Blood Glacier (UK DVD)
Directed by Marvin Kren
Distributed by Studiocanal
Rammbock director Marvin Kren sends a love letter to John Carpenter's The Thing with his snowbound creature feature Blood Glacier (also known as The Station in the US). Assisting a small band of scientists investigating the ongoing effects of climate change, hard-drinking technician Janek (Liebmann) fills his days alongside his beloved dog, Tinni, with trying to keep the ramshackle operation on the go while remaining as close to the edge of sobriety as possible.
While investigating a technical failure off-site, Janek and Tinni come across a cave surrounded by a strange red substance covering a large area of glacier. Inside, Tinni is attacked and wounded, and Janek runs afoul of a strange fox-like creature. After reporting back to the scientists at the station, Janek and the others learn that the red substance is in fact a biological entity in itself – bacterial microbes that can take the DNA of one infected host and mix it with the DNA contained within their stomach, causing the gestation of a brand new hybrid with the physical form of the host creature and its most recent meal. It's a doubly bad time for this discovery to occur, as the isolated troupe are just a day away from a visit by government minister Bodicek (Kren) and her crew – including Janek's ex-girlfriend Tanja (Malovcic). As the situation leads to internal conflict between those who wish to seek help and those who wish to keep the discovery a secret until the all-important visit is complete, the number of aggressive mutated animals roaming the wilderness increases to the point that it can no longer simply be ignored.
The most striking thing initially about Blood Glacier is undoubtedly the locations – formed of beautiful, sweeping vistas and frozen mountain terrain, the setting lends a hell of a lot of production value to Kren's film all by itself. Across the board, the cast do a good job with their roles, especially Liebmann as the regularly surly but conscientious and decidedly human Janek. Living in self-enforced exile due to unreconciled history with Tanja, it becomes obvious that he is still very much in love her. Thankfully, Malovcic plays equally well against him forming a trio – Janek, Tanja and Tinni – that you can really root for. Knocking it out of the park is Brigitte Kren as Minister Bodicek, whose character takes all expectations of a snivelling political weasel and throws them out the window, ushering in a bad-ass older lady more than ready to kick some monster ass.
Where Blood Glacier falls down somewhat is in the creatures themselves. While some of the attack sequences are undoubtedly tense – especially those involving Janek and the 'fox' – others tend to fall flat due to ropey effects work. Kren's decision to go entirely practical effects is admirable, with some impressive creature design, but it appears that the budget to present them believably was sorely lacking. Static puppets emerge from the darkness and smash through walls and windows to do little more than thrash rigidly from side to side and back and forth as their roaring fills the soundtrack and hyperactive editing attempts to cover it up. Worse is the realisation of the bird of prey hybrid, which darts around the air in multiple scenes in a superimposed format that is, quite frankly, absolutely laughable. It's a shame as, as already mentioned, the physical design of the creatures is very impressive and actually rather frightening. In one particular scene filled with outright monster onslaught chaos, Kren manages to pull off a sequence of moments that illicit a feeling of total and utter hopelessness for our protagonists. It's a highly effective scene, and testament to the strength of the characterisation and realisation of his concept. Despite its strengths, Blood Glacier consistently feels like it's missing something – it does the necessary for an entertaining monster movie, but never pushes far enough into the emotional or scare arenas to make something truly exceptional. Thus, while delivering an undeniably good time, it falls short of making a lasting imprint for itself.
With Janek and Tanja forced to make a difficult decision come the end point (some, including myself would say the wrong one – though their actions feel entirely fitting with the characters), followed by a ridiculously goofy stinger finale, Blood Glacier teases at a sequel on a more apocalyptic scale. Here's hoping that Kren does in fact decide to bring it to us, and bags the resources he needs to bring his marauding mutants to more convincing life.
Studiocanal's UK DVD release of Blood Glacier arrives sporting the trailer, and a stills gallery featuring some extremely cool creature concept art as the only extras.
3 out of 5
1 out of 5