Vegas Baby Vegas! That was my battle cry when I started my trip to the city that never sleeps to cover the Action On Film Festival, an Action genre festival now in its 14th year.
They screened many shorts and features over the course of the fest, when I was not out trying to get into trouble I was able to see plenty of films.
One of the first shorts that hit me hard was a short titled The Cold Dark. This 19 minute short was largely a post apocalyptic character piece with enough action to keep you on your toes.
The Cold Dark features three main characters: Erica, who was played with confidence and grace by Jessica Wolff, brings us into this world. She breaks into a farm house to scavenge for food and to get a brief reprieve from the cold and harsh climate outside.
The problem is, Erica quickly realizes she is not alone. Two men, Tony, performed by Juha-Pekka Mikkola and Nomba, with Paul D. Savage in that role, have claimed that house for their own.
It quickly becomes clear that these men will defend their turf to the death. Without giving away too much, I can say that The Cold Dark takes interesting turns and each narrative shift feels natural and is well executed. For a short film, the characters are well developed and the writing is high caliber.
The story, thankfully, does not explain every detail about why these people are rogue survivors of a dangerous and lawless world. They instead give you enough to know what the current situation is and let the audience create their own backstory.
You see there is more to worry about out there than the bitter cold. The characters talk about how deadly those “things” are out there and later we see just how vicious they really are. It was refreshing to see that these creatures were portrayed by using strong practical effects. Much like the monster Ryuk in Death Note, these creatures lurk in the shadows, we see their menacing frame but, rightly so, the filmmakers let our imagination run wild here.
The Cold Dark was shot in Finland, this story was the perfect fit for the snow filled wildness native to that land. This short was written and directed by Mikko Löppönen, he has made many other shorts but no features yet.
This was surprising to me because this entire short was well crafted, clearly painted with a broad brush and a steady hand. Mikko also served as editor and one of the Executive Producers.
Another Executive Producer, Ville Lumioksa has a shared Story By credit on The Cold Dark. However that collaboration worked, upon watching only a few minutes of this short, it is clear that it worked well. Besides the writing, The Cold Dark has superb cinematography and production design. The cold, muted earthy tones were a perfect match for the subject matter. The crowd applauded at the end of this short, and I was happy to join in.
This screening was nearly full, so it would be a dream scenario for any filmmaker. As I said, Mikko Löppönen has not made a feature yet, but as long as he has the desire it is only a matter of time, because his talent is already proven and celebrated.
Curt Wiser is the Writer/Director of the suspense feature Cam-Girl. As a filmmaker he is happy to travel to Vegas, or anywhere with running water to give a kind word about other films and share them with the rest of the world.