Uptight film critics and die-hard horror lovers don’t always see eye to eye, but there’s one aspect of genre filmmaking to which both sides would readily attest: There’s not enough originality in horror. The most popular complaint, of course, rails against Hollywood’s insistence on remaking older, beloved movies, whether it’s an undeniable classic (A Nightmare On Elm Street) or something more obscure (The Crazies), but even when filmmakers whip up fresh stories, the scares and beats are often infuriatingly familiar.
Give Argentinean writer-director Adrian Garcia Bogliano credit, then, for conceptualizing a fright film based around a truly unique device: old men who lure women to their home, conduct heinous experiments on them, and smear the not-so-fruitful ladies’ bodies with deadly nitroglycerin. That’s the premise behind Cold Sweat, Bogliano’s deliriously paced and highly entertaining new horror flick, which made its stateside debut via Dark Sky Films’ DVD release this past Tuesday.
As innovative and gleefully over-the-top as Cold Sweat is, it’s the script’s fascinating basis in Argentina’s tragic history that gives the film its depth. Highlighted in the film’s opening credits sequence, through newsreel footage and documentary clips, Argentina fell under the violent reign of a military dictatorship from 1976 through 1983, a period known as the Dirty War; during that time, anyone whose views outspokenly challenged the country’s government were abducted, tortured, and eventually killed.
In Cold Sweat, the villains—a pair of elderly men living in plain sight—are former officers who can’t stop employing the dictatorship’s horrific methods behind closed doors. Lest one think that the flick is another humorlessly devastating Apt Pupil, though, Cold Sweat is unapologetically raucous: the camera closes in on the supermodel-looking female victims’ liquid-drenched bodies, the gore flows recklessly, and one character seeks help by posting a Facebook status update from his cellular phone.
It’s that kind of wildness that makes Cold Sweat one of the crazier genre efforts in recent months. Complex recently spoke with Bogliano about the film, his desire to teach youngsters about his country’s past without pretension and the correct approach to blending horror with comedy.
Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
On one end, Cold Sweat is this insane, fast-paced horror movie, but there’s also the heavy amount of historical and political influences that went into the script for you. How did you approach the balancing of those two extremes?
To me, the idea was to make a very entertaining movie. Neither of the three writers, neither of us was really into having a lot of logic and making a lot of sense; it was more about making some sort of rollercoaster. We were going off of some things we’ve read about the writing of the Indiana Jones films—we wanted to make a film like that, that’s a lot of fun. But we always like to have elements that are very specific of our culture and our society. We thought this was a great opportunity to do that.
We didn’t write the film thinking that it was going to be produced by the people who finally financed it. Lucky for us, we had the support of the Argentinean Film Institute, and one of the biggest production companies in Argentina, one that’s associated with Buena Vista in Argentina. We didn’t know that when we wrote it, but we wanted to make a very commercial film, something that was very catchy, but at the same time having this subject about the dictatorship. It’s something that’s sort of taboo in the general films; you are supposed to talk about it only in dramas and documentaries, but you’re not supposed to talk about it in a horror film.
We thought it’d be interesting to put that subject in a horror film, because a horror film like this is for a very young audience, and that young audience is exactly the kind of people who don’t want to see documentaries, or hear these recollections of what happened back then. It was really a very terrible thing that happened in Argentina in the ’70s. I really wanted to communicate that to that generation, and I thought the best way to do it was in a very fun film where you don’t feel like you’re being lectured about anything.
Which makes the bonus feature on the DVD where you’re giving historical facts about that particular time period a nice little history lesson for anyone who feels compelled to explore the back-story once the movie’s over.
Right, I wanted to explain a little bit of that to people outside of Argentina. But even in Argentina, there are a lot of people my age and younger who don’t want to know what happened there. To me, it’s interesting to make that generation aware of the fact that many of those older men they see at the grocery or whatever, on the streets, they participated in those terrible things. It’s tragic. The high-ranked officers have been on trial over the last few years, but the lower-ranked officers, the people who actually executed those terrible things, they’re actually still on the streets. It seemed interesting to put that into the minds of the younger generation.
That’s a smart move. For you, where does the fascination with your homeland’s dictatorship era come from?
I’ve always had it, because, actually, I got my name from one of my uncles who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed during the dictatorship, so, basically, my name and my second last name… Basically, a lot of people just call me Adrian Bogliano, and that was exactly the name of my uncle, so I’ve always felt something strange about it. I never got to meet him, of course, but I’ve been told that he was a very loving, gentle person, and everybody loved him. He was one of the members of my family who were killed, and actually my parents had to leave Argentina and go to Spain, where I was born. They had to escape from Argentina.
So it was always a subject that I’ve felt very close to, even though I didn’t live it personally. It’s really strange, because when I started to go to school in Argentina, all of the kids there didn’t know anything about it. They were from the middle class and didn’t want to know anything, and they grew up on films and documentaries that were so dramatic about this subject, which is logical, of course. All the kids of my age and younger, they didn’t want to know about it—it’s too terrible, too terrifying. Politically, we’ve never been so able to do this like we are right now, with these people being on trial and being very old and dying. It’s a different historical moment now, so I thought it was a cool opportunity.
Did you base the two older men in Cold Sweat, the film’s villains, on any real-life former officers that you’ve seen or met, or are they totally fabricated?
They’re actually based on different sides of what happened in the ’70s—one of them was an ultra right, and the other one was an ultra left. I based the names on real characters, but, yeah, the characters are based more on things that I’ve heard existed. There was one guy who was very obsessed with words, for instance, and committed a lot of tortures through that obsession. The characters are centered around what people think these guys look like and act like, but I wanted to add some interesting things. You can hate them, but I wanted to put in a couple of interesting elements that could make you become intrigued by them, too.
The powers that be are going to do with you whatever they want if you don’t know how to express yourself and your ideas, so that’s why you see the one scene where the girl is killed for not being able to express herself. I thought it was interesting to put that idea into these characters.