★ / ★★★★
Clearly inspired by John Carpenter’s cult classic sci-fi horror “The Thing,” Marvin Kren’s eco-horror “Blood Glacier” is a mutated imitation by comparison. While this may sound like a compliment on the surface because the latter involves horrifying mutant organisms that must grow inside their respective hosts, the statement is a critique in that the material attempts to deliver B-movie entertainment without the required intelligence, creativity, and a central protagonist worth rooting for—three reasons why its inspiration is more than yet another forgettable creature-feature from the 1980s.
The practical effects are effective especially when jump scares are delivered. The creatures are truly ugly—for instance, there is a fox-beetle hybrid which has grown to the size of a dog—and so when they suddenly appear on screen with an accompanying booming score, jolts surge up one’s spine. The shock is likely to be followed by uncomfortable chuckles because one realizes that these monsters look like detailed and well-made puppets. It does the job.
But remove the special effects. All that’s left is another movie set in an icy and snowy terrain with things that go bump in the night. There are supposed to be three scientists (Hille Beseler, Peter Knaack, Felix Römer) and a technician (Gerhard Liebmann) who work at a research station, but the audience is not given a complete picture of what it is that they do there exactly before they are confronted by the creatures. The dialogue touches upon climate research but establishing conversations and images fails to provide specifics so that we, too, feel like a part of a team doing important work. Make no mistake: It has nothing to do with the budget. The problem is a lack of depth in Benjamin Hessler’s screenplay; it lacks faith. It goes by the assumption that the viewer is not interested in scientific details.
It gets worse as it goes on. Eventually, the four characters are joined by at least five others. We are provided even less detail as to why they decide to visit the station. They take plenty of photos on the way there. What is clear, however, is that it is a mistake to put them all in one location because nearly everything is reduced to panic, screaming, and yelling at one another. The sense of dread established during the first thirty minutes is erased nearly completely by the halfway point. We watch the potential prey stumble about with the hope that the creatures start picking them off so the material could have a chance to get back on track. Unfortunately, the picture never recovers.
I watch this type of film with great fascination because there is almost always at least one scene in which curious creatures are opened up and dissected. I find images considered to be disgusting by most as rather beautiful—the slimier the images, the giddier, more tickled I feel. When the camera is unafraid to keep still and let the viewers appreciate the artistry on the table without music cues, the material is at its most compelling. Perhaps it takes me back to childhood when I collected insects and opened them up just out of curiosity. But there must be equally compelling reasons to keep watching outside of these autopsies.