It’s WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH! I’ve long decried the lack of female representation in mainstream genre cinema, but have – sadly – not been as committed to covering films written and directed by women as I would like. Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to interview talented female filmmakers like Tonjia Atomic, Dayna Noffke, Kansas Bowling and Katie Carman who are embracing their limited resources and making entertaining, original microbudget productions. But still.. inevitably my stack of no-budget screeners are dominated by men.
So it was a relief to be given the opportunity to check out NOBODY CAN COOL from the filmmaking team DPYX (first-timers Marcy Boyle and Rachel Holzman); a suspense thriller that uses its limited cast and locations to effectively tell an old-fashioned “bickering couple comes upon crooks on the run” story. While occasionally sunk by some weak performances and a script that forces the characters to make some bafflingly dumb decisions to service the plot, it’s also a slickly directed and intelligently paced work that pays off its rocky start with a fine, exciting climax.
Susan and David are a young vacationing couple who accidentally wander upon on-the-run criminals Len and (the very pregnant) Gigi when attempting to stay at a friend’s remote cabin. With a dying comrade upstairs, the criminal pair can’t leave until the fourth member of their group arrives, and tempers soon flare as Len’s frustration with the situation grows. While Susan makes efforts to escape, David bickers endlessly and they inevitably get recaptured, but the group seems to bond somewhat before the loose cannon Mo shows up to drive the plot towards its inevitably violent end.
While hardly breaking new ground, the formula of a remote location, unhinged criminals and a (mostly) innocent couple makes for reliable suspense. Things are hampered slightly by David being so ridiculously unsympathetic (he’s honestly much more unpleasant than Len), but for the first twenty minutes or so things run along very smoothly. The film is also helped immensely by strong performances from Catherine Annette (as Susan) and — in particular — LAID TO REST“s Nick Principe, who overcomes some inconsistent characterization to effectively portray the overwhelmed Len. The two carry the film through it’s roughest bits, particularly when compared to the amateur dramatics of some of the supporting players.
Things do take a frustrating turn at the film’s half-way mark. Characters start to act really inconsistently, and the momentum suffers significantly. When Susan repeatedly makes the sensible suggestion that David and herself should simply run off into the woods – since they would have a better chance out there then among the gun-toting killers – his response is simply that she’s “stupid.” Of course, David is a complete prick.. but after their fifth or sixth close call, you think simply getting out of there would be the priority. When Susan finally DOES run off, it appears she goes about ten feet before stopping(?!?) and screaming her head off. When characters are making so much effort to be caught it’s hard to have too much sympathy for them.
In the film’s most bizarre sequence, Susan and David have managed to turn the tables on their captors. David heads off in search of Gigi, while Susan holds a gun on Len. In a rather unique twist, Susan is faced with a very real scenario — she needs to use the bathroom. Len continually uses the opportunity to manipulate Susan, suggesting they go off in search of David and — in one instance — actually attempting to attack Susan and get his gun back. While this should create a situation of incredible tension, instead the moment turns comic; with Susan having to urinate in a pot while Len looks on and laughs. This eventually leads to the two sitting together (?!?) and chatting while they wait for their significant others to return. Never mind that Len has continually threatened to kill the pair up to this point, or that David could easily have been killed outside (since Gigi has a gun, and he doesn’t). The scene is obviously meant to show that Len isn’t entirely irredeemable, and to help set up some moments late in the film, but instead it makes Susan appear to be completely incompetent.
Thankfully the ship rights itself with the arrival of Mo, who helps focus the plot and immediately ramps up the tension – even if David still continues to be a source of severe irritation. DPYX really show what they can do in these sequences, with the staging and editing both really impressive for a first feature. The eventual climax is hampered by some cheesy visual effects, but it’s admirably bloody and provides some much needed consequence after 80+ minutes of threats and stress.
NOBODY CAN COOL is an occasionally frustrating, but ultimately entertaining, film that makes great use out of its remote location and finds a satisfying conclusion in its reliably tense plot. DPYX prove capable at manipulating the pieces around the chess board, but falter a bit with a script that has characters acting inconsistently, and a meandering middle section that too-often loses its way. Thankfully the pair show a talent for creating three dimensional female characters, and show flashes of inspiration that make me extremely curious to see what they work on next. Worth your time, but I’m sure the best is yet to come.
Three Nightmares out of Five = Shows Potential
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016
Tags: No-Budget Nightmares