Tuesday, February 25, 2014

5 Off My Head - A Movie Called Blood Glacier

Although its original Austrian title is Blutgletscher for some reason the film played the Toronto film-festival as the snoozy-titled and lousily translated The Station - thankfully the powers that be realized they needed to spice it up, and so we have Blood Glacier! Magic! It it had been called The Station when it played Film Comment Selects here in New York I never would've felt the need to rush to see it, and oh what a terrific time I would have missed. Here are some thoughts on this terrific ecological creature feature, which tells the story of an iceberg of dangerously infectious micro-organisms thawed thanks to global warming, and the hellmouth's worth of havoc they wreak.

1. I wanted to start out by calling Blood Glacier "A really great SyFy movie!" (put it on the poster!) but it struck me that once upon a time they were just called B-movies (or if you're really digging deep Z-movies) and they stood on their own as such - SyFy has done a really terrific job, it must be said, in branding themselves as the modern purveyor of super schlock. Reeling Roger Corman into their stable of movie-makers - this year will bring the sure-to-be epic Sharktopus Vs. Mermantula (what are the words I am even typing anymore) starring Casper Van Dien - was good business. But back to the main event - Blood Glacier reads like a SyFy movie, but quality-wise it's several miles above teetering up in the mountaintops of B-movie-dom. If notsomuch when the gigantic plastic beastie heads start bursting through doors, then in other areas.

2. Like specifically the casting. Where we'd be getting a smorgasbord of used-up LA over-tanned detritus if this were a SyFy movie - think Tara Reid wearing a lab-coat and Antonio Saboto Jr.'s sagging tits pressing against a too-tight Army t-shirt - the fine folks making Blood Glacier actually cast people who look like scientists and soldiers in their movie, and that eensy little effort makes a world of difference. And beyond just looking the part, they're not bad actors either. Take for instance how our leading actor Gerhard Liebmann, playing Janek, the RJ MacReady of the German Alps, is called upon to be drunk for a good chunk of the film - playing convincingly drunk is serious business, not nearly as simple as stumbling about and hiccuping bubbles, and he gets it done while simultaneously giving us somebody worth rooting for. I also liked Hille Beseler as the too serious lady scientist of the bunch - putting Tara Reid to shame! Oh and super bonus points to Brigitte Kren for straddling the line between camp and realism effortlessly and kind of dragging the movie right along with her. You've never seen somebody scream at somebody else for crying while also eating a banana quite like it.

3. Yes like I said the monsters are fairly cheesy looking at times, but the film-makers obviously loved their concept and had a ton of fun with laying out the not-totally-insane science of it - okay maybe it's totally insane, but they make it seem less so when they give Hille Beseler the job of laying it our for us. They sell it. And from there they churn out a self-sustained mythology that reproduces its own super strains of awesomeness - it gives us the rules, how these gruesome microorganisms work and what they're capable of, and then it jumps head over feet over talons over horns to give us every iteration of what's possible in a parade of delight-fueled evolutionary gnarliness. I love my monsters, I do, and Blood Glacier loves giving them to me in a vast array of shapes and sizes. It's definitely riffing straight up on John Carpenter's The Thing in all kinds of ways, nowhere more than in its uncanny valley of creature designs, but why not crib from the ultimate? They find new ways to spin it and unleash the willies.

4. Besides the cast working so well for the film, I've got to give props to the locations they filmed this thing in - it's supposed to be Germany but they actually filmed it in the Northern Italian Alps; it's actually not all that far from the place I visited when I went up there a couple of years ago. The locations are just spectacular and effective - endless quarry-like nothingness, hard and cold and barren, but also breathtaking and beautiful. I've got a thing for the mountains and my one quibble with the film was the scientists' consternation with drunken Janek, not understanding why he kept re-upping to stay at the remote science station - I'd take his job in a heartbeat and never look back.

5. And finally, that ending! It's just perfectly realized what-the-fuckery. You don't see it coming (I challenge anyone to see this movie's ending coming) but then it's there blindsiding you with, well, what-the-fuckery. Slowly though as your senses return you're like, well duh! That actually totally makes sense. Sense to the movie's world, that is - we're not talking sense sense here, thank goodness. But it fills in emotional holes the film was setting to the side the whole movie long that you were only half sorta paying attention to because hello giant beetle-fox hybrids were scuttling up cave walls, and it's totally in keeping with the movie's amped-up  and sideways self-logic. The whole picture, once it comes into view, completes itself in a surprisingly satisfying way. It's certainly one you won't forget, at least.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I just hate it when I see a well thought out and written review with no comments on it -

I now plan on seeing this - adding it to my watchlist.