If there’s anything I hate it’s a movie with a good premise but terrible execution. That’s one of the many, many problems with The Cold (1984). The first problem is that it was made by my good buddy Bill Rebane, the mind behind Monster-a-Go-Go, Giant Spider Invasion, and my personal unfavorite, The Alpha Incident. When I saw his name in the opening credits, I knew that we were in for a world of deep hurting.
The premise is simple; three rich old people invite nine people to a resort and expose them to their greatest fears. The last one standing gets a million dollars. Nice and simple, right? Ahh, but it’s the execution that counts.
First of all, there was the sound. I’m pretty sure the filmmakers wedged all the mikes in a box of cereal and put that across the room. That means only about a third of the lines are comprehensible. Then there’s the baffling decision to occasionally pepper the movie with music that can only be described as what you’d hear in a brothel circa 1890 after a hard day of panning for gold. As in, for no reason whatsoever this whorehouse piano music would just start playing. It has nothing to do with the scene, I mean, it’s not like they cast Jiggle Billy.
Then there’s the acting. It’s like they took a troupe of community theater actors and fed them the most awkward lines in existence. More awkward than the mom’s line in Cathy’s Curse about having a nervous breakdown. Imagine seeing an abandoned house and saying, “This looks like a good place for ghost hunting” then stiffly turning around and walking away. The old people do nothing but bicker. Aside from their boredom with cribbage, we’re never given a motivation for them, either. They don’t seem particularly sadistic. I guess they were just bored at Shady pines. And the nine people are virtually indistinguishable. I can’t remember any of their names so I renamed them; Sexy, Southern, Smarty, Singer, Sleazy, Freddy like Freddy from Scooby Doo, Bandana, Band Member 1, and Band Member 2. There’s no explanation of their motivations either. We don’t know why they need the money and would be willing to put themselves in danger for it. There aren’t any stakes so there’s no reason for me to care.
Finally, there are the scares. As in, their nonexistence. There’s no exposition so we’re not told what the people fear. We do find out that they’re dumb as hell when Sexy is in the swimming pool, sees a shark fin and freaks out. She’s terrified of Bart Simpson wearing a fake fin.
That picture is another scare, proof that Bill Rebane had some spiders left over after Giant Spider Invasion.
There are lots of fake dummy corpses and fake decapitated heads that these people fall for even though they look like they came from party city.
It’s hard to be scared when the actors are coming out with bon mots such as, “Want a pickle?” Or when Sleazy tells Southern that the old folks are spying and Southern says, “Even in the baaaaathrooom?!”
Then there are moments that are just befuddling. Such as when Smarty is sleeping and we see this ghostly version of herself step out of her body, go into the pool for a swim, and then get scared by a python. Or a boa. I’m not sure which. So was it a dream? Did she astrally project herself? It looked like this.
I have no clue what this means!
There’s a creepy, vaguely hunchbacked guy who lurks around the movie the whole time.
At one point, Sexy falls asleep while watching Giant Spider Invasion and this thing pops out of her bed. This seems like a very specific fear. I mean, I only worry about dust mites in my mattress, I don’t worry about the unholy offspring of E.T. and a face-hugger coming out of my bed.
My personal favorite moment, though, is when Smarty hears a noise in her closet. She opens the door and finds what I can only describe as a decapitated skeleton rubbing its own head on its crotch.
The movie has about three different twist endings and left me so confused as to render me enraged. I would have destroyed the dvd but the other side has The Demon of Ludlow on it and I want to see that.
In a final “fuck you” from the filmmakers, the old people end up trapped in a sauna and they see this weird ghost kabuki actor thing out the window. Is someone pranking them? Who knows, I sure don’t.
All I know is that for all the unintentional laughs this movie delivered that I still hated it and all the Bea Arthur inspired accessories in the world can’t save it.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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