Cold Hell Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Presented by Shudder
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Written by Martin Ambrosch
2018, 92 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered on Shudder on March 15, 2018
Violetta Schurawlow as Özge Dogruol
Tobias Moretti as Christian Steiner
Robert Palfrader as Samir
Sammy Sheik as Saeed el Hadary
Friedrich von Thun as Karl Steiner
Özge (Violetta Schurawlow) is a Turkish cab driver and aspiring cage fighter living in Vienna, who witnesses the vicious murder of her neighbor. While staring at the repulsive scene in disbelief, the killer notices her and she becomes his next target. On the case is detective Christian Steiner (Tobias Moretti), who develops a bittersweet connection with Özge as the film unravels. We also meet his father, Karl (Friedrich von Thun). Meanwhile, as the antagonist is in pursuit of her, viewers learn more about Özge’s citizenship, her family members, an ex-boyfriend and why she has a major chip on her shoulder.
The opening scene sets the stage with exposition as to who Özge is at the core; and that’s an angry woman who suppresses her feelings and kicks men’s asses. Whether it is an informal sparing match in the octagon that gets carried away or a drunken patron trying to hail a cab, Özge is tough as Kevlar and doesn’t take shit from anyone. In the wake of all the media covering the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, it is inspiring to see art (which stems from the word artifact) present this as the central theme to a horror film. This is not the first time we’ve seen such strong female protagonists, but seeing Özge, an extremely complex character, battling some serious demons, square off against men in physical bouts is compelling. One cannot resist cheering for her, even when you know she is capable of being in the wrong.
Cold Hell is a German film and none of the players are familiar, but the cast executes with precision. The realism is conveyed through top-tier acting, especially from lead Violetta Schurawlow. Her performance is exceptional, as most viewers’ emotions are inevitably going to be heartened and frayed. There is a scene where Özge is looking in the mirror, observing her battle scars, and there is no distinction between actor and character, which is a major positive. It is consequently easy to see familiar performers in distinct roles and when they take on a part in the future, it is hard to see them as another character. Ralph Macchio will forever be The Karate Kid, yet he has over 50 acting credits. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, making or breaking a career—look at Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, and his rollercoaster ride.
In a supporting role, Friedrich von Thun portrays Karl Steiner, father to Christian. Karl suffers from dementia and is in need of constant supervision. His character adds more depth to who Christian is at the core, which is polarizing from when we initially meet him in the beginning of the film. Cold Hell is the perfect example of how the secondary characters can become central to not only the events that unfold, but also furthering the underlying themes and subtext, which Cold Hell is full of. Not only does von Thun do a superb job as Karl, but all the supporting actors here help make this almost near perfect.
Along with the vigorous cast, the technical aspects of Cold Hell are also robust. Gorgeous cinematography of two major cities, Vienna, Austria, and Munich, Germany, add to the hectic atmosphere created by director Stefan Ruzowitzky and collaborators. The pacing never slows down, much like in a city (especially that crazy place that never sleeps), and seeing the artificial concrete jungle rather than an organic nature setting is crucial for this film to work. If this was the suburbs, it would be slower than molasses. The score is full of suspenseful crescendo and decrescendo, making our auditory senses wield together with the rise and fall of conflict.
This is the way fast-paced horror-thrillers should be made—relentless, aggressive and full of analytical depth. Cold Hell is on the top of the 2018 releases and is a not-to-miss flick.