The Creature from the Gray Lake
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.