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One has to admire the balls it took to make this movie. For a start, the atmosphere is cloying and intense, and if you've taken the time to track this movie down then chances are you probably know a little bit about it. Based on the crimes of British serial Killer Dennis Nielson, cold light of day is a slice of docu-drama little like anything you've ever seen before. i saw this on video in its 75 minute entirety, and it is a difficult movie to sit through. It makes you feel so uncomfortable, and tries, in its own way to present its characters with some compassion, but they are all so cold and pathetic that you squirm in your seat and wait for it to end. It took me a long time to track this little gem down, and it has had a couple of releases in the UK throughout the 1990's, but its a hard film to watch. Certainly a must for serial killer movie buffs or anyone interested in lensing their first movie, cold light of day is awkward and, in several places, downright unpleasant. Henry Portrait of a serial killer was gruesome, Cold Light of Day is a shiver than runs down your spine in the dead of night.
Between 1978 and 1983, Dennis Nilsen - an outwardly unremarkable former
soldier and police officer turned civil servant - killed at least
fifteen men and boys (most of them students or homeless) in gruesome
circumstances, allegedly retaining the corpses for sex acts before
disposing of the butchered remains by hiding them in cupboards, under
the floorboards, or simply by flushing them down the toilet. This
grimy, clammy, little-seen independent film is a lightly fictionalised
account of Nilsen's hideous deeds, with a standout performance from Bob
Flag as the milquetoast murderer, here renamed Jorden March.
Fhiona Louise's film, clearly made on a shoestring budget, steers clear of exploitation tactics, choosing instead to cast its characters adrift in a singularly bleak, uncaring and desolate world of tatty pubs, squalid bed-sits, greasy cafés and grubby bathrooms. The police interrogation of March is inter-cut with flashbacks that reveal not just his crimes (a living room disembowelment and the discovery of what's blocking the drains will send a shiver down the spines of even the hardiest souls) but also provide a window of understanding into what has tipped the apparently kindly loner over the edge. Louise's direction is unobtrusive and detached, allowing the lengthy exchanges between the characters to play out in several lengthy takes, but it's this cold, flat, cinema-verité style that affords the proceedings much of their chilling power, conveying the sense that such horrors really could be unfolding in the street, or even the house, just around the corner.
It's an easy film to admire - it won several awards - but it's not an easy film to watch, let alone enjoy. As a fitting footnote, a caption card dedicates the preceding horrors to "those too sensitive for this world" - which, in his own perverse and twisted way, Nilsen surely was.
This is what they sometimes call a 'docu-drama,' which never really
cuts it for me, it's either a documentary or a drama and never shall
the twain meet. It just doesn't work as either in the end.
It tries for realism as a documentary with the everyday scenes meeting young rootless men in dingy cafés for the promise of a bed,food,drink and casual gay sex. And tries for dramatic scenes with the murders and the ensuing aftermath. But really works as neither as both parts come across as dull and boring. Perhaps most killers are as uninteresting as this and maybe that is the point the film is trying to make. Sadly it doesn't make it very entertaining
The pounding background music intended to heighten tension at crucial moments just grates and doesn't help at all. I was going to say that some editing and cutting would have made the whole thing move faster and have increased the overall pace of the film. But then I noticed on the general information about this film that a 32 minute version was released in the cinemas. I've watched the much longer video version.
As a film about killer, Dennis Nilsen, called Gordon Marsh in the film for what I assume was copyright reasons at the time of it's original release, it just doesn't engage the attention or make us understand anything about the character and his motives.
Other documentaries have been made since about Nilsen that delved deeper and are more interesting and they would be better to search out and watch instead.
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