“The Cold” aka “The Game” (1984) Directed by Bill Rebane. Starring Tom Blair, Jim Iaquinta and Carol Perry. Three bored millionaires invite nine guests to a rural resort to play a deadly game of survival, with the winner walking away with $1 million. Can the contestants in this game of fear survive the weekend, or will they flee in terror?
As a trio of well to do aristocrats arrive at a lovely resort, our folksy narrator explains that they’ve grown tired of cribbage and croquet, so they’ve devised a new game. “The Cold” takes place at the Northernaire Resort in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. (Filmed on location!) Early on, we get to know our cold-hearted masterminds.
First up, there’s Maude, who chooses the contestants and looks into their past history to make sure they are suitable for the game. She is pretty much the brains of the operation. Her comrades George and Horace take care of the special effects, theatricality and deception involved in this warped form of entertainment.
After the trio drink and discuss this year’s players, we cut to an amazing dance party in which the three old folks mingle with their nine contestants as a band performs a strange blend of countrified disco music.
The cameraman was apparently quite short, because he was unable to film anything above the female dancers chests. You will see a gown’s shoulder strap fall, exposing a woman’s naked boob, but you will not see any lady’s face. And the men, decked out in nightmarishly shiny leisure suits, don’t fare much better. So much orange and brown everywhere!
My favorite party going dude is Joe, a mustachioed fella wearing a wide collared yellow shirt that’s unbuttoned all the way down to mid torso, so we can see his huge surplus of black furry chest hair. He also has on a pair of brutally tight beige chinos and a gleaming brown vest. Joe came to par-TAY, and he isn’t planning on leaving this dance floor alone, you dig?
Maude, resplendent in a billowing light green silk gown that makes her look like the Statue of Liberty, agrees that Joe is looking razor-sharp, because she leans over to grab his ass.
After all the awful music and trashy, cocaine fueled writhing is over, it’s time to get down to business. Maude, Horace and George open the conversation with this priceless line:
“We shall be playing a game, which is simply called The Game.”
Oh, thanks. That clears everything up.
The last of the nine gathered players still on the grounds come the end of the weekend shall receive $1 million.
Cindy, one of the guests, inquires how exactly the game is played and George tells her to look down at her soup bowl. A tarantula crawls in the empty bowl and Cindy leaps into the lap of the gentlemen next to her, screaming. Blonde tough guy John tosses the hairy creature on the floor and stomps it to death, angering Maude.
George says the actual game won’t begin until tomorrow noon, and that for the duration of their stay, the players won’t see the three wealthy weirdos again. As they retire, Horace wishes them well: “Goodnight, and pleasant screams! Ha ha ha ha!” Cue thunder. Spooopy!
Let’s meet the players:
The band that played at the dance party is made up of contestants. There’s lead singer Randy Sue, who is dating guitarist Ronnie, known for his red bandana and friendship with the youthful J.D., an all around nice guy who is picked on by the fourth band member, leather clad jerk Aaron. I’m guessing they were going for a Johnny Cash vibe with him, since he constantly wears black and has a similar hairstyle.
We already know ladies man Joe, who likes sweet Southern gal Shelly, who brought along her girlfriends Cindy and Karen. Rounding out the group is the mysterious John, who is sweet on Karen. From the get go, everyone suspects that John is a plant by the millionaires to sabotage the players chances of winning. As the game progresses, John wants to form an alliance with Karen and lock out the rest of the gang from winning, in a move straight out of any number of modern-day reality TV shows.
Shelly, who doesn’t think too hard and speaks in a breathy Marilyn Monroe-esque fashion, hangs out in her hotel room at the resort wearing a sheer bra and endlessly brushing her hair. Cindy, her roomie, casually strips nude and also brushes her own long dark hair before putting on a red bikini. She’s going for a swim in the pool downstairs. Shelly questions the wisdom of Cindy going anywhere alone, saying that women are vulnerable.
Remember that for later.
