Back in September, Marvin Kren’s The Station made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival through Midnight Madness, a programme dedicated to the dark, the twisted, and the horrific in cinema. The atmosphere is that of a community engaged and in love with horror in all its multifaceted glory. The crowd is rowdy, and eager for fun. The louder the audience reacts, the better the film. The Station elicited cheers and jeers from the audience in equal measure: we screamed together, we laughed as a single entity, and we loved every minute of this bloody creepshow. Renamed Blood Glacier by popular demand, Kren’s wickedly fun monster flick is back for one night through Sinster Cinema’s horror series at various cinemas throughout Canada.
The film takes place at a weather research station in the German Alps, where a small team of scientists, their technician and his dog are studying the effects of rapid climate change on the environment. While preparing for a visit from a significant government official and the press, they make a shocking discovery. A strange, red liquid is seeping out of the melting glaciers, which are receding at an alarming rate. The blood-like substance – evidently, an actual phenomenon normally consisting of various forms of algae – is made up of ancient microorganisms that function as a catalyst for genetic mutation. Bonding the genetic material of the host and whatever foreign DNA it ingests, it forms a hybrid specimen. The combinations are seemingly limitless, and lethal. Now the team must fight to survive, while avoiding contamination.
Tonally similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing, it plays with a canine catalyst, and stunning landscapes, setting expectations very high. Ultimately it delivers on action, violence, and entertainment. Kren’s creatures are horrific, and will have you jumping in your seat. These Darwinian nightmares are only shown in as much detail as is absolutely necessary, leaving much of their anatomy and impact to the imagination, allowing terror to build.
In a refreshing turn, Kren and writer Benjamin Hessler have created mostly intelligent characters that are fuelled by survival instinct rather than fear and stupidity. Scientists Birte (Hille Beseler) and Falk (Peter Knaack) are portrayed as overly ambitious, defying common sense and hoping to come out unscathed. Technician Janek (Gerhard Liebmann) and Alpinist Tanja (Edita Malovcic) struggle with a tumultuous past, and react with pragmatism in the most lethal of situations.
Liebmann offers a powerful performance, both as ass-kicking hero and a man with a broken heart. Avoiding the melodramatic, he adds an emotional level to the film that doesn’t detract from the deadly task at hand.
Brigitte Kren as Minister Bodicek provides the film with an intelligent, fierce heroine. With some of the best lines in the film, and easily some of the best action sequences, she steals every scene she’s in. The film is worth watching if only for her performance.
The film’s primary weakness is the introduction of a seemingly random character. A young girl running through the Alps stumbles upon our party of scientists after being attacked by a hybrid falcon/beetle/fox creature. During TIFF, her origins were never explained, which added a great deal of confusion, and muddled the rest of the action. At the time, Kren explained that many of her scenes had to be cut. He and Hessler added during a Question and Answer session following the film’s Midnight premiere that there was a second group on the mountain shooting a music video. A group of furries, they were attacked by the frightening hybrid creatures mid-shoot, and this girl was the sole escapee.
Unfortunately, no origin scenes were kept, and so her presence in the film feels disjointed. The film suffers as a result. For whatever reason, Kren and Hessler did not recut the film to better explain her presence, which may alienate a wider audience upon its release. It would have served them substantially better to add in a couple of scenes for exposition, and trim the fat elsewhere. Alas, we’re left wanting.
In spite of such setbacks, Blood Glacier delivers on all fronts. Well paced, with engaging performances across the board, terrifying tension, and some seriously sick creatures, it’s a great film worth seeing. It lacks the potent political subtext of Carpenter’s The Thing, while maintaining the excitement and amplifying the tension. This is a fun ride that everyone will enjoy, and should not be missed tomorrow night for Sinister Cinema!