COLD TURKEY: a short film by James Crow and Lee Musson

Directed by: ,
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

Natasha and Sasha are two heroin addicts.  Natasha storms out of her dealer and boyfriend Craig’s house when he says she should make a living from selling her body, while elsewhere, Sasha is a little more comfortable residing with Murien, an older lady who takes in and looks after drug addicts.  She cannot resist her urges though and goes to her dealer, who turns out to be Craig, and he certainly won’t give anything for free.  When Natasha breaks into the house and a confrontation ends with Craig being shot, Sasha suggests Natasha comes with her to stay with Murien.  However, it’s quite possible that they could be in even more danger with Murien than with Craig……….

It’s very hard to have one fixed idea about drug addicts.  I would suppose we would initially think of how ‘stupid’ and ‘terrible’ they might be, but if we thought about how they themselves might be addicted to many things, and perhaps encountered a real drug addict, full of desperation, sadness and control by an evil force which is destroying their lives, then we may think differently.   We might even try to ‘cure’ them, but how far can a cure go before it becomes more harmful than the actual drug.  Such ideas are explored in a concise manner in James Crow and Lee Musson’s Cold Turkey, [which isn’t the first film by that name, and probably won’t be the last!], but what makes it work so well is that at the same time it’s also a rather gripping, uncomfortable [but in a good way] and exciting piece of work that seems to straddle various genres, such as kitchen-sink drama, thriller and horror with ease.

Right from the beginning you are enveloped in a very uneasy mood due to David Redinha’s haunting opening music which almost seems to occupy the middle ground between sound effects and score.  Our two girls are introduced in widely differing environments, with Natasha seen waking up on a dirty, dark, scruffy house on a settee as she lies with Craig, while Sasha awakes in a nice comfortable bed in a prettily furnished room.  This hammers home to us how people of widely differing backgrounds can be drug addicts, something that I think is sometimes ignored, with drug addiction often seem as being the province of people at the’ bottom’ of society.   Soon, we realise Sasha is just as dependent on Craig as Natasha, and in a perhaps even nastier way, with Craig obviously abusing the poor girl while she is high.  They are about to have sex, and then the next cut shows the two lying together, Sasha in a drug-induced stupor, a cigarette burn on her body.  This is a perfect illustration of the power of not showing something; your mind just fills in the rest.

Of course the two girls end up at Murien’s, and there follows a nice build up of suspense.  She may seem friendly, but certain looks and lines start to tell us otherwise.  There is one of those classic horror shots you often get of the back of someone’s head where the face , though you can’t see it, appears to be bathed in light.  Eventually things really turn nasty and I suppose you could say that matters move into ‘torture porn’ territory, but what makes it interesting is that Murien really seems to believe she is doing the right thing in administering her own special method of cure.  You learn why she is doing this, and sometimes you will probably end up feeling sorry for this sadistic loony.  Of course Craig comes back into the story, and things get as vicious at you would expect, though there is at least one surprise!

There is a great deal of violence in Cold Turkey, though not much is actually shown.  This was probably out of necessity due to the virtually non-existent budget, though there is a fair bit of blood and it does look fairly convincing.  In fact, I would say it’s more convincing than some of the CG blood you see in some feature films today. The cast all perform their roles well and are given chances to shine, such as in a dialogue scene a third or so of the way through where Natasha and Sasha are arguing over whether to stay in the house.  The cast members are better performers than a few in major Hollywood films I’ve seen this year.  The camerawork is nice and smooth for the most part and appropriately frantic in parts of the final third, yet you can still see what is going on.  Of course Cold Turkey is rough around the edges; it was made for peanuts, but the actual level of filmmaking is very high and a great deal of thought has obviously gone into the movie, which should grip you but also make you think.  Why is it that so many short films at the moment demonstrate more talent and originality than some Hollywood blockbusters?

James Crow has co-written another film, the upcoming The Warning, check it out here

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About Dr Lenera 1985 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

1 Comment

  1. Bad points:
    Editing in a lot of scenes was very distracting, it did not convey a real sense of time progressing, it flowed very badly in some points and often detracted from the main piece. Also, too many inappropriate fade cuts. Pace did not make it feel like a continuous cut.
    Camera did not always have to be handheld, although does create a sense of unease in the film.
    Sound effects and dialogue mix were sometimes did not match eachother in terms of levels, quality, etc and often pulled me out of the main experience.
    Clichéd moments throughout.

    Good Points:
    Lighting in several scenes matched that of Hollywood standards and capture a noir-esque feel.
    The main blonde actress was a brilliant actor and gave a gritty, realistic, tear-soaked performance that really delivered.
    Cinematography was generally excellent.
    Original (?) soundtrack was absolutely amazing, captured many emotions in the scenes, helped create such a foreboding sense of tension in some scenes, whilst in others really put you in the character’s shoes.
    Strong sense of direction.
    Makeup and gore looked very real.

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