Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Blood Glacier Isn't Total Crap; Zombeavers Is

Screaming death birds and undead aqua-rodents.

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IFC Films

Movies that are so-so at worst are often dismissed by grumpy viewers as "crap." This is unfair—it's a slur on actual crap, which can offer many pleasures.

The new Austrian movie Blood Glacier isn't actual crap, actually–it looks pretty good, and its cast isn't entirely unacquainted with the craft of acting. But the movie's tolerance for cheap genre rips is high, and its aspirations cheerfully low. It's an old-school creature feature that seeks only to peel your nerves back and gross you out. It draws heavily on John Carpenter's The Thing, with a few Alien flourishes bolted on, and it does its job.

At a weather station high in the Tyrolean Alps, a group of researchers is fretting about the effects of global warming. The Alps are melting! Okay, that big deal about the Himalayas puddling away a few years back was a crock – but this is real! When a data transmitter farther up among the snowy crags fritzes out, the three scientists on hand dispatch their technician, a boozer named Janek (beardy Gerhard Liebmann), to investigate. What he finds upon arrival at the remote site is a huge slab of ice veined with red…stuff. Back at home base, the head scientist, in a classic explaining-it-all scene, explains that what we have here is an infestation of mysterious single-cell organisms whose purpose is to burrow into unsuspecting life forms and feast on their DNA. The result is hybrid creatures with bad dispositions and fierce clacking mandibles.

Director Marvin Kren wisely provides mostly glimpses of the mutant animals that soon begin to gather outside the weather station. There's a half-louse/half-fox combo, a monster mountain goat, and a blood-swollen mosquito the size of a cell phone. Also a snarling death bird that comes screaming down out of the sky to bury its pincers in a luckless girl's leg, and various close-ups of throbbing guts and alarming subcutaneous horrors. Not much that you haven't seen before in some form, but it's fun to see it again.

The movie has more characters than it really knows what to do with (a visiting governmental party arrives mainly to be picked off by the rampaging fauna). But the ending is priceless–a gooey plot twist that sets a new standard for sci-fi silliness. Nicely done.

Zombeavers is actual crap, as I think first-time feature director Jordan Rubin would happily agree. Rubin is a comedy writer who has churned out gags for Carson Daly, Craig Kilborn and Comedy Central. Now he has churned out Zombeavers, a riff on the old cabin-in-the-woods horror theme, and I'd guess he had a lot of fun doing it.

Briefly: One day a barrel of biohazard gunk rolls off a truck and down a bank into a river, where it bobbles away on the current, coming to rest at a beaver dam. The dam is located at the edge of a lake. The lake is fronted by a house in which six youths – three guys, three girls – are taking a little mini-break. Duly paired off, they indulge in all the usual squabbling and whining and carnal writhing that have become an iron-clad genre requirement. To focus our attention, which might otherwise wander, one girl removes her shirt for awhile.

Soon the kids decide to take a dip in the lake. Spotting the beaver dam, they swim over to check it out. It's splattered with bio-gunk, which–although the kids don't know this yet–has turned the resident aqua-rodents into bloodthirsty zombies. Pouring out of their dam, they go at the kids like ferocious paddle-tailed sharks. When one of the boys reaches underwater and pulls up his own chewed-off foot, the kids flee back to the house, where they think they'll be safe. The beavers, they laugh. Soon they're banging on doors and bashing in windows. And you know what has to happen to anyone who gets bitten by one of these furry demons, right? (It's actually pretty funny.)

The problem with one-joke movies like this is that the joke is all in the title. The picture has a professional gloss, and the little-known actors are sufficient to the minimal demands made on their talents. But the beavers are clearly puppets (or otherwise fabricated), and despite all the flesh-ripping they inflict, they fail to terrify on any visceral level. You might be best-advised to savor the title without paying to see the movie. In any case, Zombeavers hasn't acquired theatrical distribution yet. Keep an eye on your cable listings.