FrightFest film review: Cold Hell
Ian Winterton | On 28, Aug 2017
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Cast: Violetta Schurawlow, Tobias Moretti, Robert Palfrader, Sammy Sheik, Friedrich von Thun
Watch Cold Hell online in the UK: 2018
Cold Hell is a grimy and gory thriller set in the areas of Vienna the tourists don’t see, and revolving around people who don’t usually get to be movie heroes. Newcomer Violetta Schurawlow is outstanding as tough and taciturn taxi driver and Thai boxer Özge, an Austrian citizen of Turkish heritage. When she witnesses the brutal murder of a prostitute, she becomes the target of a deranged serial killer. The police, as casually sexist and racist as the drunken passengers in Özge’s cab, don’t take her seriously. But, when the killer makes an attempt on her life, grumpy detective Steiner (Tobias Moretti) takes Özge in and a romance blossoms.
An assured piece of filmmaking, Cold Hell succeeds in mixing social realism with more standard thriller elements and scenes of gut-wrenching violence. As a touchstone, think the original movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – a strong female outsider teaming up with an older man to battle misogynist evil.
The excellently taut script gives Özge a lot to contend with; as well as a serial killer to evade, she’s saddled with a child-abusing father and the young daughter of a murdered best friend. It’s to the credit of writer Martin Ambrosch that the scenario remains credible throughout, something achieved through tone – we’re in the real world and events, though horrifying, unfold in a manner that feels plausible.
That said, there are a number of stand-out set pieces that a Bourne movie might be proud of. The standout is a prolonged fight within a speeding car that sees Özge’s taxi clip and crunch against dozens of vehicles, as it swerves down the street. The violence, too, is shocking without being gratuitous, which succeeds in making it more stomach-churning; hearing what the killer does to his victims is far more effective than showing it.
Another element that adds richness to the film is social commentary. As well as seeing the world from the point of view of a marginalised Muslim woman, the killer’s inspiration comes from a corrupted interpretation of Quranic passages – the film’s title comes from Zamharīr, a place in Hell where “it’s so cold, that the cold burns like heat” – making him a stand-in for every deluded Islamist terror group. “God is on my side, whore,” he tells her. Özge’s defiant retort is less theological and more biological: “You don’t know anything about God. You only have one god and it’s very, very small.”
Fast-moving, compelling and moving, Cold Hell might be a small-scale thriller but, like its kick-ass and unstoppable heroine, it punches well above its weight. And Violetta Schurawlow is most definitely a woman to watch – Hollywood is likely to come a-knocking very soon.
Cold Hell will be released in early 2018 by Shudder.