Most American moviegoers, spoiled by the appeal of Hollywood blockbusters, aren’t always open to independent foreign films. One complaint, from such viewers, centers on the distraction of reading of subtitles. In addition, Horror in general has its own difficulty appealing to mass-American audiences. The idea of a foreign horror film may be a death wish in regards to achieving wide scale viewings, but true horror won’t let something as trivial as a language barrier stop them from watching the enjoyable Blood Glacier.
The film, set at an isolated German outpost, depicts Janek (Gerhard Liebmann) and fellow scientists as they go about their daily activities studying climate change. Their work goes undisturbed until, after investigating an unresponsive data station, they come across an unsettling sight: a static red glacier along a mountain’s slope. Intrigued by the phenomenon, Janek’s coworkers take samples of the glacier, discovering an unknown cellular life form breeding in the thawing ice. As luck would have it in the horror genre, the organisms begin mutating the area’s indigenous population; turning peaceful wildlife into horrific and hungry beasts. Blood Glacier manages, while treading the lines of the typical monster fest, to be both foreboding and suspenseful while maintaining a solid pace throughout.
Despite the genre, Blood Glacier has a rather unexpected emotional side, manifested in the relationship between Janek and his loyal dog, Tinni. Janek, who initially comes off as an unlikely protagonist (hung-over, unshaved and balding,) takes charge and serves as the voice of reason against his co-workers when the DNA-splicing trouble reaches its climax. Liebmann’s performance transcends language, physically conveying his character’s emotions and concerns.
At its core, the film conveys the topical subject of global warming. But apart from the haunting text in its opening, Blood Glacier never outright promotes climate and environmental preservation. Instead, the film’s message remains ambiguous, placing narrative emphasis on the killer monsters. Still, it’s nice to be able watch something related to current and pressing issues, instead of rehashed genre concepts and themes.
Blood Glacier defies the current CGI standards in favor of the under-utilized technique of practical effects. While practical effects are not guaranteed to yield promising results, the filmmakers did a wonderful job both designing and brining to life the monstrosities that harass Janek and company. The rare usage of CGI in the film does clash with the more fantastic practical counterparts. Fortunate for the viewer these instances are few, seeming to be the result of mere necessity: for instance, a high-speed hawk-bee hybrid flying through open canyons.
Blood Glacier, like most iconic entries in the horror genre, has its share of striking imagery. The most memorable shots that emerge are the massive long shots showcasing the titular frozen omens. Despite Blood Glacier’s promise, it’s not entirely devoid of faults. In general, Blood Glacier features adequate coverage, but a few shots cross the line of action; resulting in disorienting edits. Apart from the few instances of less-than-stellar CGI and disorienting camera work, there seems to be numerous unnecessary characters included in order to increase the body count. One character in particular, an injured and summer-clad blonde, inexplicably appears half way into the film for no apparent reason other than to be a liability for the survivors.
Blood Glacier, aside from a few nagging annoyances, is an enjoyable horror experience. Parallels to John Carpenter’s The Thing of course are unavoidable, both films featuring scientists forced to deal with biological horrors in cold and isolated settings. Yet, to dismiss Blood Glacier because of these similarities would be a disservice to the film. In all, this Austrian horror stands on its own thanks to its emotional tug, underlying environmental message, and creative and effective creature designs.