Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012

The Creature from the Gray Lake

By David Luhrssen
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 Ice fishing always includes an element of risk. The frozen surface might not be as solid as it appears and if the hole is wide enough, a drunken fisherman could tumble in. But no one looking for a hardy experience in the elements could expect to confront a monster lurking in the cold water, waiting to devour the intruders on its lake.

That’s the premise of writer-director James Felix McKenney’s Hypothermia (out on DVD). It’s an old-fashioned creature feature as well as a study in contrasts. Hypothermia juxtaposes the bleak serenity of rural Maine, draped in cloudy gray, with the acid-colored perspective of the monster; it also sets up a culture clash between two families vacationing on the same lake. The Pelletiers are Blue State and sensitive (to a fault?); their son, something of an annoying know-it-all, is getting engaged to a girl of East Asian heritage and planning to join the Peace Corps with her. The Cotes are Red State, loud and stupid; the foul-mouthed dad snickers when the Pelletier son suggests the monster is a prehistoric creature unthawed by global warming. He’s seen the creature with his own eyes; it’s global warming he denies.

McKinney directs Hypothermia with the taut economy of a good 1950s B movie. The camera pans slowly and ominously across the landscape as tension tightens. The big mistake is when the monster finally emerges, looking for all the world like the rubber-suited man who starred in The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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