Cold Meat - FrightFest World Premiere
Director: Sébastien Drouin
Starring: Nina Bergman, Allen Leech, Yan Tual, Sydney Hendricks
Written by: Sébastien Drouin, James Kermack, Andrew Desmond
Produced by: James Barton-Steel, James Kermack, Julien Loeffler, Jana Philips, Shayna Putzlocher, Jessica Watch
Cinematography by: Ryan Petey
Original Score by: Cyril Morin
After saving a young diner waitress from her violent ex-husband, David runs his car off the road during a snowstorm. But the cold is the least of his worries when a beast starts prowling outside. How will he survive?
If being trapped in your car during a blizzard in the Black Mountains of Colorado isn't bad enough, imagine there being an unseen but heard beast outside. That is the basic setup for 'Cold Meat' which on the surface feels like a survival based horror film with a supernatural twist but as the story unfolds it becomes something entirely different. It is extremely difficult to write about a film like 'Cold Meat' without veering off into spoiler territory so full disclosure that from here on out there will be spoilers.
Speaking of spoilers, the opening narration read over some beautiful shots of a snow covered forest almost gives away the big twist that comes around at the end of the first act. It feels a little needless and almost tacked on. The film would be better served by just opening with our lead character David (Allen Leech) taking a drive through a snowstorm only to end up at a diner where he encounters a waitress called Ana (Nina Bergman) who is being threatened by her abusive husband Vincent (Yan Tual). Thanks to David's intervention Ana is saved in a very by the numbers scene meant to elicit tension.
The drama doesn't end here as Vincent catches up with David and in the process of trying to escape he crashes his car into a snow mound setting in motion his fight for survival only he is not alone in the car. We soon discover that he has kidnapped Ana and has tied her up in the boot of his car in a twist that offers something very different for these kinds of survivalist thrillers. Everything is set up to lead us to believe that there is some kind of monster outside where in truth it is a battle between hunter and prey inside the car.
The film marks the directorial debut for Sébastien Drouin who does a fine job at keeping the tension boiling over between David and Ana in the car for most of the film. Some of the shots he utilises such as the use of the rearview mirror, elevates how disturbed David is as a character. The highlight for Drouin's work in the film comes when David recalls the first time he kidnapped and murdered someone. The low angle shots that switch between the characters in the front seat make for unsettling viewing as we are made to feel like helpless passengers in the back seat.
When we first meet David in the diner there feels something a little off about him as a character even though he is trying to do the right thing in saving Ana from Vincent. It is almost like Leech is playing him straight laced to the extreme which is only more noticeable in hindsight. Once we find out what he actually is like, you can tell that Leech is having fun and chewing a bit of scenery with some Hannibal Lecter-like line deliveries that Leech sinks his teeth into. There is also a blackness to the pupils that highlights how he is dead inside and driven purely by his compulsion to kill.
Opposite him, Bergman does a good job as a perpetual victim who almost sees David as another cruel hand that fate has dealt her. Bergman taps into the resourcefulness and the toughness of her character but what really makes her performance tick is when her vulnerability slips through, making her more human. For all the psychological barbs she swats away from David there are times they break through and with that we see how the gravity of her situation and life in general breaks her in through her facial expressions and speech patterns.
Despite all of this positivity the one thing that lets the film down is the script. The well realised visuals in the film are let down through some clunky dialogue that at times feels immature. For example when Ana is trying to get back at David for torturing her she says, "you don't mind if I call you fucked up mother fucker". This and a lot of the film's dialogue comes across as being quite juvenile, damaging the tension previously laid out. Structurally it is strange because with the exception of two nightmare sequences we almost forget that there is a monster lurking outside until the anticlimactic finale. By the end you feel that the whole selling point of the premise feels pointless in its execution. Although the sequence in which David goes over his first kill is a highlight, it comes late on in the film and doesn't really fit in with the general flow of the film.
On paper a film like 'Cold Meat' may come across as being a potential sleeper hit thanks to the wonderful twist at the end of the first act. With some steady direction and two solid leading performances that work a long way at maintaining the film's tension and intrigue, there is only so much that they can do when working with a weak script. Whilst it is ultimately a let down there is still a fair amount to admire about the film.
- Joseph McElroy
'Cold Meat' received it's World Premiere at Frightfest '23 on August 27th and Signature Entertainment presents 'Cold Meat' on Digital Platforms coming in 2024