Hypothermia (2010)

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Hypothermia

What we have here is your basic ducks-in-a-barrel situation with a bit of domestic nonsense on the side, as two ice-fishing families find themselves on the other end of the hook! If only writer/director James Felix McKenney had used that as his tagline, Hypothermia might have been box-office gold instead of a marginal curiosity starring The Walking Dead‘s Michal Rooker. Some competent supporting actors and a better monster suit would have helped, too.

Rugged outdoorsman Ray Pelletier (Rooker), his wife Helen (Blanche Baker), their clean-cut son David (Ben Forster; lousy actor) and David’s milquetoast fiancee (Amy Chang; I’ve seen totem poles that were less wooden) get their frozen fishing vacation interrupted by the arrival of an asshole big-game hunting yuppie (Don Wood), and his soon-to-be-supper son Steve (Greg Finley). The two clans notice that something big and fast is zipping around beneath the ice and they join forces to land the beast, which turns out to be a normal-sized guy with pointy teeth squeezed into a fairly unimpressive neoprine jumpsuit. The hunters, soon become the hunted, blah, blah, blah, gore, scream, flee.

Look, I love the guy-in-the-monster-suit solution, and I’ve said as much right here in this very blog. At least with the guy-in-the-suit you get a sense of menace proportion that’s reasonably accurate, as opposed to the slippery sliding scale you get with a CGI monster. Is it as big as a car? A boat? An airplane? In this case, the proportional accuracy of the guy in the (not very impressive) suit works against the overall aim of the movie, namely, to scare me! Sorry, I just can’t summon up the adrenaline to freak out over a skinny dude in a wetsuit who looks like a hastily put-together sleestak.

Furthermore, the finale of Hypothermia is a painful example of a the-checks-didn’t-clear-lets-pack-up-and-split ending, as Helen appeals to the monster’s sense of decency and fair play to spare her life. Oh. Effin. Brother. The movie’s not a complete flop, due to the steadying presence of Rooker in a surprisingly mild-mannered role. (Face it, once you’ve played Henry Lee Lucas in a movie, you’re pretty much type-cast as the psycho fruitcake.)

Finally, I don’t understand the title. I “get” that the whole movie takes place on a frozen lake, and the threat of icy weather conditions are clearly present. But it’s like deciding that a better title for Jaws would have been Undertow or Cramps. You have to travel quite a way down the page of worst case scenarios before settling on hypothermia: frankly I’d rather freeze to death (they say it’s just like going to sleep!) than to still be conscious while my intestines are slurped up like ramen. But that’s just me.

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The Selling (2011)

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M’lady did not care for The Selling, at all. She thought it was corny and childish. Total amateur hour. Long pointless scenes. An unfunny comedy. For the most part, I agreed with her, and still do—yet I quite liked it. Apparently, girls not only mature faster than boys, they mature far longer. Does that make sense? The truth is, The Selling is nothing more than an old-fashioned spook-house comedy, a genre that peaked somewhere around the time of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. And my inner 12-year-old (which greatly resembles my outer 50-year-old), was delighted. I giggled like a mental patient all the way through it. M’lady thinks me deranged, or at least a case for arrested development. Maybe deranged development is most accurate.

Screenwriter and star Gabriel Diani is dweeby Los Angeles real estate agent Richard Scarry—you know, like the children’s author—who needs to make a pile of dough in a hurry to pay for his mother’s cancer treatment, which, unsurprisingly, is ungodly expensive. Richard and his dopey pal Dave (Jonathan Klein) get talked into buying a murder house by hot/conniving Realtor Mary Best (Janet Varney) and are then forced to somehow fix-up and flip a house that’s haunted by the 12 victims of a serial killer known as the Sleep Stalker.

The Selling is at its best in the world of real estate chicanery, as our knucklehead protagonists attempt to get an extremely haunted house ready for a “showing.” Meek little Richard attempts to reason with the ghosts, telling them that he is, in fact, in a rather tight spot, and that has no choice but to try and sell the house. The ghosts respond with a volley of plagues that would have driven saner, smarter men to head for the hills. Richard and Dave are not ghostbusters or even especially competent; they’re just a pair of goofy schnooks that get in over their heads. At least Richard is rewarded with a romantic interest, the extremely bubbly paranormal blogger Ginger Sparks (Etta Divine) who helps them make contact with the spirit world. Comedian Simon Helberg has a small part, and veteran scene chewer Barry Bostwick shows up as a bumbling exorcist.

From all accounts, this was a shoe-string operation, financed the friend-and-family way. So I have to give it up for Diani and director Emily Lou. Here they have cinematic evidence of sufficient wit and inventive moxie to handle a bigger budget. The Selling never tries to be anything more than a sweet, amusing and somewhat corny contemporary haunted house flick. And it more than meets that modest goal.