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I'd seen a couple of adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft's "Cool Air"--about a doctor who cheats death but must remain in an artificially-cooled environment to preserve his reanimated body--but I'd never read the original story. So in order to make an informed comparison, I gave it a quick read before watching CHILL (2007). Sure enough, there are elements of Lovecraft's elegant short story in there somewhere, but they're buried beneath quite a bit of sludge.
Sam (Thomas Calabro, "Melrose Place") is an aspiring but penniless young writer who gets a job in a butcher shop. The owner, a Dr. Muņoz (Shaun Kurtz), lives in the back where it's always nice and cold. He tells Sam that the reason for this is that he has an ultra-rare skin disease, but it doesn't take us long to figure out that the guy's dead--or, rather, undead--and, with the help of his similarly living-dead henchman Tor, has been attacking and kidnapping local hookers and other victims to supply him with fresh skin to patch himself up with. So when Sam discovers a few of them hanging around the meat locker, he may be next in line.
Kurtz tries to be mysterious and creepy as Dr. Muņoz, but with his vague resemblance to Jeff Daniels he mainly comes off as a somewhat comical doofus. As our hero, Sam, Calabro is barely there most of the time. Even HELLRAISER's Ashley Laurence, as Sam's love interest Maria, seems to spend most of the film in a daze. The only performance worth noting comes from veteran actor James Russo--as a sleazy cop who's stalking Maria, he manages to jazz up a few scenes here and there, but his character doesn't really go anywhere. The rest of the cast is less than impressive.
There are a couple of fairly good makeup effects and some pretty bad ones, but overall the occasional violence and gore are rather blah. Although writer-director Serge Rodnunsky manages to get through the quieter scenes without knocking anybody out with the camera, the direction and editing of the chase and attack sequences are just plain bad. People run and run through empty city streets while Muņoz and Tor seem able to simply pop up wherever they want to at will. Worst of all is the film's climax, which features some of the most wince-inducingly bad digital effects I've ever seen. As for the musical score, it isn't bad for the most part, but during the more frenetic scenes it's about as grating as having someone shove a bucket over your head and beat on it with a frying pan.
At the end, CHILL tries to pull the rug out from under us with a series of surprise twists that just get dumber and dumber. Suffice it to say, Dr. Muņoz and Tor aren't the only dead people walking around--it's a "he's dead, she's dead, omigod, we're all dead" free-for-all before the final fadeout. In fact, you might want to check yourself out, because after sitting through this flick you might be dead, too.
Added: Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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