How did I compile this list? There’s no real method to my special brand of madness. I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2017 and September 30, 2018 and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released in October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like HALLOWEEN or SUSPIRIA just yet. I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion in a separate post that is worth noting this year or missed being on the list by a skosh for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
#23 – COLD SKIN
Why is COLD SKIN #23? Because when I heard Guillermo Del Toro was making an underwater creature film, this is the film that came to mind—not the E.T. meets AMERLIE film we got in THE SHAPE OF WATER. COLD SKIN takes the creature from that film and puts it into a situation full of intense violence and suspense. Set against a cold Antarctic backdrop, this is a man vs. nature / descent into deep madness tale full of grit and grime. It’s not a pretty tale, but director Xavier Gens once again proves he is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to horror. You can find COLD SKIN on iTunes and Amazon!
COLD SKIN (2017)
Directed by Xavier Gens
Written by Jesús Olmo, Eron Sheean, from a novel by Albert Sánchez Piñol
Starring Ray Stevenson, David Oakes, Aura Garrido, Winslow M. Iwaki, John Benfield
Find out more about this film here!
From the director of THE DIVIDE and FRONTIER[S], Xavier Gens, comes COLD SKIN—a film that takes Lovecraftian horror and gives it a huge pair of brass balls and a boatload of machismo. Sure, Gens missed the boat with HITMAN and THE CRUCIFIXION, but he rights his sails again offering up one hell of a monster story where who is the man and who is the monster is the real question being asked.
Just before World War I, an unnamed British soldier (David Oakes) is sent to relieve the weather observer at a military post in the Antarctic. When the ship arrives, they find the quarters ransacked and the old weather observer gone. The only other person on the island is a lighthouse keeper named Gruner (Ray Stevenson), a hermit who offers no information about the missing weatherman and warns the soldier to leave the island. Not heeding that warning, the soldier finds his cabin under siege on his first night on the island by bizarre creatures from the sea. Surviving the night, Gruner resigns to let the soldier into his heavily barricaded lighthouse. Inside, the soldier learns just how depraved Gruner is as he is keeping one female creature as a servant and companion while fending off legions of sea creatures every night from his impenetrable tower in a never-ending fight for survival. At first the soldier believes Gruner to be insane, but the the more time he spends with the crusty hermit, the more he is pulled towards the edge of sanity himself.
What works best here is the conflict between what is right and what is necessary to do in order to survive. Gruner’s philosophy is deeply unjust moralistically. He wants to wipe out the monsters that descend upon his tower every night. But after seeing the level of carnage he endures, you understand how Gruner became who he was. The new soldier (nameless for a reason I won’t reveal here) is judgmental at first of Gruner, but he sees himself becoming more and more like him the longer he is at the tower. Still, the new soldier can recognize the wrong path Gruner is following and this is the core struggle of the film—whether the new soldier’s morals will be compromised the longer he fights or not. It makes for an interesting story as this internal struggle to maintain humanity is something many face in real life events. Seeing them play out in this fantastical story of man vs. beast is bound to be cathartic to some.
Ray Stevenson and David Oakes are both great here, each exemplifying opposite ends of sanity. Stevenson is always a strong presence on screen and he offers up another powerful performance here. Not only is it his size that is imposing, but it’s the force behind his words that make him a truly monster of a man. Add a gnarly beard and he’s downright terrifying in his own right. Stevenson has to do some heinous stuff here, but still manages to give snippets of humanity that makes you understand why he is this far gone. Oakes, on the other hand, goes through a transformation through this film that is somewhat disturbing to watch, but he is convincing every step of the way. Aura Garrido doesn’t say a word as Aneris the Creature, but her body language is all she needs to communicate layers of all too human emotion. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to compare her to a master of movement and posture like Doug Jones (who played a similar looking beastie in THE SHAPE OF WATER), but these two could be from the same species.
While I appreciate THE SHAPE OF WATER, the film seemed to promise a much more exciting and entertaining film. The more I heard about Michael Shannon’s advanture in bringing the monster in, the more I found myself wanting to see that movie and not the film that was playing out in front of me. COLD SKIN feels like that movie I WANTED to see. COLD SKIN is a filled with hard edged battle scenes, unspeakable acts of cruelty, great performances, and monsters that, while are similar to the one in THE SHAPE OF WATER, are much more formidable and scary. While the film might have benefitted from about twenty minutes snipped here and there from its runtime, times its time and refuses to offer easy answers about the depths humanity can descend to. It at once offers up a hopeful and nihilistic ending that will definitely leave you thinking about and talking about COLD SKIN long after it is over.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#31 – Sam Patton’s DESOLATION
#30 – CULT OF CHUCKY
#29 – 1922
#28 – PSYCHOPATHS
#27 – GHOST STORIES
#26 – PYEWACKET
#25 – DOWNRANGE
#24 – MAYHEM
#23 – COLD SKIN
Best of lists from previous years;
2016-17 #1 – RAW
2015-16 #1 – THE VVITCH
2014-15 #1 – THE CANAL
2013-14 #1 – PROXY
2012-13 #1 – MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
M. L. Miller is an original AICN @$$Hole formerly known as Ambush Bug/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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Don’t forget to share and like and finally, Happy Horror Holiday Month to Everyone!