Larry Fessenden has been a godsend to American independent horror. Through his work with Glass Eye Pix and Scareflix, he has helped many interesting new talents find a place in the crowded indie horror scene. One of the most interesting of these is James Felix McKenney, writer/director of the modern lo-fi sci-fi classic Automatons and the amazing Satan Hates You. The latest release from Scareflix is McKenney’s Hypothermia, which while not quite as unique as his last few films, is still an interesting take on some familiar material.
Ray Pelletier (Michael Rooker) is on an ice fishing vacation with his wife Helen (Blanche Baker), their son David (Benjamin Forster) and David’s girlfriend Gina (Amy Chang). Their quiet vacation hits a couple of snags when Ray falls into a hole in the ice and then later when their fishing is interrupted by the appearance of Steve Cote (Don Wood) and his son Stevie Jr. (Greg Finley). The Pelletiers are fishing with a simple wooden wind blocker and old-fashioned tackle and equipment, but Steve and his son roll out onto the ice with a full trailer that looks more like a hotel room than a fishing shack. The Pelletiers strangely don’t have as much as a nibble on their lines all day, and Steve invites them over for a beer in his trailer.
The possible reason for the lack of fish soon becomes apparent when a large animal is seen swimming under the ice near the Cotes’ snowmobiles, and Stevie Jr. drills a huge hole so he and his father can catch and kill whatever it is. Unfortunately for everyone, it’s not just a big fish, but a man-sized monster that is smart and deadly both above and below the ice. Soon the Pelletiers and Cotes are trapped out on the lake in the trailer while the creature waits outside. With their generator running out of energy and the injured running out of time, the chances of anyone making it to daylight begin to look grim.
Hypothermia is mostly concerned with the relationships between its characters, and the natural chemistry between the actors playing the Pelletiers makes them a believable family. This is especially impressive as McKenney trims the action of the film down to the bone, with a running time of just over 72 minutes including opening and ending credits. As sympathetic as the Pelletiers are, Steve feels more like a cartoon character, although a very entertaining one as played by Don Wood (who turned in a spectacular lead performance in Satan Hates You). McKenney doesn’t skimp on the gore; the aftermath of the creature’s attacks is gruesome and convincing, even if the creature itself betrays the films low budget. Hypothermia is a lean, suspenseful horror show, and well worth a look.
Dark Sky Films released Hypothermia on DVD and VOD on 2 October 2012. Special features include a behind-the-scenes featurette, trailer, and two other featurettes.