Movies · Reviews

‘Blood Glacier’ Review: A Nature Trail to Hell

By  · Published on April 30th, 2014

IFC Midnight

It’s 2014, and global warming is true. (Suck it climate deniers!) Scientists were wrong about one thing though in that it’s happening a lot faster than they predicted. A small research team in the Austrian Alps discovers something alarming when they come across a a blood-red glacier high up in the mountains that seems to be affecting the local wildlife. Animals are blending together into hybrids, but even worse than the presence of creatures that could possibly explain the likes and legends of werewolves is the unfortunate realization that these new lifeforms are thirsty for blood. You know, like werewolves.

A title like Blood Glacier comes with certain expectations. Blood and glaciers, obviously, but also horror, death and a self-awareness that chooses silliness over smarts. To that end this new Austrian film is a minor success, but while it manages to deliver on the above it suffers due to what it lacks – namely scares, engaging characters and monsters that are worth a damn.

“Stop eating that banana while you’re crying!”

The team is 3500 meters up at an isolated station and consists of three irrational scientists, one surly technician and one poor sap of a dog. Their excitement and curiosity towards the blood glacier and its creations is tempered only when they start falling prey to giant hairy beetles, birds of prey with spikes for tails and more. Janek (Gerhard Liebmann) recognizes the danger first, but his efforts to sway the others away from their dreams of being published in Scientific American fall on deaf ears. Soon a second group of people arrive including a past love interest of Janek’s and a high-ranking government official, but they do little more than add to the victim pool.

Director Marvin Kren and writer Benjamin Hessler definitely have their heart in the right place with a creature feature that wants so badly to appeal to fans of John Carpenter’s The Thing. There are easier homages to aim for and slighter films to ape, but with its remote, snowbound locale, mutating creatures and bearded anti-hero it’s clearly got Carpenter’s film in mind.

That direct lineage plays into the film’s biggest problem. Thirty-plus years after The Thing it’s not unreasonable to expect even better creature effects, but while Blood Glacier earns points for going the practical route over the more in vogue CGI the results aren’t pretty. The monsters appear to have been designed with no thought given as to how they would be brought to life. As still objects they look fine, but they lack the ability to move on their own meaning we’re stuck with creatures being shaken and jostled by crew members just out of frame. It’s unavoidably cheap, and it kills the menace in almost every scene involving an attack or interaction.

It’s not all bad news on the effects scene though as at least the blood and gore are plentiful and gross. One sequence involving a previously bit man becoming a host for a swarm of mosquitos makes great use of both the practical and the CGI, and the pacing/editing ensure the scene’s effectiveness. Kren also makes great use of the mountain location offering some beautiful but cold-looking vistas among which to set his horrors.

Kren’s previous film, the zombie-filled Rammbock, showed him capable of meshing narrative, character and monsters to great effect, and there’s some of that on display here. Poor creature effects aside, scenes like the mosquito one mentioned above and a bit involving an overly aggressive ibex have an energy about them that helps create a sense of excitement and fun when necessary, and there are some nice moments between Janek and the two living beings he cares most about. More scenes like these and fewer featuring the obnoxious characters whining and screaming would have helped make up for the effects letdown.

The story too hints at greater promise than it delivers while still being enough to create interest. Environmentally-themed horror is a nice fit for a tale involving micro-evolution, and there’s something to the idea of humanity evolving out of existence by our own hand. But there’s just not enough done with the idea beyond the discovery… unless you count the poorly conceived final scene.

Blood Glacier is an engaging idea hurt by clear budgetary constraints in the creature department. It feels like something that’s just a bit too good for the Syfy channel – take that however you choose – and while it remains a mildly enjoyable watch it could have easily been a far better one.

The Upside: The actual blood glacier; interesting idea; some fun dialogue; great title card smash

The Downside: Characters annoy; creature effects are low rent; an end revelation and subsequent

On the Side: The film’s original title, and the one it played last year’s TIFF under, is The Station.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.