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Cold Light of Day Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

Nekromantik but with less goo

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3.6

Fhiona-Louise’s 1989 film Cold Light of Day is a clinical undertaking, an attempt to mold a docudrama out of the gruesome story of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen. The film does everything in its power to reference this true crime case (including the exceptional likeness of star Bob Flag) except use Nilsen’s name; instead, we’re treated to a “based on true events” disclaimer as we follow Jorden Marsh, normal everyday guy living in a crappy flat with annoying neighbors who just happens to put bodies underneath a loose floorboard and pull them out every now and then to get freaky. Cold Light of Day labors on the day-to-day of Marsh’s life as his murder spree spirals out of control.

Flag performs well as the often uncomfortably confused Marsh; Cold Light of Day portrays him as someone who recognizes the evil of his ways but is somewhat unable to control his urges in the moment. Fhiona-Louise structures the film around Marsh’s interrogation with police after he’s caught, and then cuts back to the moments that Marsh is relaying from his past. In some ways, though, the film seems to be showing its audience more than Marsh is confessing; in one scenario, Inspector Simmons (Geoffrey Greenhill) asks if Marsh had sex with the body, and Marsh says he didn’t, but in the next scene we see it happening.

Cold Light of Day‘s cold, calculated retelling of the true crime story is chilling because of its sparsity. It doesn’t try any special camera tricks or effects, it is more like a fly on the wall watching all of the proceedings. Fhiona-Louise juxtaposes Marsh’s grotesque dismemberments with him helping an elderly neighbor to the bath or giving money to the homeless. It somehow makes him seem more evil, especially when he takes advantage of those more helpless victims.

But its dryness can also make it feel lumbering and slow, with the beginning of the film notably lingering around without much point or context. Its clinical nature often seems lacking of panache or vibrancy. Some may find Fhiona-Louise’s direction a bit too lackluster. That leaves a conflicting feeling; in some ways, that starkness is intentional, since the audience isn’t really supposed to find the events of Cold Light of Day thrilling in a titillating way. As for enjoyment: it’s going to depend on the audience’s expectation of tarted-up true crime by today’s standards.

Blu-ray

Arrow Video has released Cold Light of Day with a 2K scan of the original 16mm AB negative. The film’s 16mm format does show some limitations here, with an overly heavy grain scale that limits the overall detail. However, Arrow’s scan does do the film a service in that the lower resolution aids the film’s cold mood, lending it another element of atmosphere. Colors (albeit limited in this film) are consistent and natural, and the only real detriment is the film’s minimal dark sequences, which suffer from the grain resolution. However, keeping in mind the source, this Blu-ray release will probably be the best Cold Light of Day will see.

The English LPCM mono mix included is not exactly robust, but it gets the job done. This is most likely due to the original mix than anything Arrow has done with the restoration; you’ll notice a bit of echo in the interrogation scenes. English subtitles are also included.

Extra features are pretty robust for a release of this ilk. The most notable is the new audio commentary from director Fhiona-Louise, who notably did not direct anything after the release of Cold Light of Day. Another new audio commentary comes from film historians Dean Brandum and Andrew Nette discussing the artistic merits of the film. Two new interviews are featured: one with actor Martin Byrne-Quinn, who played one of Marsh’s victims; the other an interview with actor Steve Munroe, a drug dealer in the movie.

Also included are some archival extras including the original promo film, two short films amassing the entirety of Fhiona-Louise’s film career, and a re-release trailer for the Blu-ray. The limited edition also comes with a booklet containing three intriguing essays; one looks at the film’s allure, another is an older interview article about the film, and the last is an interesting series of articles on the real life murders of serial killer Dennis Nilsen. New artwork with reversible cover and slipcover round out the bonus content.

Extra Features

  • Limited Edition of 2000 units
  • NEW 2K restoration from the original 16mm camera negative approved by director Fhiona-Louise
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • NEW audio commentary with writer/director Fhiona-Louise
  • NEW audio commentary with film historians/writers Dean Brandum and Andrew Nette
  • NEW interview with actor Martin Byrne-Quinn (HD; 15:49)
  • NEW interview with actor Steve Munroe (HD; 5:25)
  • Original Cold Light of Day promo film made to raise financing for the feature (SD; 4:39)
  • Re-Release Trailer (HD; 1:04)
  • Two short films starring Cold Light of Day director Fhiona-Louise and photographed by Star Wars DP David Tattershall, newly restored in HD
    • Metropolis Apocalypse (HD; 9:16)
    • Sleepwalker (HD; 3:29)
  • NEW Reversible sleeve featuring original and commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • NEW Limited Edition Die-cut O-card
  • NEW Limited Edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jo Botting and a look at how the press reported Dennis Nilsen’s real-life crimes by Jeff Billington

Verdict

Cold Light of Day has its feeling in the name – a cold, dismal true crime film that sometimes feels a little too clinical for its own good. Despite that, it’s a chilling look at a fascinating serial killer, and Arrow Video’s Blu-ray is the definitive release for the film.

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