The cleverly titled “Cold War” is an exceedingly fun, highly original, laugh out loud funny film that explores human suffering and survival.
As riotously funny and entertaining as it is horrifically real, Cold War delves into what happens when love truly is a battlefield.
In full transparency, Cold War is not a film that would have ordinarily been on my radar. To state the obvious, I’m a girl who loves horror — the darker and more disturbing, the better. So a film labeled as a romantic comedy is not something I’d typically rush to watch…or review for this site dedicated to genre content.
However, one of our talented writers for this site, Alli Hartley, produced this film. She believed, as an avid connoisseur of smart and original indie cinema, I might really appreciate this very non-traditional romantic comedy with a clever premise, sharp writing and delightfully twisted sense of humor.
She could not have been more right. Like all the best love stories, I fell hard and fast.
Ok, so it’s not a horror film in the strict sense of the word. But I’m here to tell you why I think you, my fellow genre junkies, may find plenty to love about this delightfully dark indie gem.
Brilliant in its simplicity, Cold War’s premise is uncomplicated and extremely relatable. Shortly after moving in together, a couple finds their blossoming relationship tested after they both catch a particularly nasty and relentless flu — forcing the love birds to confront the worst of each other.
This is far from your cookie-cutter, uninspired romcom.
As straightforward as the story is, it feels refreshingly imaginative. Director Stirling McLaughlin and writer/co-director J. Wilder Konschak make the most of the simple setup by delivering likable, well-written characters and a very clever and funny script — easily elevating Cold War well above the flat and formulaic films that heavily populate the sub-genre.
Anchored by brilliant performances from its small cast, specifically its two lead actors, Cold War is very often side-splittingly funny. But as endearing and ultimately optimistic as the film is, there are undeniable elements of horror here — just not the kind you’re probably used to.
The horror here is in the all too familiar scenario of a relationship falling apart under extreme stress.
No matter how much you think you know someone, you never really know them until there is no escape from them. When you are with someone day in and day out, when there’s nowhere to go when times get tough, when the one you love can no longer hide their most annoying flaws — that’s when reality comes crashing in like a wrecking ball to destroy the fairytale romance.
When perfect couple Jon (Michael Blaiklock, Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23) and Maggie (Madeline Walter, Comedy Bang! Bang!) both come down with a case of the brutal and punishing “raccoon flu,” the nightmare illness takes hold of their bodies and minds — distorting their perception of reality and the very foundation of their relationship.
As the animosity between the two grows, tempers escalate, battle lines are drawn, and small indignities explode into acts of all-out war. The chaos (as well as the comedy) builds to a feverish, take no prisoners finale.
The moral here is that even “perfect” love is far from perfect. A relationship is about shared experiences, but that means the bad experiences as well as the good. Rarely has a film so compellingly and realistically captured the downward spiral of a relationship — with all its nastiness and savagery — while still maintaining its heart and humor.
While never losing its tongue-in-cheek wit and charm, Cold War isn’t afraid to get grim. The humor is sometimes wry, sometimes physical (including copious amounts of vomit), and often quite dark. But realism remains at the heart of the film, no matter how absurd the situation gets.
That’s due in large part to a remarkably well-crafted script. But it’s also a testament to the phenomenal performances of Walter and Blaiklock.
Individually, they deliver gifted comedic performances that feel honest, heartfelt, and entirely relatable. Together, they have tremendous on-screen chemistry. Their connection feels authentic, and they are just as believable falling in love as they are falling apart.
While this is a film about the destruction of a relationship and the darker side of human nature, it’s also about the power of a love to withstand the most brutal assault. It’s about how we learn to adapt and grow — and how to bend to keep from breaking. So, while you’ll surely take much delight in the couple’s misery, played to great comic effect, the film is as sweet and hopeful as it is horrific — a very difficult balancing act to pull off.