“BLOOD GLACIER” (Movie Review)
You’d have to search far and wide for a genre filmmaker not influenced by John Carpenter, and more specifically THE THING. The legendary filmmaker’s arctic account of an assimilating, parasitic lifeform is a masterpiece of paranoia and puppetry, deftly blending looming atmosphere and existential angst with holy shit creature FX. Post-THE THING, the ensuing struggle between filmmaking and fandom, which is arguably a hurdle for horror filmmakers more than any other type, often leaves little else besides the impact and homage. A pleasant surprise then, that Austrian director Marvin Kren’s similarly snowbound creature feature BLOOD GLACIER isn’t just the sum of its favorite films.
An eco-horror yarn that spends refreshing time establishing the nature (both man and landscape) before it runs amok, BLOOD GLACIER opens with our lead Janek (Gerhard Liebmann) on the floor, passed out and in his underwear. He isn’t a jokey piece of opening kill to introduce the film however—a rather awkwardly inserted attack comes later, in fact—but the top layer of a fairly sad man who will lead BLOOD GLACIER’s audience through a mountain of madness. Janek is a technician in a small team of scientists at an environmental research station high in the freezing German Alps. Alone in a (tiny) crowd, Janek remains at the station with his dog Tinni as employees come and go; a solitary existence that’s the result of past romantic hurt.
Just as we watch Janek change (from forlorn to resolute and much in between) throughout, so does his environment. Director Kren may employ a bit too much obfuscating handheld technique in larger animal attack sequences, but the rest of BLOOD GLACIER is a classically-informed horror story, with wide, ominous looks at the brooding, harsh, but beautiful region looming over a doomed ensemble. Thanks to climate change, said landscape and the glaciers within are melting, with surface runoff carrying a red liquid full of microorganisms that frighteningly alter any animal it comes in contact with. Which is to say it melds with the animal and essentially any other living thing that animal’s previously eaten to form an entirely new, head-scratching hybrid—this is all explained with a rudimentary diagram that somehow becomes one of the most shuddering exchanges of the film.
The range of creatures that Kren and writer Benjamin Hessler then offer up to the organism allow for real variety in just how BLOOD GLACIER gets under one’s skin. The minuscule produces insect-like frights, as a thing more miniature than men pulsates and proves malevolent. As the larger beasts of the Alps, like Red Deer and Birds of Prey, transform, it brings a thrilling, chaotic and just-the-right-amount of schlocky effect to the proceedings; the latter aspect aided by Brigitte Kren, who’s fantastic as an Enviornmental Minister. Like Liebmann as Janek, Kren develops a rounded human being, so when the tough, old bird routine shines through, it’s rousing and hilarious. She’s also the vessel through which the instantly quotable order of, “Stop eating that banana while you’re crying!” is thrown down.
But the most chilling bits of BLOOD GLACIER are the hints at what’s truly going on underneath the ice. Kren and Hessler aren’t preachy with their nods to climate change. Instead, the director lays it bare visually as the wide looks at landscape reveal an earth transformed. The microorganism, being red and traveling via runoff, appropriately displays a bleeding, wounded planet. As the parasite moves up the chain of animal, the monster mash party vibe leaves just the slightest aftertaste that everything, including us, will be changed by the consequences.
BLOOD GLACIER is On Demand and in select theaters from IFC Midnight May 2.