Who Are the Monsters?
Sometimes a movie seems made just for me. But I never expected one of these times it would be a horror film like Cold Skin. It’s probably because this new movie contains elements of both The Shape of Water -- my favorite film of 2017 -- and Drums Along the Mohawk, which -- to my delight -- frightened my socks off as a young child in days of yore.
Cold Skin features creatures that resemble the misunderstood aquaman in the former offering as well as scary sieges similar to the additional motion picture mentioned. To this day, whenever films show people in enclosed spaces facing attacks from a large group outside, the hairs on the back of my neck jump to attention and I’m glued to the screen.
Thankfully, director Xavier Gens (Hitman) gives us plenty of time to breathe between the sieges here. Working from an adaption of Albert Sanchez Pinol’s novel by Jesus Olmo (28 Weeks Later) and Eron Sheean (The Divide), Gens makes sure there’s plenty of cinematographer Daniel Aranyo’s (The Ottoman Lieutenant) gorgeous shots interspersed with horrific ones. The excellent creature design by Arturo Balseiro (Dagon) also deserves mention.
This uncomplicated story takes place in 1914 on a remote island near the Antarctic Circle. A young man called Friend (David Oakes, terrific in this role) arrives on the island to take the position of a weather observer. He wants to get away from the outside world for a year. This should be a good place for that. It’s not even a shipping destination.
However, the new weather observer finds that Gruber (Ray Stevenson, always fascinating), a rough and unbalanced guy, has taken over the island’s lighthouse. Although Friend has a small rundown observer’s shack, that doesn’t last long -- so he persuades Gruber to let him move into the lighthouse. That’s where he discovers Aneris (Aura Carrido, completely believable), who looks like a fugitive from The Shape of Water.
Gruber calls Aneris -- who is curious, intelligent and helpful -- a “toad” and treats her like a slave. This worries Friend -- and so begins the rivalry between these two very different men.
Existing on a remote isle
may not be a fun tale to file.
Water creatures strange and mad
attack at night your lonely pad.
Two grown men try to fight them all
during sieges where many fall.
Do these “toads” want to liberate
one of their own and celebrate?
Man against “toads” the story goes.
But who is causing the most woes?
One of the men seems filled with hate.
Brutish and crazed, what is his fate?
Although not brave, the other man
seeks understanding best he can.
Cold Skin is not for faint of heart.
But it’s pure cinematic art.
It’s the creature that stands at the center of horror movies, not those who have made it their business to bring the beast down. We’re all the same. --- Clive Barker
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. --- Friedrich Nietzsche
(Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films: not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about Cold Skin, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.