Since I’ve been covering a lot of foreign movies in my lists lately (here, and here), it seems only proper that my first full film review in ages should continue in that vein. This time it’s the Austrian creature feature BLOOD GLACIER, directed by Marvin Kren and written by Benjamin Hessler, the team who brought us the quite excellent RAMMBOCK: BERLIN UNDEAD.
RAMMBOCK was a very low-key and intimate zombie film. BLOOD GLACIER, as can probably be gleaned from the very Syfy-like title, is anything but. And while it may sometimes seem a natural progression for a filmmaker to go from low-key to loud for their second feature, I can’t help but wish, after seeing BLOOD GLACIER, that Kren and Hessler had resisted the urge and stayed true to their roots.
The premise of the film is simple (and more than a little familiar to anyone who has ever seen THE THING, the not-quite-as-bad-as-expected Val Kilmer vehicle THE THAW, or Larry Fessenden’s decidedly underrated conservation-minded chiller THE LAST WINTER): Scientists working in the Austrian Alps discover that a glacier is leaking a liquid that appears to be affecting local wildlife. Without spoiling it too much, this “effect” means that various types of local wildlife get a lot of mutated grossness bursting out of them that then decides to infect, or eat, or both, our unfortunate scientists. In the meantime we get some heavy-handed ecological education on how we’re fucking up the planet (that would have made for a more terrifying movie.)
There are a lot of laughs to be had in BLOOD GLACIER. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that was intentional, and so it hurts the film. The first reason for this is not the fault of anyone involved: the dubbing. Dubbing is generally a crapshoot, and it’s why I avoid it whenever possible. Sometimes it works, more often it doesn’t, and in the case of BLOOD GLACIER, it reduces a moderately interesting creature feature to MST3K-levels of absurdity. The dull, emotionless, mismatched voices are painful to listen to, and one wishes they had gone with subtitles instead so at least some of the integrity of the film could have been maintained (I watched this on Netflix, so maybe the DVD has the option of subtitles over dubbing.) It’s hard to take a film seriously when someone dies and the actor expressing his concern for the survivors sounds like Tommy Chong on the toilet. I can’t even comment on the performances (which seemed fine) because I was too distracted by the voice work.
I did, however, love the hilarious (and intentionally so) line, which ranks up there as one of the strangest and funniest I’ve ever heard in a horror movie: “Stop eating that banana while you’re crying!” WTF?
The second reason the film falls flat is in the special effects work. If done right, a low-budget does not always equal terrible effects, or an absence of scares, and to be fair, Kren does his best to hide his monsters or just show squishy glimpses of them for the first half of the movie, but when at last we see them in their full glory…ouch. They look like shopping carts covered in fur and gore with bad Halloween masks tacked onto the front of them (the goat-thing is particularly awful). The CGI creatures are only marginally better, but even the titular glacier looks bizarre whenever an actor stands before it, like the digital effects guys couldn’t figure out how to balance the colors.
All that being said, I have to admit that BLOOD GLACIER is fun. It’s just not fun in the way I’m sure the filmmakers wanted. It isn’t, however, bad enough for me to write them off as an interesting duo to watch. RAMMBOCK was good enough to ensure I’ll check out anything else they do, and indeed is what led me to BLOOD GLACIER in the first place. This film just seemed a little too ambitious for the budget, and the addition of horrendously comical dubbing didn’t help in the least. I may, however, revisit it if subtitles are available on any future editions to see if it makes a difference. Sadly, I suspect it might not, but if you’re in the mood for some badly rendered hand puppets chowing on people who sound like they’ve been smoking crack in an air balloon while being reminded that we’re basically all a bunch of bastards who are destroying the planet, this just might be the horror film for you.