Director: Fhiona Louise
Script: Fhiona Louise
Cast: Bob Flagg, Martin Byrne Quinn, Geoffrey Greenhill, Mark Hawkins, Andrew Edmans, Jackie Cox, Bill Merrow
Running time: 80 minutes
Year: 1989
Certificate: 18

Cold Light of Day is a barely concealed dramatization of the infamous murders by British serial killer and necrophile, Dennis Nilsen, who murdered at least twelve young men and boys between 1978 and 1983 in London, England. Instead of calling the main character Dennis Nilsen the filmmakers have changed the name to Jorden March, as if that’s fooling anybody!

The film is obviously a very low budget independent affair and the picture ratio is 4:3 and it has a semi- documentary feel to it. There’s very little music throughout the film, and the acting looks more am-dram than professional, but it kind of works regardless, providing the film with a level of clammy authenticity that it might not have had if the acting was all top-notch.

March/Nilsen is a lonely civil servant who spends his days filing in grey forms (and occasionally green ones too) and his spare time drinking coffee or beer in cheap cafes and pubs while trying to pick up young homeless men, which he does quite successfully sometimes. He chats to them, (ensuring that they’re drifters who few people will miss), and then, back at his flat, he kills them, by either strangling or drowning them (sometimes both), before sleeping with them for company, like you do! Finally, he chops them up, burns some of the bodies and flushes the rest down the toilet. It’s by doing this latter exercise that he gets caught, due to a plumber finding body remains in the water outflow pipe when Nilsen’s neighbours complain about a blockage.

Fortunately, we don’t see many murders, but the ones we do get to see are graphically carried out and make for uncomfortable viewing. Bob Flagg’s acting is rather variable, but he’s quite a good physical performer so he performs the kills quite well.

The film cuts back and forth between an over-the-top copper, Inspector Simmons (Greenhill), interviewing a very twitchy and defensive Nilsen, (although the inspector’s interview technique is somewhat lacking – he mainly just shouts at Nilsen!) and Nilsen’s story being told in flashback. Personally, I think the interrogation scenes add little to the film and should have been dropped.

First-time director Fhiona Louise does an okay job of creating quite a seedy character study of one of the UK’s most notorious killers and she doesn’t hold back on the grisly details where appropriate. Check out the head boiling in a large pot on the stove, which actually happened in real life.

The film looks like it was shot on video-tape, since there’s a cheap and nasty graininess to it, but that adds to the film’s exploitation vibe, making it feel like the sort of film that would have played on 42nd street in New York, during the heyday of cinematic sleaze back in the 70s and early 80s.There’s a general air of grubbiness about the film that makes you want to take a shower after watching it! It’s all very drab and dirty looking, full of browns and matt greys, and general filth and degradation.

As a grim, warts-and-all sort of serial killer flick, Cold Light of Day sits comfortably alongside the likes of Henry; Portrait of a Serial Killer and Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin in the pantheon of scuzzy grindhouse movies that are based on real-life killers, and is therefore certainly worth a watch if you’re into that kind of subgenre of horror film.

Arrow Video is distributing Cold Light of Day on Blu-ray. There are a bunch of extras on the disc which include:

Playing the victim (16 mins) – An interview with actor Martin Byrne Quinn, where the ex- Lee Strasberg acting student tells of how he got the gig after initially helping the director to shoot a promo short to help raise the funding for the feature version.

Risky Business (5.5 min) – An interview with actor Steve Munroe, who plays a drug dealer cameo in the film, supplying one of Nilsen’s victims with heroin. Apparently they shot his scene, guerrilla style, in Covent Garden. 

Scenes of the crime (12.38 mins) – Arrow Video producer Ewan Cant takes director Fhiona Louise around the locations in London used in the film and extracts some nice anecdotes out of her, and we learn that the film is a tribute to a friend of hers who committed suicide.

Original promotional film (4.39 mins) – Shot in the director’s Covent Garden flat at the time, it’s all rather amateur, but at least we can see the genesis of the feature film.

Re-release trailer (1.04 mins) – This was done by Arrow Video and is quite cool.

Audio Commentaries with Don Bradum and Andrew Nette and another with writer/director Fhiona Louise. The latter is quite good, although initially Ewan Cant, who interviews her, does more talking than she does!

Short films – Two short films by filmmaker Jon Jacobs, both featuring Fhiona Louise. The first, Metropolis Apocalypse (9.16 mins) is a somewhat confusing montage film, unlined by a narrator reading a poem written by a friend of the director. The second short, Sleepwalker (3.29 mins) is another confusing film about a young woman suffering some kind of mental breakdown after being attacked by a long-haired hippy type played by Jacobs himself. Both are a bit pretentious and therefore probably only art-house fans will want to see them more than once.

* Please note, the images used in this review are not indicative of the picture quality of the Blu-ray.

Cold Light of Day - Arrow
Justin Richards reviews Fhiona Louise's serial killer flick: 'Cold Light of Day'.
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About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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