Jim Mickle made his name working in the camera department on horror movies, so it should be no surprise that when he went to direct, his first three features (Mulberry Street, Stake Land, We Are What We Are) were distinct genre pieces. His fourth, Cold in July, doesn’t fit easily into any category, taking the audience in one direction, only to pull them in another twenty minutes later.
Adapting a novel by Joe R. Lansdale, the film is set in East Texas in the late 80s, where Richard Dane, a family man (played by Dexter’s Michael C. Hall) accidentally shoots an intruder in his house. Feeling guilty, Richard visits the man’s grave, but notices that he is being followed by the man’s father (Sam Shepard), who’s recently been released from prison, and quickly enlists police protection to safeguard his house and his young son.
It would be cruel to reveal anything else, but let’s just say it all gets very complicated when Don Johnson arrives, playing a cowboy/private investigator.
What’s most enjoyable about Cold in July is the chemistry between the characters, in particular Johnson and Shepard, who often ad lib and joke with each other, making some welcome relief to a story that begins to touch on some serious subjects. It’s been compared to B-movie titles, as well as films by Rodriguez and Tarantino due to it’s pulpy violence, but in fact the story was written well before either of the aforementioned directors were working, so to compare them is only to point out the film’s own originality.
At the film’s Q&A, Mickle announced that he is in the process of making a TV series with the same characters. Let’s just hope it makes it over to the UK.
Cold in July is released on June 27.