When is a Zombie movie not actually a Zombie movie? When it’s That Cold Dead Look in Your Eyes, which still might be a Zombie movie…
Arthouse horror really is something else.
At the base of TCDLiYE, you’ve got a man (played by Franck Raharinosy) on the crossroads of an existential crisis. There’s drama in Leonard’s personal life — his girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) recently broke up with him. There’s drama in his professional life — he’s a terrible chef about to get fired. He’s desperate for money, already late on his motorcycle payments and can’t afford a place of his own. So, when his ex’s imposing father (Alan Ceppos) enters the picture, Leonard’s tailspin feels near complete. But something ominous awaits in the shadows…
As the premise for a non-linear New York-set storyline where French is the primary language, that’s as straightforward as you get from Writer-Director Onur Tukel. Current-day scenes are shot in black and white, while flashbacks pop in full color. But it’s the ancillary plot devices that beg for your attention, egging you on for a resolution. But that’s not this type of film.
Strange things are happening to New Yorkers. Randomly, as if caused by an unseen airborne virus, their lives turn into hallucinatory nightmares, where the victims question their reality and the effects of their visions. But these ordeals aren’t happening to everyone, only a select few (so far). Could these be the unexpected side effects caused by theta waves, supposedly used for high-speed internet providers? The flashing theta boxes are foreboding, but they’re more of a McGuffin device.
Are people really transforming into Zombies? That too, is left unclear. The black-and-white terror definitely brings back old-school vibes to those who enjoy the classics. The film’s cinematography is captured so perfectly, you only see what Writer-Director Onur Tukel wants you to see in a script that’s filled with hidden meanings.
Is this simply a story about a guy having a bad week? On the surface, yes. Is Tukel addressing COVID-19? Perhaps, but it’s also a surreal avant-garde slow burn where things aren’t quite what they seem. One moment we’re getting deep about relationships, then quickly cutting to a group of nude models discussing government conspiracies.
“I want everyone dancing like the world is ending!”
The film’s song, “You’re My Only Friend,” is innocent sounding, but also creepy enough that it could and should receive a lot of attention outside of the movie’s release.
The cinematography is pretty great, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off the visual nightmare at hand, always trying to find a background detail in order to predict the conclusion, but I never could. And as a fan who’s watched every episode of The X-Files and listened to many hours of Coast to Coast AM who’s no stranger to Ancient Aliens, I was slightly caught off-guard with the topic of theta waves. But not anymore!
Are we all becoming Zombies, slowly but surely? An undead need for high-speed internet might say something about our relationship with our phones, but Tukel offers a deeper meaning of photography and the arts in general with this film.
Is Leonard having a mental breakdown? Is it all a lie? His life feels like it’s become a sort of Truman Show of the worst kind. And that makes a great story. So, what exactly happens when you get That Cold Dead Look in Your Eyes?