Welcome to Dirty Shorts, an ongoing series in which we present to you reviews of short horror films for your amusement, edumacation, and possible chagrin. We are not responsible if you fail to be amused or edumacated.
Directed by Nathan “Carma” Cox and Joe Hahn.
THE STORY: Wayne Static*, lead singer of Static-X is the last man on Earth and every night when the sun goes down, he must keep a hot undead goth chick, the members of his nu metal band, and some random fans from turning him into a vampire.
THE RUNDOWN: Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) should be on your horror Mt. Rushmore. If you want to talk about Night of the Living Dead ’68 then all conversations should start with this novel**. In that conversation, you need to take a quick detour by the excellent Vincent Price driven The Last Man on Earth as well as it’s more famous cousin that set albinos back almost 50 years, 1971’s The Omega Man. It was another 36 years before a directly derived film emerged, that being the 2007 Will Smith vehicle and 2/3’s of a great film, I Am Legend.*** This is not to be confused with the Asylum’s 2007 mockbuster I Am Omega, a film designed to be a “film”.
Music video, however, offered up an I Am Legend adaptation in 2002 and that’s why I’m talking about a three minute advertisement for a song on the Queen of the Damned soundtrack. I’m also here to tell you, that while being limited by the commercial format of a traditional music video, this short is better than it has any right to be. This is in retrospect something that makes perfect sense. Certain enclaves of rock musicians and bands have always expressed a subversive, intelligent affinity for horror films, the occult, the macabre, and the written prose in the language of terror. That’s my fancy way of saying a lot of rock musicians read H.P. Lovecraft. Also the video for Cold was co-directed by Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn, so there.
Hold up, yo. Let’s talk about nu metal. It’s not my favorite and in 2018, some of the offerings from bands of the time are problematic (Korn’s use of homophobic slurs, Limp Bizkit’s entire catalog) but Static-X was a different breed altogether because they fully embraced their rock roots without even taking any “serious” turns into hip-hop which gave them a kind of purity. The lyrics to Cold are minimal and basic, allowing for a wide degree of interpretation and while not specific to the story it’s accompanying, it is appropriate and drips with a crunch and the pull of gravity. This is rock music at its post grunge peak.
Now, as far as the video…it’s a music video. Time in the narrative portion of the song is chopped up and compressed, but the story elements are linear and some of the all important character touches from the novel are present in this video. You have your last man on Earth who spends his day grinding metal to reinforce the doors of the house he lives in. When night comes around, the undead lay siege, trying to kill Wayne. That is as lean a story as you can pull from source material.
The basics are there, but there are three things specifically in the first minute that did a better job in interpretation than some of the big budget Matheson offerings. 1) The house looks like it has been attacked and reinforced for months and it looks like duct tape is the only thing keeping our protagonist alive. 2) Our protagonist is a slave to the ticking clock. He knows that sundown is coming. 3) He waits. That’s the thing that I feel is usually lost in translation from the book to the film is the sense of being forced to wait for your nightmares. Wayne sits down and reads, waiting for his demons arrives. He also occasionally watches the performance portion of the Cold music video**** along with some home movies. These little character moments, although presented in its glossy 2002 music video aesthetic, shows a pronounced love for the source material.
One gets the feeling that Wayne Static wanted to make his own I Am Legend and damn it, he did. One important difference (possibly an improvement) between Cold and I Am Legend is combining two characters from the novel. In said novel, Robert Neville must contend with the guilt of having killed his wife early in the pandemic along with being verbally tortured by his long time friend and neighbor, the now undead Ben Cortman. In Cold, Wayne is tortured verbally every night by a woman with whom he was in love and then lost to the disease. She is the danger and the temptation: the corruption of the Virgin Mary. Oh and they’re actually vampires! Not zombies or weird CG Morlock hybrids. Actual vampires! There’s even a quick shot of Wayne growing fangs — possibly a look into what he fears becoming.
At this point, a full squad of the undead arrives and attacks the house. It’s then it’s an entire night of Wayne trying to keep the defenses up, fighting the outreached arms of the monsters trying to break in and by “an entire night”, I mean about 10 seconds in music video time. Daylight breaks, the vampires are gone, and Wayne can finally collapse on a mattress, sleep for a little bit, and then get up and start the process all over again.
It’s unfair to saddle this video with much narrative criticism. If any subplots had been placed in this story, they would have been rushed and taken away from the whole. There is no mention of what the plague is although we are shown that it had something to do with vampires. We don’t know if Wayne is a scientist like in the 07’ I Am Legend or The Last Man on Earth or if this is literally Wayne Static of Static-X who just happened to be the one guy that survived the plague. What we have here is a lean monster of a story, really 120 seconds, at best, of fighting a war against loneliness and the undead. It’s a short film that shows the classic Matheson story in an oddly new light that somehow still feels fresh, honest, and earnest in 2019.
Not quiet as good as Night of the Living Dead, more interesting that I Am Legend 07’, and at least as ambitious as The Last Man on Earth, the music video for Cold did something that is hard to achieve when adapting from a beloved creation: it embraced the modern feel of the contemporary medium whilst never forgetting to honor what gave birth to it, killed it, and brought it back from the dead.
WHAT MOVIE SHOULD I WATCH AFTER THIS? You need to READ Matheson’s I Am Legend. Then you can go watch Night of the Living Dead 68’, Queen of the Damned, and if you’re good and you promise not to tell your mom, you can stay up and watch MST3K’s Samson vs the Vampire Women
*RIP, bro. 1965 – 2014
**More like novella at 160 pages. Usually you can find this in a collection of the author’s other works which I recommend picking up. Richard Matheson: the cure for the common horror flick.
***Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called New York after a virus originally developed to cure cancer wiped out all of humanity.
**** I’m assuming this was the intent of the video’s editor.
Images courtesy of YouTube
Writer. Wrestling mark. Dog parent. Halloween enthusiast. Always wondering about the me on Earth 616 and what he/she/it’s up to. Currently residing in Los Angeles.