Sunday, June 24, 2018

Cold Skin Breathes Fire in Different Ways: A Film Review

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*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by the marketing dept. of Samuel Goldwyn.

Director: Xavier Gens.

Writers: Jesús Olmo, Eron Sheean and Albert Sánchez Piñol.

Cast: Ray Stevenson, David Oakes and Aura Garrido.

French filmmaker Xavier Gens must have played the mobile game Shoggoth Rising when he was conceiving Cold Skin. There are moments in his cinematic treatment which looks all too familiar. While the story is different, the fact both owe a huge debt to H.P. Lovecraft says it all. When both take place at a lonely isolated lighthouse (in the movie's case, located at the fringes of the Antarctic Circle) and the conflict lies between Man vs. Nature, just who will first succumb to the fury (madness) is easily evident.

The cinematography by Daniel Aranyó is gorgeous to behold. The intro feels like it's straight out of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein novel. However, instead of finding two people at odds with each other, they are ferrying Friend (David Oakes) to a fate worse than death. This individual takes the job to live at a remote watch post.

The year is 1914, and the world is at war. Whatever he is fleeing from is not fully defined, but in where he's headed, gets full disclosure. Gruner (Ray Stevenson) is the keeper of the island and the shelter where both figures have to stay in. He does fully reveal why the previous meteorologist disappeared. The mariners who brought Friend here do not care too much. Just as soon as they leave, problems arise.

The relationship between Friend and Gruner is not kosher, and fairly soon, the young man discovers there are other inhabitants, of the merfolk kind. They look like cousins to Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter. The good thing is that they are not inherently evil. The bad thing, whatever Gruner did to piss them off, is in how bad they want his hide! They regularly attack every night.

That's when this movie takes on shades of the video game. These beasts climb the tower to get at them, and these humans are fighting back with blunderbuss and pickaxes. Thankfully, this film is not as simple as it seems. The reason behind the attack is explained in the film, and the notion of man turning his back upon Nature can be analyzed in a similar context akin to Pan's Labrynth.

The work begins with a terrific quote from Friedrich Nietzsche which tries to explain what can become of humanity, their soul, when confronted with regular dangers. Just when does the hunter become the hunted? Or rather, when does the pacifist become the next aggressor? This theme is often explored in literature and pop culture cinema, in a myriad of ways. Gens nicely explores this theme in this film and to say too much would be considered major spoiler alert.

The work is a slow burn, and when it finally ignites, the excitement is quick. The terror — the self-realization of where we are positioned in the natural order of things — brings the work full circle.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5.

*Cold Skin will be released in theatres and on Digital platforms this September 7th, 2018 - through Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Cold Skin at Samuel Goldwyn films: Cold Skin Release Details at Samuel Goldwyn

Ed Sum writes for his own site, here: Sum at Otaku No Culture

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