James Balsamo is back and brings with him his no-holds-barred style of guerrilla-filmmaking that reminds me a lot of the old school Troma flicks from Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (you know, before they had budgets). COOL AS HELL marks Balsamo’s third feature length film and he’s showing no signs of slowing down (he’s already announced his next film, MYSTERY MEAT, set to drop later this year). The themes in COOL AS HELL are the same as his previous entries: Death metal, gore, laughs, and a frantic pace. Balsamo’s films may not be perfect but I always find myself having a really fun time with them.
COOL AS HELL follows Rich (Balsamo) and Benny (Dan E. Danger), two very experienced underachievers who live for comic books, attempting to pick up girls way outta their league in bars, and partying hard. One day Rich meets the woman of his dreams, Ashley (Lauren Adamkiewicz) but she’s already dating a total douche-nozzle named Sal (Frank Mullen). Sal is abusive and neglectful towards her, he’s a thug by trade, and he’s just a repulsive person to be around in general. One day Rich runs into a low level demon named Az (Billy Walsh) he was summoned to earth to scare someone, but Rich interrupts and the demon becomes enthralled to him. At first Rich doesn’t know what to do with Az, but soon it becomes apparent that Az is a party demon. So Az, Rich, and Benny start hanging around with Az showing them the finer points of partying like a complete maniac.
Unfortunately something followed Az through the portal and now there’s a soul-eating demon and loads of zombies to deal with. So Rich and Benny must decide real fast whether to abandon their party ways or to grow up and become feared Demon Slayers. We all know which road they take.
COOL AS HELL is just like Balsamo’s other films: It’s a super low/no budgeter with lots of amateur actors. By the very nature of COOL AS HELL, I should have hated it. Yet Balsamo again injects a high level of energy into all his scenes and really creates an entertaining, gory genre flick that never takes itself too serious but always delivers on the fun. My criticisms of this film are the same as in his previous movies. Some scenes could’ve been trimmed down to create a tighter final product and I find the (over)use of the blaring death metal music in all the gore scenes a little distracting. The music takes the focus off of the gore, and the problem with this is that Balsamo is a pretty damn talented f/x artist!! Balsamo, once again, wears a lot of hats in COOL AS HELL. He’s the lead actor, writer, director, producer. editor, and production designer. He’s a true indie horror filmmaker. We also get some fun genre cameos. Indie horror filmmaker Donald Farmer, Laurence R. Harvey from HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, and horror f/x guru Tom Savini to name a few.
COOL AS HELL proves once again that James Balsamo is here to stay and that the indie horror scene is alive and thriving. COOL AS HELL is a fun, no-brainer genre flick that’s works best watching it with some buddies and some booze. Check this one out.
Director: James Balsamo (& writer)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 2 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer