The Coldest Prey
James Felix McKenney
James Felix McKenney
“A family fishing trip soon turns sour when obnoxious fellow fisherman begin to disturb the local wildlife including the amphibious and poisonous creature that lurks beneath the water!”
- Michael Rooker – Ray
- Blanche Baker – Helen
- Benjamin Forster – David
- Amy Chang – Gina
- Don Wood – Steve
- Greg Finley – Steve Jr
- Asa Liebmann – Monster
- Larry Fessenden – Fishing Host
- Slither – Michael Rooker
Hypothermia is a 2012 creature feature written and directed by James Felix McKenney and was released on DVD on October 2, 2012. The film was shot at Great Sacandaga Lake and stars The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker along with several of McKenney’s usual players.
A family fishing trip soon turns sour when obnoxious fellow fisherman begin to disturb the local wildlife including the amphibious and poisonous creature that lurks beneath the water.
Surprised that the plot can be summarised in just one sentence, well, so was I. Many words could be used to describe Hypothermia but complex is not one. Instead of being story or action driven, the film uses the majority of its runtime to introduce and develop the main characters. The low budget is evident through the occasionally dodgy sound design and by the remarkable lack of scope.
The film is stylistic for sure, but with the slow, brooding nature there is very little to actually discuss. Instead with so much of the film’s focus being on the characters, I will mainly focus on the characters in this review.
In a rarity for Creature Features, Hypothermia chooses characterisation over kills. The six principal players are literally the only people in the entire film and the film spends plenty of time fleshing out each character and ensuring that their personalities are distinct.
Ray, our main character, is a wonderfully nice guy; he is a friendly, calm and funny peace-keeper who is often the voice of reason during the conflicts. He makes difficult decisions and tries to please everyone even to the point of sacrificing his own happiness. Whilst Ray is not overtly heroic, it is his realism that makes him so appealing and amicable. Michael Rooker is effectively playing a role that we’ve all had to play at one point of our lives or another, and he’s doing it really well.
Helen, played by Blanche Baker, is far more concerned with the wealth fare of each person which often puts her at odds with Steve’s more ‘machismo’ outlook. She is nonetheless honest but does have a sharp tongue. It also causes some interesting conflict in her disagreement with Ray’s compromising nature and her son David’s planned trip to Uganda.
David has a very analytical outlook and is far more like his mother than his father. He is sarcastic and very straight to the point. He and his girlfriend, Gina, are perfectly believable and the performances by Ben Forster and Amy Chang respectively are adequate.
Steve is loud, obnoxious, foul-mouthed and a huge show-off but he is also friendly and generous. His differing views of fishing initially put him at odds with Ray and his family but after proving that he is willing to accommodating, they soon begin to get along. Don Wood’s best scene comes after the death of his son, where Steve tries to order Ray and his family to leave the lake hence escaping to safety and to leave him behind to avenge the death of his son.
Stevie Jr. is very loyal and eager to please his father, often staying quiet in the face of his father’s more brash nature. There’s not much to say about Greg Finley’s performance as he has very little to do.
As for the creature itself, imagine a live action love-child of Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon and one of the Aquaphibians from Stingray (there will never be any pictures of the Aquaphibians ever appearing on this site due to severe childhood trauma). The creature is vicious and quick, only ever shown in quick bursts and through snappy editing. However at the end, when you do finally get a good look at the creature he looks horribly fake and awkward. Asa Liebmann dons the rubber suit of the Creature/ Lake Man but gets very little to do until the end.
For better or for worse, Hypothermia has some excellent characterisation but spends way too much time on the characters and not enough time on the creature. You never find out what the creature, how it came to be or what’s really up to. The ending implies so higher thought capacity but it’s vague and seemingly momentary, I won’t actual reveal the ending but I will say that it’s cheesy, lame and a massive let-down.
The acting is on the whole pretty damn good with Michael Rooker and Blanche Baker especially putting in fantastic performances and the rest of the cast falling in and around the average mark. There are also a few moments of genuine tension but sadly these are few and far between.
Hypothermia is slow and lapses into boring. There are also awkwardly quiet scenes with not enough dialogue, sound effects or music. The creative ambition is evident; McKenney clearly wanted to make a creature feature with a greater focus on characterisation and personal conflicts but in the process forgot about the important parts of horror films: The who, the what and the why. Who is the antagonist? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? And the answers are an amphibious fish-man is killing these people because either he is hungry or he is acting territorial. Or perhaps it’s both, in truth I have no idea and that’s what Hypothermia’s biggest problem is. We learn nothing about the Lake Man by the end of the film and whilst that may work for Alien or The Thing, those films had great action scenes to back up the mystery but Hypothermia sadly does not.
I’m not 100% sure why but I give a remarkable amount of latitude to Arctic themed creature features (like Snow Beast and The Grey) so I actually got a little bit of enjoyment just from the setting. However beyond the snowy surroundings and a sound performance by Rooker, I really can’t recommend Hypothermia. It’s the simple, little, low budget feature that forgot to deliver on the creature. Aptly named, Hypothermia is slow, frigid and painfully dull.