Channeling John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13) and David Cronenberg (A History of Violence), director Jim Mickle expertly builds nerve-shattering tension into Cold in July. Set in East Texas in 1989, it’s a howling, high-grade thriller that holds you tight in its grip. Mickle (Stake Land, We Are What We Are) and co-writer Nick Damici do wonders with Joe R. Lansdale novel, ratcheting up the tension like nobody’s business. The excellent Michael C. Hall starts on a low simmer as Richard Dane, a mild type with a mullet who sells frames to support a wife (Vinessa Shaw) and young son. He’s the last guy you expect to shoot and kill a burglar who invades his home, leaving blood and guts on the wall. But that he does. Suddenly, the townsfolk see a macho side to Richard and start giving him props. Richard gets off on it at first. But then Ben Russell (Sam Shepard, suberb), the victim’s felon daddy, shows up fresh out on parole and eager for revenge. Plot twist alert! The victim may not be who the local cop (Damici himself) says he is. That’s when Richard and Ben go out snooping with Jim Bob Luke (Don Johnson), a Houston private eye and part-time pig farmer who rides a Caddy he affectionately calls the “red bitch.” A deliciously amoral Johnson steals every scene he’s in. But Hall and Shepard get in their licks until the whole concept of manhood is explosively and artfully deconstructed. Jeff Grace’s synthesizer score evokes the creepy pulse of Carpenter’s Halloween. Get ready to squirm. Be sure to seek out this twisty and terrific sleeper in theaters or on VOD. It’s a real find.