Written and directed by James Felix McKenney, 2009's Hypothermia is an odd one. The film is played completely straight but populated by a monster so ridiculous looking that you have to wonder if it's going for Creature From The Black Lagoon mood and suspense or Zaat! level camp homage. It doesn't really end up doing either of those perfectly, but the film is not without merits and monster movie buffs might get a kick out of it.
When the movie begins we meet Ray Pelletier (Michael Rooker) and his wife Helen (Blanche Baker) who, with their medical student son David (Benjamin Foster) and his lovely girlfriend Gina (Amy Chang), head out to the sticks to enjoy some relaxing time ice fishing. Once they get there, the anticipated peace and tranquility turns sour in the form of an obnoxious city slicker type named Steve Cote (Don Wood) and his son, Stevie Jr. (Greg Finley), who do little but bicker and squabble in their attempts to make friends and generally just wind up making things miserable for the Pelletier clan.
As both the Pelletier's and the Cote's do what they can to make the best of their situation, they soon realize that they are not alone - a fairly massive fish makes its presence known just under the surface of the ice they're standing on. The Cote's, being the manly men that they are, figure that they need to catch this thing but as everyone will soon learn, it doesn't want to be messed with and it isn't particularly friendly. When this thing pops its head up through the hole cut for the fishing lines, all Hell breaks loose... sort of.
At seventy three minutes in length, Hypothermia just barely counts as a feature (and you can knock a good five minutes off for opening and closing credits if you're so inclined) though the movie does earn some bonus points for trying something completely unexpected in its last few minutes, bringing it to a finish that you really will not see coming. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a particularly appropriate or traditionally good finish, mind you, but it is different and counts as something you're unlikely to see in any other creature feature any time soon.
With that said, the performances are decent. Not amazing, but decent, with Rooker in particular doing a good job with the fairly flat character he's been assigned. We don't learn a whole lot about the two families who wind up in peril together, certainly not enough to really care about them all that much, but the Pelletier crew is at least reasonably likable, far more so than the Cote's (and that is obviously on purpose). Amy Chang is pretty enough to look at and a nice addition to the cast for that reason as she isn't given much else to do, while Don Wood does a fine job of playing an obnoxious blowhard, the kind that can and will show up to ruin a family getaway despite some reasonably good intentions. He gives the character enough irritating qualities that the friction that develops between the two sides is at least understandable, making the fact that they need to team up to survive a predictable but effective plot device.
Yet, then there's that aforementioned rubber suit. Granted, there's something nostalgic and charming seeing a dude in a goofy rubber suit terrorizing the guy from Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer but there's no getting around the fact that this suit is bad. Not only that, but McKenney goes for the 'full reveal' and rather than work around the fact that the suit is bad by having the creature remain in the shadows, he plops it front center right in front of the camera. So the movie kind of winds up a bit on the silly side during the finale when all of this is going on, and that's the time that you would think it should be at its most intense. With that said, there's entertainment to be had here, so long as you're in the right mood for it. Just know going in that it's hard to tell how much of this we're supposed to be taking seriously...
Hypothermia arrives on DVD in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen from Dark Sky Films. Image quality is solid through and through, showing nice colors and good detail for a standard definition presentation. Skin colors look lifelike and accurate and there are no problems with compression artifacts, print damage or heavy edge enhancement. A little bit of shimmering and aliasing can be spotted here and there but outside of that this low budget movie looks pretty good on DVD.
The only audio option on the disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix in English. Again, the quality here is good. Some nice channel separation helps to enhance a few scenes while most of the dialogue comes out of the front and center of the mix with a few effective left to right pans here and there. Levels are well balanced, there are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue is always easy to understand and follow. This isn't the most aggressive mix you'll ever hear but it gets the job done and suits the movie just fine. Optional English subtitles are provided.
Dark Sky offers up three different behind the scenes featurette, the most interesting of which is the twenty-one minute The Making Of Hypothermia, a fairly generic but well put together look at the making of the movie with some footage shot on set and some talking head production interviews shot both outside on location and inside on set. Give Me Shelter and Ron & Reel deal with the trials and tribulations of building an ice fishing house for twelve minutes and a comical look at fishing respectively and are moderately interesting. Aside from that, there's a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter stops.
Hypothermia features a decent performance from a top billed Michael Rooker (who seems to be making the most out of his resurgence thanks to his spot on The Walking Dead - and who can blame him!) and has the potential to be a fun little monster movie but never quite lives up to its potential. Dark Sky's DVD looks and sounds fine and features a couple of okay extras. Far from a classic but not quite the disaster some would claim, this makes for a fine rental on a sleepy weekend afternoon.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.