Blood Glacier

OTTAWA PREMIERE | STARTS JULY 4

It’s a premise that harks back to the best of Fifties horror films. Four scientists working at a remote base in the Austrian Alps discover a glacier stained red as if bleeding. Janek (Gerhard Liebmann) sees a strange creature near the site, something like a hybrid between a fox and a woodlouse, which he is convinced is a threat. The others won’t listen – understandably, because Janek is an unstable alcoholic. They’re busy making preparations from the Environment Minister to visit and they want everything to go smoothly. But it isn’t long before new horrors emerge, the danger becomes undeniable, and both they and the minister’s team are fighting for their lives.

Though essentially a familiar monster movie / survival horror story, Blood Glacier is so well put together that it feels fresh and punches well above its weight. It has previously toured the horror festival circuit under the name The Station, but thankfully someone saw the potential in its original German title, Blutgletscher. Rounded characters, solid performances, strong camerawork and an often very down-to-Earth script give it a groundedness too often missing from the genre. It’s also pleasing to see characters like this who can work as a team (despite Janek’s problems) and have practical procedures for coping with their environment, just as it’s nice to encounter a script which, whilst fantastic, is still scientifically literate. These elements combine such that when humour is injected into proceedings it really has an impact; there are elements of pastiche here but we are never invited to laugh at the film, only with it.

Despite, or perhaps because of, his antisocial attitude, Janek makes an endearing protagonist, devoted to his dog Tinnitus (an excellent turn from first-timer Santos) and still broken up over his ex, Tanja (Edita Malovcic), who just happens to be part of the Minister’s team. Brigitte Kren is a standout as the Minister herself, a stout, no-nonsense woman equally able to pose for PR shots, soothe damsels in distress and take on invading monsters with a chainsaw. Kren expertly balances these formidable qualities with an emotional vocabulary that humanises everyone involved, no matter how little we see of them.

As for the monsters, there’s a twist to their story that allows for a great deal of playfulness on the part of the special effects team without ever reducing their scariness. Fans of the genre will be delighted by the imaginative creations on display. The wildness of the location is effectively exploited and the fact the monsters actually behave like animals, temperamental and inconsistent, adds to the sense of being alone in the midst of nature – red in tooth and claw, yes, but most importantly, unpredictable. It’s a story that effectively conveys the smallness of humans, something modern horror rarely takes on with any degree of success.

By turns fun, scary, existential and curiously realist, Blood Glacier – or whatever you prefer to call it – is well worth a look.

-JENNIE KERMODE, EYE FOR FILM

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