Cold Grip DVD Review
Written by Milos Jovanovic
Released by Screen Entertainment
Written and directed by Javier Barbera
2004, Region 0 (PAL), 79 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)DVD released on October 24th, 2005
Jeff A. Hartman
Robert (Juan Sola), a young businessman in his late 20s - early 30s, arrives to LA from New York, seemingly on the verge of closing some deals for his company. What Robert does not know is that he's being carefully looked upon by the prying eyes of Greta (Anna Lluch), an attractive latin girl, who surreptitiously takes a Polaroid photo of him as he's exiting the airport building. Greta then casually forces him into splitting a cab together, and there they start a random conversation, which ends with two of them exchanging numbers.
Later that night, they arrange to meet each other for a drink, which (of course) leads to two of them having sex at his hotel room. Morning comes and Robert wakes up in an empty bed, but there is a big surprise for him in store — the room mirror is covered with a huge "H I V" painted in lipstick red, along with a drawing of a sad smiley below it. Turns out, Greta is a vengenful character whose main occupation is spreading the deadly virus to unsuspecting flirting males, as witnessed by her ever-growing collection of polaroid snaps.
But Robert is not gonna let this one slide. Oh no. He rents a carpenter's workshop, then stakes Greta out and kidnaps her. And then, the real fun begins.
It seems that the good ol' '70s subgenre of "boy meets girl, girl rubs boy wrong, boy hacks girl up" is enjoying a big time revival these days. Javier Barbera's Cold Grip is another example of such a revenge tale, with some original things, but a rather bland and inept execution.
For starters, nobody is going to rent a revenge gore thriller to marvel at its cinematography or acting talent. So, when you go out and get yourself a copy of, say, I Spit on Your Grave, you're doing so just because you want to see blood. The meat of Cold Grip is the scenes in which Robert demonstrates his skill at carpentry on Greta, yet those very scenes are pretty tame. Due to the budgetary constraints, Greta is almost exclusively shown from her back, and Robert's hurting yields very little blood for all the effort. All the punches and slaps which he inflicts on her are very fake (when he slaps her, the sound effect resembles one's hand cutting through a stream of water, rather than a juicy "swisssshhhhhthwap"). Finally, the thing he does to Greta in the end is presumably VERY gory — but the viewer sees nothing of it. Not a damned thing. Just the male lead operating an instrument, with girl's hand the only body part in frame. The concept of vengeance through HIV spreading started off interesting, but as Barbera gives us no gore to gawk at, it goes all for naught. The only moment which delivers is well after the midway chop-a-thon, and looks rather realistic - still, one convincing gore scene in 80 minutes which were once promising is just too few.
What's arguably worse is that Barbera essentially padded a 35-minute feature into an 80-minute feature. The script is filled with stilted dialogue and unfunny jokes, and the bulk of all scenes are either slo-mo'd to make them look either more artistic, or more procrastinating, or just unneccessary. When Robert takes the subway to the carpenter's workshop, the director wastes about five good minutes with shots of Robert walking through the subway, inspecting the maps, then focusing on the carpenter, his tablesaws, etc. That's not as heinous as some of the things at the tail end of the picture, but I'll leave that to you to figure out. What we ultimately get is a film whose non-action parts are stretched for the sake of filling the disc, and whose action parts are short and flat.
The acting is decent, although you will have a hard time believing Robert is a businessman from New York with his thick latin accent. Best impression is left by the guy running the carpentry workshop, and he might be either Jeff A. Hartman or Alejandro Cardenas, as the film credits fail to tell us who is who. I'm leaning towards Hartman though, as two male actors out of three have hispanic accents here, and Hartman somehow sounds most caucasian, in accordance with his speech pattern.
Summed up short, give this one a wide berth. If you do fancy seeing young women slashed to pieces, however, rent some of the Guinea Pig movies instead.
Video and Audio:
Cold Grip is presented in 4:3 fullscreen aspect ratio, despite IMDB reporting that this film was originally shot in 1.85:1 widescreen. Considering, however, that Barbera is hardly Sergio Leone, this manipulation is very minor and almost nothing is lost. I would go as far to judge the IMDB information false, as all shot compositions look tailored for the near-square lens. The quality of the video is a bit worse than expected — the first two thirds of the film have noticable grain and pixellation, while the final 20 minutes suddenly become too pixellated and generally messy, like a lo-res Google video feed which got fullscreened. The only audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, which is decent and clear-sounding. The film is well-partitioned in 16 chapters - actually, considering that the whole thing runs not even 80 minutes, maybe that's a touch too well.
The extras appear in form of one trailer, which is also in fullscreen, and a customary (for Screen Entertainment, that is) Other Attractions feature, which is essentialy a catalogue of their releases, honoured here with either a cover still, or a trailer, or, well, both.
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