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Michael Rooker and pals go ice fishing, and things turn sour. Really sour....
MPI / 72 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: October 2, 2012
I think that there are certain elements in monster movies that are very similar to elements in horror films that intrigue me. I love the anticipation of the attack, the barely-seen figure skulking around in the shadows, stalking its victim and the eternal question “what would I do?” in these situations. Although I prefer specter to beast, beast can often be pretty entertaining nonetheless. Knowing the potential for a deliciously hair-raising experience, I popped Hypothermia into my DVD player and awaited my voyeuristic encounter with a creature from the ice-cold depths.
One thing you need for a successful monster movie (as with most movies) is to have characters that you give a damn about. In Hypothermia, you’ve got the family that ice fishes every year, with the son running off to the Peace Corps right after college with his soon-to-be-wife. You’ve got the mother who knows dad will be disappointed he’s leaving so early, and dad who seems to be an overenthusiastic ice fisher. The dad, who is kind of the default main character, is played by Michael Rooker, a veteran of sometimes campy horror and suspense (think Slither).
As always, he plays a gruff guy who, in this movie, just wants to sit around a hole for hours and wait for fish to pop through. Enter a father and son duo, meant to foil Rooker’s peaceful day of freezing out in the wilderness with a fishing pole. I have to admit that I quickly sympathized with this intentionally annoying duo. They roll up next to the family in a pickup truck with a little a trailer replete with a shower, steaks in the fridge, and flood lights to illuminate their fishing spot. Personally, that’s the only way you’d ever get me to go ice fishing.
They even have a TV to sweeten the pot, so I immediately had something in common with these two. The annoying father, played by Dan Wood, is a slightly tongue in cheek characterization of the ubermensch, or the manly-manly man. I have to admit that from the time he pulled onto the ice, radio blaring, I knew that he would be eaten in a fairly nasty way, and teeny-tiny part of me was sad. Kudos to the writers to make a normally repugnant person almost sympathetic.
The suspension of disbelief is another important element to a successful monster movie. If a movie wants its viewer to feel involved in the story, it should tell a fairly realistic one. Hypothermia asks you, at certain points, to really suuuuspeend your disbeeelief. Case in point: in the first twenty minutes of the film, Rooker falls through a thin spot in the ice just as his wife is calling him in for dinner. It seems to me that he crawls and scratches for his life while his family chit chats in the cabin at the table.
Seemingly ten? - fifteen? twenty? - minutes roll by before it dawns on the family to go looking for him. They drag his legs out of the icy water and take him to the cabin. Later, we find out his legs are “a little stiff”. A little stiff? Frozen solid is more like it. People plunge into the water for minutes on end and then trudge around the ice afterwards with nary an icicle forming in their hair. Perhaps Hypothermia wasn’t the best choice for the title of the movie. Maybe Slightly Chilly? I guess that doesn’t pack the same punch.
The last and most important element of the monster film is the monster itself, of course. When I first got a good look at the would-be menacing creature, I have to admit that I gave a derisive snort. The monster looks like It’s directly out of a cheesy 80s flick like Humanoids from the Deep or Swamp Thing. It’s a man running around in a suit and a giant plastic head with plastic teeth and googly eyes. My first thought was, “My God, what would the judges on Face Off think?” But after a few more sightings of it, it grew on me a little bit. I realized that everything in this movie was a little off-kilter; the premise, the characters, the fact that no one who incurred gaping flesh wounds really felt like going to the hospital. Heck, why not have a synthetic deep sea lizard man in a SCUBA suit go around slicing and dicing? Bring it on!