Published Jun 19, 2014With its isolated setting in the German Alps and threat of insidious mutation, for a good while, Blood Glacier (formerly presented under far less odorous title The Station) feels like it's going to be the spiritual successor to John Carpenter's arctic horror classic, The Thing. As the film progresses though, inefficient special effects, a lack of confidence in creature design and a final act twist that makes thematic sense but flies in the face of logic prevent this desolate environmental admonitory tale from reaching that snowy, paranoid peak.
After a clumsy, introductory, text-based exposition dump reminds us that climate change will have a measurable impact upon biological evolution, we meet the crew of a remote weather research station. Tasked with studying a receding glacier, three scientists and one gruff loner responsible for equipment maintenance find themselves menaced by mutated wildlife. The culprit is a mysterious, red, infectious agent seeping into the water table from glacial runoff. In an act of idiotic hubris, the three scientists attempt to convince the technician, Janek (Gerhard Liebmann), to keep the discovery a secret, not wanting the significant, obviously dangerous scientific find to distract a high-ranking government minister, who's scheduled to arrive the next day, from their primary research goals.
This sort of nonsensical stupidity doesn't feel like the product of character critique, so much as an act of narrative convenience. It's harder to create tension when the victims in a horror film are intelligent, reasonable people. But it's worth the effort, and had Benjamin Hessler put in the work to write a scenario logical professionals would struggle to overcome, Blood Glacier would have been far better off. As it is, the frustrating inanity of these scientists is hard to swallow, even when acknowledged and played for comedy, which is what happens after the peril-fraught arrival of Minister Bodicek (a scene-stealing Brigitte Kren).
Aside from these complaints and the insecure choice to rarely linger on the aggressive monstrosities — this should have been a dream job for a talented physical effects artist — Kren's follow up to zombie virus flick Rammbock features an emotional depth rarely seen in the genre. Jaded and broken by the sting of a failed relationship, Janek drinks himself to sleep and finds companionship with his beloved dog. Beneath his sour crust is the inherent sense of nobility required to make him the hero of this story, but he's still a deeply flawed human being perfectly capable of losing arguments between his head and heart.
Timely, more than a little freaky and full of intriguing ideas and committed performances, Blood Glacier is a refreshingly mature ecological horror thriller that doesn't quite deliver on its considerable potential.