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November 02, 2017

Denver Film Festival - Cold Hell


Die Holle
Stefan Ruzowitzky - 2017

With an obvious nod to Rear Window, an unexpected glance at North by Northwest, and classic giallo added to the mix, Cold Hell is a thriller that actually thrills. Closer in spirit to his creepy Anatomy than the Oscar winning The Counterfeiters, Ruzowitzky is smart enough not to overplay the more exploitative aspects of his film within the tidy hour and a half running time.

Ozge, a young Turkish immigrant living in Vienna, drives a taxi and practices Thai style kickboxing. At the same time we see her taking on a pair of men who are blocking the road with their car, while engaged in conversation, the film cross-cuts to the scene of a grisly murder of a woman. Later that evening, Ozge notices the burned body of the woman, across from her own window, and has a glimpse of the murderer. Ozge's worst fears about the murderer pursuing her soon become realized.

There is some topicality with Ozge's status as cultural outsider, but more than that is the examination of her treatment as a woman. Ozge is seen fighting at virtually every turn, whether it's casual racism or sexist remarks, or the more institutionalized behavior within her family. What may stir some controversy is that while several characters identify themselves to one degree or another as Muslim, the closest the film comes to having a male hero is a cop named Christian.

That said, Cold Hell can be enjoyed on a purely visceral level with a manic night time taxi ride as Ozge tries to fend off the knife wielding killer, or the scenes of Ozge showing what she can do with her fists. Much of the film takes place in the dark, interiors barely illuminated by florescent lights, streets even darker at night with perpetual rainfall. Some of the intentionally garish color recalls past giallo films, especially those of Mario Bava. The screenplay is by Martin Ambrosch, no stranger to reworking genre tropes - The Dark Valley is a Euro-western that takes place in the Alps.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 2, 2017 08:59 AM