★ / ★★★★
Clocking in at only about an hour and ten minutes, “Hypothermia,” written and directed by James Felix McKenney, may have a short running time but it does not mean that it is efficient or fast-paced. On the contrary, it is a drag to sit through because the victims and the monster are there but the screenplay does not know what to do with them in order to create either an interesting story or one that offers genuine suspense, thrills, and horror.
The dialogue comes across so robotic, it is a challenge to discern whether the actors practiced the scenes so many times or there was no rehearsal at all. This is most noticeable when a character becomes gravely injured or dies. The camera employs certain angles that denote panic and alarm, but when the silence is broken, the words that come out are dead dull, unintelligent, and unbelievable. Thus, we are taken out of the moment almost immediately and we realize that the bloodletting is all for naught.
It has limited ideas in terms of what to do with the setting. Ice fishing goes horribly awry when a family (Michael Rooker, Blanche Baker, Benjamin Forster), including the son’s girlfriend (Amy Chang), discovers a creature underneath the surface. It might explain why, although they have been fishing for hours, they have not caught a single fish.
Part of the problem is that the distance between the lake, a dangerous area, and the cabin, a safe spot, is not that far. Although the characters are being terrorized by the prehistoric creature, one thought lingers in the back of our minds: Why not just make a run for it? Instead, we are subjected to sit through phrases like, “It has arms and legs!” or “It’s too dark outside!” Why not actually show us that is not a good idea to run back to the cabin? It sure beats passively watching the potential victims staying in one spot and getting picked off individually.
The frozen lake and the surrounding areas are neither beautiful nor menacing. Instead, just about everything looks drab. When the camera scans the vicinity, there is no excitement, a sense or wonder, or tense anticipation. Later in the picture, there is a line or two about the family visiting the lakeside once or twice a year. The problem is, we never get to see or experience for ourselves why they keep coming back. Specifically, why is it such an important place for them?
Some say that it is easy to make a horror movie. When strictly talking about the budget, I might be inclined to agree. But just like in every genre, details do matter. When details are overlooked to such an extent that the material relies only on plot to keep it afloat, the picture—no matter what the genre—is in trouble. Needless to say, “Hypothermia” is not a good movie. It is as though the filmmakers didn’t even try. And just like its screenplay, the monster costume is equally egregious.