Studio: IFC Midnight
Director: Marvin Kren
Writer: Benjamin Hessler
Producer: Helmut Grasser
Stars: Gerhard Liebmann, Edita Malovcic, Hille Beseler, Peter Knaack, Felix Romer, Brigitte Kren
A climate research team stationed in the German Alps discovers a mysterious substance that can morph different species into hybrid creatures.
Howard Hawks and John Carpenter have forever condemned all movies about scientific expeditions at remote research outposts to be compared against “The Thing.” That is illustrious company to be lumped in with, yet it is also a high standard of both quality and entertainment value. Imitators are thereby required to stack up against not one, but two classic films. “Blood Glacier” does all it can to capture that same style of desperation drama while dropping in pinches of “Alien” and “The Mist” for its twisted take on Mother Nature run amok. This particular recipe almost gets the mixture right, until the final flavor bottoms out in the bigger picture.
Previously known as “The Station,” “Rammbock” director Marvin Kren’s film was rechristened with the much cooler title of “Blood Glacier,” although said ice floe only makes very brief appearances to kickstart the story and to bookend the finale. Anticipatory dreams of seeing a sentient iceberg wreak havoc dissipate in an “aw shucks” finger snap when it is revealed that the titular glacier is merely the carrier of an unidentified red substance capable of mingling various DNA profiles into ravenous hybrid creatures.
From a fox mixed with a woodlouse to a falcon merged with who knows what, “Blood Glacier” is at its demented best when throwing monstrous mutations on top of outmatched scientists. The actors wrestle against the beasts with only modestly more enthusiasm than Bela Lugosi mustered for his fight against the octopus in Ed Wood’s “Bride of the Monster.” “Blood Glacier” is still careful about not dipping too deep into snickering silliness though. Kren is thus able to deliver B-movie charm to shots of rubbery monsters writhing and wiggling as they have a battle royal with bearded eggheads and attractive academics without becoming unnecessarily campy.
Not quite as inventive as the creations in “Frankenstein’s Army” (review here), nor as clearly depicted, these creatures are no less imaginative in their hybrid designs. “Blood Glacier” utilizes its bag of practical FX tricks with effective results, especially during a squirmy scene of meatball field surgery to remove an alien organism embedded under human flesh. In its homage to invasive isolation horrors of filmdom past, the movie does borrow liberally from ideas like the “Alien” face hugger, but retains enough visual flair to keep eyes focused on the madcap mania.
While the action sequences pack plenty of vigor, the slow moments in between suck out too much of the spirit. Two separate threads involving two groups of people take their time merging, and the pauses taken to flesh out characterizations linger long after the fervor from the previous fright has worn off. The mistimed sense of balancing dreary drama with energetic frenzy makes for a movie whose excess fat of belabored backstory is in need of slimming.
There is a brief tease of distrustful paranoia a la “The Thing,” but the seed never really bears any satisfying fruit. The monster mayhem is fun, albeit doled out in too few and too small doses. The story depth is unfortunately a bit shallow to add anything of substantial value to the eye candy.
A late revelation regarding a key past event between two characters seems tailor made specifically to remedy such problems. Except the subject matter used to fill in the blanks is so heavy given the rest of the movie’s mood that it adds weight in a way that drags the tempo instead of buoying it.
Perhaps because it pulls from so many varied sci-fi and creature feature sources, “Blood Glacier” never really grabs a firm handle on a personalized tone that makes sense for its style. Visceral thrills play tug of war with drawn out dramatizations that feel out of place when the rest of the movie just wants to snap its chains and let loose. And the person who ends up losing that identity struggle is the viewer caught up in a movie undecided about exactly what it wants to be.
NOTE: The film’s German title is “Blutgletscher.”
Review Score: 60