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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