Michael Rooker gives a tour de force performance as Ray Pelletier, the father of a vacationing family looking to relax at the cabin and do a little bit of ice fishing on the frozen lake. The Pelletier family unit – Ray, wife Helen (Blanche Baker) their son and daughter-in-law – were expecting a peaceful week-end filled without countless reeling of aquatic life into their make-shift shelter. But after another father and son appear within shouting distance on the lake the dynamics of the week-end shift and the friction between the contrasting families could be cut with a de-boning knife. Their differences will have to be set aside however once a strange creature attracted to noise appears under the ice. The creature is large (human sized) and the two families are keen to reel in the finned beast that swims beneath them. But after the creature gets a taste for human blood, the hunters become the hunted in Hypothermia, a horror film that can be found presently on VOD and Netflix.
Michael Rooker steals the movie and catapults its rating above the drowning line with his down to earth performance. Rooker is too often cast as a villain or a thug with an ulterior method in many of the actor’s 110 film and television credits. But writer/director James Felix McKenney casts Rooker as a simple father who looks to protect his family once the creature begins its human feasting. Instead of reacting to explosions or a zombie apocalypse, Rooker has moments of pure humanity and gets to show us an acting talent that is usually snuffed in the low budget drivel that he too routinely finds himself involved.
Allowing Rooker to stretch his acting legs was the film’s ultimate benefit. There is a true sense of believability with both himself and the surrounding characters and this attachment audiences are likely to appreciate goes a long way once the film begins to show cracks in the ice.
These ‘cracks’ are largely due to the reveal of the mysterious creature that lives beneath the ice. Prior to the beast being exposed, the audience was treated to an effective thriller where the monster is only seen in as a shadow moving quickly beneath their feet. I liken it to Jaws wherein the shark wasn’t actually seen until much later in the film. But when we finally get a look at the monster, it looks nothing more than a man in a wet suit. The Creature from the Black Lagoon circa 1954 looked just as convincing.
McKenney would have been better served to never show us the full creature. Maybe a fin here or a shadow there. But the whole B-look of the monster takes what was generally a half descent movie and spirals it down the SyFy Channel funnel. Add to the spiral an ending that felt rushed and too convenient and the build-up established in the first half is all but wasted.
Luckily, the movie doesn’t over extend its welcome. A running time of just over one hour and twelve minutes means that things are over before you can get too annoyed. Still, it was a wasted opportunity to showcase Rooker and have an effective thriller without embarrassing oneself with a costume outfitted extra.
Oh, and on the final note – why is the film called Hypothermia when no one gets hypothermia? Just askin’.