In the pool, which isn’t particularly large, Cindy encounters a massive grey shark fin coming at her as she’s doing laps.
She screams and leaps out of the pool as Joe and others rush to her aid. There’s no sign of the fin as George laughs evilly over the PA system.
Outside the resort, John and Karen hike and chat. She’s a big city lawyer, and he’s….something. She needs the money to pay off her student loans and he just likes the idea of a fat paycheck.
Meanwhile, Joe makes time in a bubbling hot tub with Cindy and Shelly, discussing his inability to choose one of them as a lover. Cindy rolls her eyes and leaves, followed by her friend.
In the lounge, Randy Sue and her band practice. She discusses her unease about the place with Ronnie, who agrees.
“I’m petrified. Tarantulas aren’t exactly my cup of soup.”
John, on another nature walk with Karen, finds the Old Lodge out in the woods. He wants to sneak into the abandoned structure and go ghost hunting, but Karen isn’t having it. Above them, a hunchbacked ghoul stares from one of the lodge’s windows.
While Cindy is trying on an evening dress, a note is slipped under her door and then pulled back out again as the door is opened. Hilarious!
It turns out to be Joe, who claims he found the note near her room. It reads simply: “The Game has begun.”
J.D. takes a leak but can’t flush because the water pressure is gone. The lights all over the hotel begin to flicker ominously as someone violently pounds on J.D. and Aaron’s door. Aaron yanks it open and is blasted backwards by a torrent of ice-cold air! More laughter as freezing fog appears in the hallway.
John breaks into an office room at the resort and flips through secret files. He is interrupted by Cindy, who chides him for breaking the law and being so darn mysterious.
In the kitchen, Ronnie, Randy Sue and Karen make sandwiches. Ronnie heads to a nearby vending machine to get soft drinks when he is suddenly ambushed, a burlap sack pulled over his head. John and Cindy, who come by right after, finds Ronnie’s trademark red bandanna on the carpet. Randy Sue and Karen meet up with the pair and worry over the missing player. Karen puts Randy to bed due to her state of panic, even though she’s an adult who would rather be searching for Ronnie.
During a fireside chat, we learn that Joe spent a month in prison. The flames in the fireplace suddenly go out and are replaced by a frosty mist. The group, now shivering, is being watched by the hunchback seen earlier at the Old Lodge. He looks like Uncle Fester with hair, and he’s literally only a few feet from the gang.
Joe, bored by the plunging temperature, heads to the arcade room. The games are rigged to never let anyone win, enraging him. Randy Sue lies in bed, sedated with Valium after freaking out about Ronnie losing his bandanna before he ran away…or something.
J.D. lays in the next bed over as a black and white horror show plays on television. In The Cold’s creepiest scene, Randy notices that the cadaverous host of the show is hanging her beloved Ronnie from a noose! She screams in horror as Ronnie jerks and twitches onscreen.
At breakfast the next day, only 7 players turn up. John is up to hijinks elsewhere and Ronnie is apparently quite dead. Joe thinks they should fan out and search for a secret control room where the old coots might be hiding, and then beat the truth about Ronnie out of them.
As John arrives for breakfast, the Hunchback crosses unnoticed in front of the window outside. Back in J.D.’s room, a new letter arrives. It reads: “Everything okay. Meet me at the Old Lodge at 7 pm. This is a game we can win. –Ronnie.”
Aaron decides to stop guessing and start messing. He pulls out a revolver and heads off to the Lodge with the express purpose of arriving earlier than 7, disobeying the letter. What a bad boy! Though the Lodge is only 20 feet from the hotel, he leaves in the light of day and arrives hours later under the cover of a pitch black sky. Maybe he stopped for smokes.
The Hunchback enters the aforementioned Old Lodge, which glows with crimson light from within as Aaron approaches. The leather clad badass climbs the stairs and promptly falls through a trap door into a basement cell complete with a skeleton and rats.
