Cold Blonded Murder/Irish Whisky (2003) Film Review (4/5)

For a collection of short films, it’s a bit difficult to really lay out a definitive grading. Do you grade each short individually, or do you grade the shorts collectively, giving the disc itself a cumulative grade? As I am weak and spineless, I’ve decided to give you, the reader, the best of both worlds concerning SV Bell’s DVD of “Cold Blonded Murder” and “Irish Whisky,” with an additional review of the extra-special short film “Beavra!” thrown in for shits and giggles, since I went through and watched every segment of the DVD in its entirety.

Doing this by alphabetical order, we start with “Beavra!” When I tell you that this is probably the funniest thing in the history of things, you’d better believe me. Clocking in at ten minutes in length, this short packs more of the funny in a compact space than most sitcoms manage in a 10-year broadcast stint. That’s right, “Friends.” You always sucked.
I watched this originally whilst enjoying a sweet, sweet repast of beer and freshly-grilled burgers, and I laughed so hard I sprayed beer out of my nose. Seriously, that’s no exaggeration; I’ve got the nasal scarring to prove it. Man, that shit hurt, too.

Five skulls, “Beavra!” Even though you made me waste beer via nostril explosion. Bad, bad radioactive mutant beaver.

Speaking of hurting, it’s hurt like hell to get stabbed, wouldn’t it? It’d probably also hurt to be stabbed by your hot blonde neighbor who managed to both seduce you and your longtime French-Canadian girlfriend who Ron could barely understand. No fault of hers, though. I know how accents can be; I live in close proximity to the American South. (Whoo-hoo, offended two regions in one fell swoop!)

Set in Toronto, there’s a serial killer on the loose, with over 15 people dead so far in a murder-spree of epic proportions to Canada. Odd that 15 murders is a lot to a major city, but then again I live in America, where 15 murders is a slow night in the Motor City. That’s neither here nor there.

This short was hit or miss for me. There were some good hits: the performance of Suzi Lorraine (who looks like she’s having a blast stabbing people, and who wouldn’t?) as Isha, the EC-comics style red-tint murder scenes, Bath Boy (Steve Requin), and a few wicked one liners from Chad (Michael Gingold), and a nice tight close-up of Abby (Isabelle Stephen)’s eyes during a particularly gruesome murder scene. I think I was most impressed, though, by the fairly brisk pacing of the short. SV Bell’s shown a knack for not padding down his shorts with unnecessary filler, instead letting the short be a real short when the plot demands it. I like that.

However, when making the inevitable gore comparisons to “The Night They Returned,” I was less impressed this time around. While there are good scenes, especially at the end, the Halloween trick-knife just didn’t impress me at all. It was too obvious that it was a stage knife during the stabbing scenes. I also wasn’t too impressed with the performances of either Michael Gingold, who was hit or miss, or Isabelle Stephen, who aside from one or two good emotional breakdowns, was mostly miss for me.

All in all, “Cold Blonded Murder” was middle of the road for me, so three skulls.

This leave us, since I went by alphabet, with “Irish Whisky,” which is essentially a ghost story crossed with a parable, crossed with a crazy cult, crossed with heavy-drinking sailors, insurance fraud, and spiders. This, although it pales in comparison to “Beavra!”, is probably the standout main-event short of the disc. It’s not hard to pale in comparison to the sheer brilliance of “Beavra!,” though, so don’t feel bad SV.

The plot involves the recriminations of a man named Gilchrist (Marc Noel) who sinks his rickety old shipping boats for the insurance money, heedless of the fact that people routinely die in these little ‘accidents.’ Gilchrist, you see, is a greedy fucksack with absolutely no redeeming characteristics. He’s like Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol,” if Scrooge actually murdered people rather than just working them to death without heat or a chamber pot.

Eventually, thing go awry and Tom Wade (Uncle Costya)’s son is killed in a shipping accident that is merely another one of Gilchrist’s schemes. Needless to say, Tom’s pissed and he’s got a plan for revenge, but damn if God doesn’t do all the work for him.
Where “Cold Blonded Murder” fell short, “Irish Whisky” excels. The acting is about as good as you can get without paying for actors, and the makeup effects on Gilchrist’s metamorphosis into a zombie/ghost/monster thing are simply spectacular. Uncle Costya (whose last name is credited on the IMDB but which I won’t even attempt to spell because I’ll kill it with my ham-like fists) is excellently cast as the angry, bitter, and brooding Wade, and Marc Noel is sufficiently sleazy without being 21st Century Scrooge.

As with most film noir, the camera work, setting, and tone serve as major characters right alongside the actors. The camerawork in the interview scenes are particularly inventive in this piece, and the black and white filming really works well with the ghost story elements. A lot of the reviews I’ve read minimize this half of the DVD, but I feel it’s the standout of the titular films, brooding and more psychological where “Cold Blonded Murder” is flashy and splattery.

Not everyone gets it or appreciates the tougher aspects of film craft like I do. Four skulls for this half, with the cumulative grade for the DVD being a healthy, hearty, and highly recommended 4 skulls overall. Follow that little link at the top of the Living Corpse page and help a poor Canadian brother out.

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