Director Jim Mickle is beginning to form a reputation for himself, in constantly producing unique, creative productions, that can’t be confined to any one genre. Following on from We Are What Are, his latest, Cold in July, also epitomises this fact – though sadly such ingenuity can make his films somewhat difficult to sell to financiers.
“The fact it wasn’t a horror film made it tough,” he explained. “You can bend the rules a little more easily in horror and fans are more accepting, and financiers are a little more accepting. This is a little tougher because it had a foot in the horror genre, but also had a foot in so many other spots that people didn’t want to wholesale finance the thing because of that. There were so many years being so frustrated about this.”
Cold in July, based on Joe R. Lansdale’s eponymous novel, tells the story of Richard Dane, played by Michael C. Hall, who shoots and kills an intruder in his house, causing the the victim’s father (Sam Shepard) to seek revenge. With elements of horror, combined with thriller and even western – Mickle tells us that is was this decision to drift between cinematic styles which made this film such a challenge to get off the ground.
“Sales people don’t wanna hear that it doesn’t belong to any genre because they want to slot things in to their cubbies. But I really like it, I like going in to a movie and having a sense of what it might be, but not knowing what it’s going to be. Mostly now you can tell by the cover art what the film is going to be like, and if not, then within the first five minutes you know. But part of my cynical nature as a moviegoer is not being able to finish most movies, feeling like you already know where everything is going to go. I’m very proud that movies I’ve made, even in the horror genre, they don’t always feel like horror films.”
Though seemingly all too aware of how the industry works, Mickle admits that he was somewhat surprised at the film’s small-scale release in the US. “In the States we had an art movie release with this film. What are you talking about? This is three heavy hitting actors, it’s very commercial, it has a great trailer that doesn’t give anything away. Distributors have seen the movie are are like, ‘I love it, but I can’t sell it’. What the hell is wrong with you? You know, unless it’s a sequel or it has a damn superhero in it, it’s relegated to an art film release.”
The cast aside, for this film to not get a huge release is a surprise given the Southern America set thriller is making for triumphant cinematic stomping ground at present. The likes of Killer Joe, Mud and The Paperboy have all been met to relatively positive critical acclaim (the latter not quite so much) – and Mickle tells us why he thinks this region and sub-genre appears to flourishing in contemporary cinema.
“When I fell in love with these films, it was Blood Simple and Red Rock West, that sort of era of stuff. Much like westerns, everybody always says ‘no one wants to see westerns’ and then every time you make one, it does really well. Unless it’s The Lone Ranger – but that was not because it was a western, it’s because it was a shit movie,” he continued. “The same thing with the Southern Thriller, there’s something about it that has a nostalgia to it, and there’s an old-fashioned feel to them, a little bit of a meat and potatoes storytelling that goes into these kind of films because they don’t have the spectacle they can get away with.”
“There is something about that Texas that is another world, even within the States. Imagine outside of the States that’s even more so. I don’t live there, I’ve spent a little bit of time there, but there’s something interesting about it. You know, socially and politically they’re all over the place – it’s a good place to make these kind of movies!”
In regards to eventually getting this film off the ground, Mickle was quick to claim that the casting Michael C. Hall worked wonders – and though appearing in Dexter as a cold-hearted, callous killer, in this title, he plays a more human role, somebody who is afraid of the notion of murder – but Mickle says such a shift in character was never a concern.
“I had a hard time accepting him as Dexter because I was so attached to him as David Fisher in Six Feet Under, and that’s amazing, when an actor plays something so thoroughly that it’s hard to picture them as anyone else,” he said. “I remember when his name first came up, I thought, he’s an amazing actor and one of the best out there, but I don’t know if he’s the right fit for it, then we met him in person just randomly at Sundance and he was so normal, and I was like, that’s what this guy should be. It ended up being a perfect match. “
Michael C. Hall is one of many commendable performers in this title, as Don Johnson also takes a starring role. Though as far as Mickle is concerned, there was still a lot of footage they couldn’t include, though perhaps that could be bittersweet – as if it ends up on the DVD, it could entice people to purchase it, and go some way in making up for the somewhat limited theatrical release…
“It was the toughest edit I have had,” Mickle finished. “There were like 20 deleted scenes that were all really good. So they’ll be on the DVD!” Ah, thought as much.
Cold in July is released on June 27th.