Charlie Baxter, a struggling screenwriter, is searching for accommodation in a rundown mansion somewhere in the isolated mountains above Malibu. An expressionless and creatively bankrupt young man who rewrites exploitation sci-fi / horror scripts for a living, he takes a room in the mansion and learns of the mysterious doctor residing in the room above his own who dabbles in strange experiments.
Director – Albert Pyun
Starring – Morgan Weisser, Crystal Laws Green, Jenny Dare Paulin
H.P. Lovecraft. The name immediately invokes all kinds of strange and weird images, monsters, and things maybe best undiscovered. Attempting to put one of his short stories, Cool Air, onto film is screenwriter Cynthia Curnan and director Albert Pyun (they also worked together on Road To Hell). Did they succeed?
Sort of. I think it’s fair to say that any adaptation of Lovecraft is going to need a certain amount of atmosphere. Better if it gives you that creepy tingling sensation at the back of your neck. Makes the tiny hairs stand up. Is someone, or something, in the room with you? Unfortunately that is one area where Cool Air falls short. For awhile there is a cool air (pun not really intended) of mystery about just what the heck is going on in the upstairs room. But the reality, at least on film, doesn’t quite pay off.
In a weird way, this would’ve worked better without all of the visuals. I know, it’s a film, but maybe we’d be better off having it just as an audio book. Part of the problem is the film has a constant narration going. We hear the hero’s thoughts and see the action play out on screen. For the most part the narration is creepy in the sense that the word usage, while sometimes flowery and overly descriptive, gives you that Lovecraft feel. It’s just that the visuals don’t compliment them like they should. And that, for all intents and purposes, is the major shortcoming of the film.
But what is it all about? Struggling screenwriter Charlie Baxter is in desperate need of getting over a severe case of writer’s block. He finds a cheap room in a large Malibu mansion, just the place to recharge the mental batteries. The land lady of the boarding house seems nice enough. They even have satellite t.v. as she explains with one of the better lines in the movie: “I date the guy at the local Radio Shack so I get the programs for free.” Another classic line is, “there was blaming and fighting. There was liquor.”
Also at the house is her autistic daughter and two other boarders, one of whom is a mysterious Doctor who lives on the third floor. Nothing too out of the ordinary except the Doctor needs to keep the room no warmer than fifty-five degrees. And conducts strange experimental treatments. As to why that is, well, that’s part of the mystery.
Cool Air starts off to an overwhelmingly great beginning, all thanks to one of the better “written word intros” I’ve seen in awhile. I won’t repeat it all here but it deals with the death of a Doctor Torres and the rumor that by using an ancient Egyptian relic, he might have unlocked the power to re-animate the dead. Couple that with some good ‘ol Lovecraft, “There is no legend so old as to give it a name, or to recall that it was ever alive: but it is told of in whispers around campfires and muttered about by grandams in the tents of sheiks so that all the tribes shun it without wholly knowing why” and I immediately buckled down in my seat. What terror would unfold on the screen next?
Nothing really, and how frustrating it was. Overall I can’t say that I would recommend Cool Air. If you are a fan of Lovecraft than I would say check it out although I can’t guarantee you’ll enjoy it. Maybe it’s the half-drugged sounding delivery of the narration, the pacing that makes the little over an hour run time seem just a little longer, or the overall letdown of something more that just never happened. Whatever the case may be, the best word for all of it is frustrating. I give the filmmakers kudos for trying something a little different, but in the end it falls short.
Cool Air (2006)