Back at the hotel, the three millionaires line dance down a deserted hallway in silver masks. They’re having the time of their lives. Unaware of this, John has a drink at the bar and gazes at the night through a huge window, until he notices Randy and J.D. racing across the grounds towards the Old Lodge.
J.D. and Randy enter their forbidding destination as Aaron fights off tons of hungry rats. (The rats are the best actors in the film.)
Remember how Shelly warned Cindy that a woman alone is vulnerable? Well, Shelly can be found relaxing alone and nude in the sauna, eyes closed. That is, until good ol’ creepy Joe happens by and strips. He wants some action. Shelly points to a warning sign on the sauna wall.
“The sign says no physical exertion. Is it safe?”
“Of course it’s safe. I had a vasectomy.”
“Well, in that case…”
They get it on.
Back at the Old Lodge, a flying severed head attacks Randy Sue. The hanged body of Ronnie drops down from the rafters. Chilling mist pours in. Bats fly at them. It’s like one of those haunted house rides at a carnival.
Joe discovers post-coitus that the sauna door is locked somehow. Instead of staying hot, the chamber suddenly turns freezing as he attempts to break the glass with a rock. Karen and Cindy happen by and easily open the door, revealing an electronic locking mechanism.
In an upstairs office, John is stuffing stolen files into his sweater.
Freed from the Sauna of Doom, Joe discovers the plastic severed head that flew at Randy Sue and the gang plays catch with it, laughing despite the fact that Aaron and Ronnie are both missing and presumed dead. John watches the frolicking from a resort window disapprovingly as the creepy Hunchback plays with broken glass shards back at the Lodge.
Joe decides drinks are in order. He whips up Bahama Mamas for the ladies but warns them that the beverage might make them “too horny.” At the resort bar, John pops up holding Aaron’s gun and basically tells Joe and the others to go fuck themselves. He wants to win with Karen. We learn that Joe was in the Vietnam War as well as prison. He isn’t going to take any crap.
John found a bloody noose and the gun while searching the Lodge. Joe only found a fake head. Therefore Joe did not win at searching.
Karen decides to change into skimpy lingerie and take a nap above the covers in her room. All the better to erotically pose while sleeping. But alas, no rest for the undressed as a monstrous fanged creature bursts up through the mattress and barfs yellow mucus all over poor Karen!
She rolls onto the floor but the monster follows her, throwing up everywhere.
Joe and Shelly make out and he proposes sex, but she cuts him down to size with the ultimate put down: “I’m going to my room to meditate.” Ouch. Even I felt that burn.
As someone dumps a boa constrictor into the swimming pool, Shelly is chloroformed by the elderly trio in really nifty melted face masks.
They tie her to a chair and play Russian roulette with Aaron’s revolver. Since the film has no budget, every gun in it is Aaron’s gun, although it would be impossible for the old coots to have it. Just go with it.
Shelly must survive five pulls of the trigger, and much to their disappointment, she does. They leave her, loudly singing “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!”
How has no one run into these crazies yet? So much for secrecy.
As they peel their masks off and laugh in the hallway several feet from Shelly’s door, a gunshot breaks their celebratory spirit. Instead of simply going back to the room, they head for their basement control room as cheerful and totally inappropriate banjo music plays.
Karen is laying in a new bed (her last one got destroyed by a monster) when she suddenly projects her astral form and/or has a nightmare. She walks down the corridors and gets in the pool, where the snake attacks it. Actually, the snake just kind of lingers in the water, looking as baffled as we are, as the actress flounders about screaming. Back in bed safe, Karen wakes up. Yes, that actually happens in the movie…
The millionaires check out their monitors and see that Shelly is indeed dead. So they laboriously head back upstairs to look in the actual room. When they step into the basement hallway, the banjo music begins again. There’s no body in Shelly’s room. John, snooping around nearby, watches them.
Karen gets out of bed and hears a voice from the closet advising her to open it. She amazingly does as instructed and is confronted by a headless dancing skeleton. She closes the door and laughs it off. Her astral form has no comment.
