, but if "Dark Remains" is the calibre it can issue forth, then I and my DVD player eagerly await the next round.

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line. 

Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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