Thursday, 3 May 2012



Morally, where do we stand on reconstructions of violent real-life murders and serial killing sprees? Put me in front of a totally fictional fantasy movie - anything from gialli to campus slashers - and I've absolutely no problem in watching a bunch of people getting bloodily despatched. But I feel it's far more difficult to enjoy a re-enactment of an actual killing in which a real human being genuinely died. One can certainly admire the performances in films dealing with Dr Crippen or John Christie, or more recent cinema restagings of the antics of Ted Bundy, Ed Gein or the Manson Family, but entertainment? It's like laughing at Crimewatch. I can't do it.

Not that Cold Light Of Day (which has nothing to do with the recent Bruce Willis action flick) is any kind of entertainment at all: it's a very low-budget British dramatisation of the crimes of Dennis Nilsen, here renamed Jordan Leach, but played by a reasonable lookalike (Bob Flag) and with many specific details carried over (at least to judge from Nilsen's page on Wikipedia): picking up young homeless men in London pubs and murdering them in his flat, keeping the bodies under the floorboards or dismembering them and flushing the parts down the toilet - the resultant blockages would eventually lead to his arrest when body parts were found there.

While many of the American dramatisations of their own serial killers (such as The Hillside Strangler or Ted Bundy) had a Hollywood movie sheen to them, Cold Light Of Day is a staggeringly miserablist offering that has less pizazz than even a film as resolutely grim and harrowing as Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer. Shot on what looks like 16mm (the DVD looks to have been taken from a VHS copy but I wouldn't know for sure), much of it is composed of very long takes from a static camera position; little editing, very little in the way of a music score. Yet, perversely, the grotty nature of the movie is the most fascinating thing about it: a slight similar sense of the actual film stock seemingly infected by the horror captured upon it. It's one of those very rare movies that you really feel you need a wash after seeing it. Sadly, the grim and seedy deadpan misery is pretty much all it has going for it.

Written and directed by Fhiona Louise, this 1989 film (her only feature) does have the rare distinction of being pulled at the last minute from the running order of the Splatterfest horror festival after the producer's earlier film was slowclapped - at the Scala Cinema. Not booed at the NFT or the Cambridge Arts PictureHouse or even the Cineworld in Milton Keynes, but at the much-missed Kings Cross trash house and repertory nirvana. To be honest, I suspect Cold Light Of Day would not have gone down very well either, and replacing it with a handy print of Evil Dead II to keep a roomful of trash addicts happy in the small hours of the morning was probably a wise move. The aforementioned producer was Richard Driscoll, whose own directorial efforts have been eyewateringly terrible: the incoherent gibberish of The Legend Of Harrow Woods and Head Hunter (Kannibal), two brainwarping movies you can only stare at in mute, horrified disbelief, like a rabbit transfixed by the headlights of an approaching truck full of exploding manure. The cover art and the DVD menu both spell "Dennis Nilsen" wrong.


Misery upon misery:

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