Of all the various sub-genres within the pantheon of horror films, my personal favorite has been and will probably always be the classic monster movie. This isn’t to say that I’m only a fan of old monster movies; rather, I’m talking about a film’s narrative structure. In a classic monster movie, the monster is never really at fault for his or her creation; it ends up being generally spawned by any number of the forces of evil working in concert with one another or (even worse) the flawed action of the perpetually flawed human race brings it about. Even when its killing, you as a viewer kinda/sorta feel sorry for it: it didn’t ask to be born, it didn’t ask to have such hunger, and it certainly never asked to suffer whatever cruel fate it will before the credits roll.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “At a climate observation station high in the German Alps, a group of technicians preparing for a visit from the Environment Minister discover a mysterious red liquid pouring from a nearby glacier. A result of the ice’s melting due to climate change, the now-spreading ‘glacier blood’ soon comes into contact with local wildlife, causing changes in the fauna that are at first curious but soon become horrifying.”
Now, yes, this is exactly what Al Gore probably dreams will happen in his heart of hearts, but let’s just dismiss the obvious politics of the piece because they’re honestly entirely inconsequential. While BLOOD GLACIER only flirts with indicting mankind for creating the conditions which just might spell a doom of Biblical proportions, writer Benjamin Hessler’s script sticks to that old-school monster formula I mentioned in my first paragraphs with terrific conviction, allowing director Marvin Kren to serve up arguably one of the best, most claustrophic creature features this side of Ridley Scott’s original ALIEN. No, it isn’t nearly in the same league as ALIEN, but its heart certainly pumps the same blood.
And hats off to the casting department! While some might read this and find it as a slight or an insult to those involved, I certainly don’t mean it that way in any estimation: director Kren has smartly populated his picture with wonderfully average-looking folk. From the hero to the Minister, these are faces you’d see in any crowd, and that helps elevate the otherworldly science and bizarrely Moreau-inspired creations to the point wherein the audience can accept them and not require more proof that they’d be possible. Gerhard Liebmann’s Janek bares only a passing resemblance to Kurt Russell (as he appeared in John Carpenter’s THE THING) – which I suspect was deliberate – but he in no way has the face one would associate with having made Walt Disney films in his youth. His is a rough’n’tumble everyman, and when he sheds tears over a loss you get a sense that he means it. Brilliant job by all involved.
Plus, BLOOD GLACIER is rendered with as few shots at the sky as possible, giving the film a tone heavily steeped in claustrophia. The rare appearance of the sky is mostly used when contrast is needed (for tonal elements), and everything remains draped in layers of Earth. It’s a grim, foreboding experience, and it was shot in a way to heighten those elements.
Lastly, what an insanely creepy coda (before the obligatory last scare). The thought of what’s possible is always more frightening than anything captured on film, and while I hope no one tries to cash in on any BLOOD GLACIER 2 there’s enough room for a sequel if (and only if) it improves on the original’s bleakness.
BLOOD GLACIER (2013) is produced by Allegro Film, Filmfonds Wien, Filmstandort Austria, and a few others (if you’re that interested, check out their entry at IMDB.com). DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by MPI Media Group under the IFC Midnight label. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a German-spoken-language release with either the original German track or an English-dubbed track available. (However, you’ve been warned: the English-dubbed track is one of the worst dubbing jobs I’ve seen as of late, and I don’t recommend it at all. It’s distractingly bad.) As for the technical specifications, this is a mostly smartly assembled production – the practical special effects aren’t the best I’ve seen, but they’re good enough so far as this fan of monster movies is concerned. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, there sadly aren’t any.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Bravo to all those involved in bringing the awfully-named BLOOD GLACIER to life! It’s a deliciously delightful monster movie that only resorts to CGI when it absolutely had to in order to deliver some wonderful old-school scares in such a New Age cautionary chiller. It has a few minor blemishes in the plot department – like where and how did that glacier just up and disappear in the film’s middle – but that’s chump change against the bloody money shots.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of BLOOD GLACIER by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.