By KEVIN HOOVER
Starring Larry Fessenden, Nalani Wakita, Griffin Cork
Written and directed by Dionne Copland
In Rue Morgue’s 2021 Year in Review (RM# 204), the practice of films crawling their way to an absurd two-hour-plus run time was voted the “Worst Trend” in horror. A distinction justly earned because increasingly, directors have felt the need to bloat out their scripts with unnecessary filler and assume that viewers will idly sit by while life goes unlived, all because they felt their movie warranted an extra 30 minutes or so to get its point across.
Note to any director contemplating whether or not your current work-in-progress requires more than 90 minutes to do its thing: it doesn’t. We were already gracious enough to give you an hour and a half; very rarely will we give you any more. We have other shit to do. COLD WIND BLOWING, the debut feature of Dionne Copland, may not break the tape stretched across the 120-minute finish line, but at 112 minutes, it sure trots right up to the edge of it. And, sans a few moments of character development and narrative exposition, there’s a hefty near 45 minutes or so that would have best been left on the cutting room floor.
The film’s premise centers on six friends who venture out to a cabin in the middle of the snowy woods to spend Christmas together, a setup of which only the most committed among us will endure the first 50 minutes of its overabundance of mundanity. We’ll see our gang drive, buy supplies, cook breakfast, search out a Christmas tree, decorate said Christmas tree, cook some more, drink, and fight. There’s a sparsity of anything interesting, and the few noteworthy developments there are shine like a beacon through seaside fog if only because of being surrounded by such drawn-out periods of tedium.
But, to the film’s defense, for such a pedestrian cast filled with everyday twenty-somethings, only the bare minimum of effort needed to be applied. In that regard, all pertinent details come across pretty cleanly. Nomi (Angela Way) is upset that her ex-boyfriend Max (Alexander Lowe) was invited to tag along. Casey (M.J. Kehler) is the party girl that seemingly doesn’t date outside her immediate circle of friends and won’t be happy until she’s checked as many of them as possible off her list. Aside from some chatter between locals establishing that bad things are to come much, much, much later, and a single red-hued instance of voyeurism, nothing is frightening or even anxiety-inducing. Getting through the opening slog will prove to be a battle of attrition that most viewers simply won’t survive.
At around the 52-minute mark – which is when COLD WIND BLOWING’s title finally emerges onto the screen – there’s an abrupt adjustment to its trajectory and things start down the path of what we were promised from the onset; a horror film. And what follows isn’t terribly bad. By no account is it convention-shattering, but considering this is the director’s debut feature, it’s at least a passable effort and feels like it would be the highlight of any midnight film fest. As it turns out, our group of friends is being hunted a scratching, gnawing, gnashing sort of a thing that doesn’t want them alive, and focus is shifted from infighting and decking the halls to escaping their frosty confines.
The big bad isn’t afforded a lot of screen time, aside for a few glimpses of an animal-skull fashioned mask, and there’s no explanation as to the unmitigated bloodlust for our cabin dwellers; the former of which can be written off due to budgetary constraints, the latter most likely due to the exorbitant amount of time burned in the first half of the movie. Occasional voice cameos by Larry Fessenden as radio host The Wolf should elicit some appreciation from those in the know, and the film’s setting is a literal winter wonderland, gorgeous in its depiction of a snow-blanketed countryside. A perfect backdrop, one would imagine, to drench with copious amounts of grue. But unfortunately, there’s not a lot of on-screen carnage, with an exception being a scene where Thomas (Cameron Petersen) suffers a rather nasty wound and Samantha (Nalani Wakita) laughably attempts a Road House-inspired fix.
COLD WIND BLOWING’s director, Dionne Copland, is a skilled hand at producing short films, and it’s within that plane of existence where this endeavor feels like it would at least hold water. She demonstrates that she has the chops to stake some claim as a new name in horror, but COLD WIND BLOWING will not be remembered as the film that launched her career. As it is, strip away the excessive amounts of fat in the opening half, and what’s left behind is a somewhat capable story. In fact, there’s even enough material that, should it have been elaborated upon, could’ve at least given rise to a fairly passable 90-minute movie. But a near two-hour attempt is a fatal mistake that will prevent some from ever making it to the intended scary bits, let alone the final credits.
COLD WIND BLOWING is available to rent or purchase on select digital platforms, including Google Play.