John finds blood and the gun in Shelly’s room. Karen enters and he pulls out his badge. To the surprise of no one, he’s a cop investigating a mental patient who got a job as a janitor here at the resort before vanishing one year ago.
“This is no game. It’s real.”
In the pool area, Joe discovers Shelly dead in a glass shower stall. He goes apeshit!
Down in the control room, Horace suggests that the players are pulling a con on them with Shelly’s apparent murder. Also the frost machine, which generates the icy vapors all over the hotel, is going bonkers. They can’t switch it off. Oopsie!
John tells Joe, Karen and Cindy that the phones are dead and the cars have been tampered with. They are trapped 50 miles from town.
Joe is still pretty shaken up about Shelly.
“It was the smell of death in that room, cold…like a December grave.”
John and Joe fight over how the situation should be dealt with. Joe steals John’s cop gun and races to shoot some old folks. He finds them drinking and talking in their lair as John sneaks up. During the ensuing struggle, George is shot in the chest and Joe flees.
John grabs a nearby shotgun and heads after him and into the longest and dumbest chase scene in the history of cinema. They pass the Old Lodge, several meadows and other sights, pausing to fire at each other and miss. They wind up at an abandoned diner, where Joe gets the upper hand and declares he’s not going back to prison. Is Joe the mental patient?
The Hunchback shows up and removes his mask to reveal some blonde British guy named Felix Cramer. Who the hell is he? I don’t know. He tells the two men that they should stop fighting because this whole thing is fake. Shelly is fine, and there’s money to be had.
Karen, Joe, Cindy and John meet with the Millionaires. George is perfectly fine after being shot earlier. It turns out that each supposedly murdered guest got $50,000 in cash and a trip to a hotel 50 miles away in town.
Maude decides to give the four survivors a million bucks each and raises a triumphant toast:
“To the acceleration of fear!”
The players depart in Felix’s car.
Horace, Maude and George congratulate each other until freezing vapor begins to cover the floor. It’s pouring in from everywhere!
“Whose game is THIS?!”
They race around the resort chased by fog and echoing laughter over the PA system. After hiding themselves in a large tiled chamber, they watch as a pale phantom who looks exactly like the horror host that killed Ronnie emerges from the shower where Shelly was found.
Miles away in town, the survivors find only Ronnie waiting. He thought the others were coming with them. John demands that Felix take them back to the resort.
“Sir, you never want to go back there.”
All three millionaires are shown deeply frozen and dead. As John, who walked 50 miles in just minutes, looks on from a nearby bridge, the alabaster ice phantom watches him from one of the resort’s windows. This would’ve been a strange but graceful ending. But no.
In the misty tiled room, the Millionaires wake up from being frozen, grin and make silly faces.
So what just happened?
All I can offer you is a shrug.
Did the missing guests prank the Millionaires after everyone left, or is there a supernatural force at play? If the allegedly dead players killed the old folks, why would they remain behind the mask as John looks on at the end? Who really killed Shelly and Aaron? Since Joe fires several bullets from John’s police revolver, we know it is loaded with real bullets. And when George is shot, he bleeds. Was he wearing a squib pack and a Kevlar vest? Why does everyone act like the name Felix Cramer is important? How did the Millionaires get their hands on an advanced animatronic puppet like the bed monster?
What happened to the subplot about the mental patient turned janitor?
It’s like whole chunks of the script are missing. Maybe when they’re found, it will all make sense. Realizing this, the filmmakers did what Hollywood always does when dealing with a narrative that’s lacking….put more distracting elements in it! In this case it isn’t explosions but copious nudity and sleaze. Besides the sex aspect, the female characters are generally pretty weak. They rely heavily on men, their clothes all but fall off and they’re utterly useless in dangerous situations. Except for Maude.
The Cold is terrible, but it’s just so damned weird that you keep watching.