Not Rated – 1 hour 48 minutes – Release Date: September 7, 2018 (USA)
Directed by: Xavier Gens
Written By: Jesús Olmo and Eron Sheean (screenplay)
Based on the novel, of the same name, by Albert Sánchez Piñol
Ray Stevenson as Gruner
David Oakes as “Friend”
Aura Garrido as Aneris
In 1914, a man named “Friend” (David Oakes) arrives at a remote island in the Antarctic Circle to replace a meteorologist, who died of typhus. The only other person living on the island is Gruner (Ray Stevenson), the lighthouse caretaker. Friend’s first night on the island proves eventful, as he discovers typhus may not have been what killed his predecessor, Gruner is keeping secrets from him, and they’re not alone on the island. *Mild spoilers will be contained beyond this point*
I actually saw COLD SKIN at Monsterpalooza back in April, but I wanted to hold off on writing a review until we got closer to its release date. I also wanted to have time to clarify my thoughts on the film. Some are comparing this film to Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar winning THE SHAPE OF WATER. I guess that makes sense in a “barely scratching the surface” sort of way. Both films do contain humanoid amphibious creatures, but they couldn’t be more different. The comparison really does a disservice to Xavier Gens’ COLD SKIN. If you’ve seen the same being said, don’t let it cloud your expectations for the film.
The story premise is great, and what I will say first and foremost about the film is that it made me want to read the novel, however I found the script to be lacking. It does start with a bang, and Friend’s first night on the island is tense and enthralling. We learn of the creatures’ existence as he does, so the viewer is caught up in his surprise, panic, and invested in his survival. I think that set up is what deflates the middle section of the film for me. Large parts of what comes after feels overly repetitive, and dull. That includes several scenes of the creatures trying to storm the lighthouse, which should be as terrifying as Friend’s first night. Sadly, they lacked the tension and sense of dread that was present for the initial attack Friend survived.
What this film does have going for it is Aura Garrido’s turn as the creature named Aneris. Her performance under makeup effects was memorizing, exceptional, and heartbreaking. The creature design by Arturo Balseiro and the makeup effects by Cesar Alonso were absolutely wonderful. Aneris looked amazing, and Garrido was able to convey emotion beautifully via expression through the makeup. David Oakes did a fine job for what he was given, but I thought Ray Stevenson was the most underserved by the script. I generally enjoy him in everything I see him in, but his character was flat and one-note for the majority of the movie.
While I found the middle of the film frustrating the ending was amazing. So, I can say it began and finished strongly. On top of that Cinematographer Daniel Aranyó turns in some haunting and dreary visuals. However, that isn’t enough for me to recommend this as a cinema viewing or even a V.O.D. option to a general audience. There is enough there to recommend a watch via streaming platform or cable, once it becomes available, if you’re looking for something a bit different. I respect what all involved attempted to do, but ultimately COLD SKIN didn’t come together as I had hoped it would.