Cold in July

Not a light comedy at the expense of San Francisco after all, Cold in July transpires as a ripping good if increasingly risible Texas-set indie thriller, with Michael C. Hall doing a Dexter flip side as the nervous killer of a home invader whom scary looming patriarch Sam Shepard intends to avenge. Or so it seems at first. Things get twisty right quick, as they’ll need to in order to accommodate scene-thief Don Johnson as a gruffly comical private eye. The movie makes a point of being full of surprises, but what’s most unexpected and satisfying is the chemistry of its three leads. With co-writer Nick Damici, director Jim Mickle wrings maximum what-next? suspense from Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, a polished pulp compendium of cop conspiracies, snuff films, Dixie Mafia menace, and pervasive angst about manliness in general and fatherhood in particular. Doting on 1980s period details and grooving to a synth-throb soundtrack straight out of John Carpenter, Mickle harkens back to a time when he must have been soaking up horror flicks with diligence and glee. Aside from reverence and competence, Cold in July doesn’t really add a lot to the canon, but it restores some genre craftiness that’s been lost over the years to attrition.