COLD SKIN (REVIEW)
Dir. Xavier Gens
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
FRANKENSTEIN meets THE SHAPE OF WATER in Xavier Gens tale of terror and isolation. The claustrophobic nature strikes similarities to the brilliant THE DESCENT while the focal plotline is difficult to disassociate with Guillermo Del Toro’s Oscar winning movie. Gens (FRONTIER(S), THE DIVIDE) proves that his filmography has not toned down and his penchant for horror is still at the forefront of a heart driven monster movie. Where Del Toro’s movie is singularly a love story akin to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Gens’ COLD SKIN is a horror film first.
A young man (David Oakes) is poised positioned as a weather observer on an island in the Antarctic Circle for one year. Upon arriving he learns that he is not the only inhabitant and a mad resident (Ray Stevenson) occupies a lighthouse that protects the island from creatures of the sea. While out posted to the island, the nameless one learns of the islands attracted guests and teams up with Gruner (Stevenson) to protect the shores but the damage inflicted could be the end of him.
As the sea creatures come to life, their alien form becomes more human as one particular specimen becomes acquainted with the pair and as their relationship develops, the true horror develops leaving the closing moments of COLD SKIN heart-breaking and vicious.
Gens’ film may not be the only amphibious love story to hit the waves recently and it’s a little too close to THE SHAPE OF WATER to not compare the two. Fortunately for COLD SKIN, this is a much more coherent and beautifully ambitious film than that which took home the golden trophy.
While Del Toro’s comparative had its central character plucked from obscurity to form a symbiotic relationship with one of nature’s more obscure specimen, COLD SKIN makes the relationship much more relatable, bringing a balanced ethos to why we should care for the strange amphibious creature. Where THE SHAPE OF WATER took homage and finds its best moments are those plagiarising other scenes, COLD SKIN benefits from delivering an original and authentic story that adds much more to the genre than a pretty lens. When the violence is on screen it comes thick and fast and COLD SKIN’s opening is a frighteningly tense welcome to the sea creatures. Like the universal classic, FRANKENSTEIN, the monster is not all it seems and when the inevitable conclusion unravels, it’s hard not to reach for the tissues as you scream at the screen.
In its execution, it’s a bold and heartfelt movie that has some strong visuals. There is one scene in particular that shows the sea creatures clambering up the lighthouse and it’s a visual masterpiece that is as iconic as any other cell in horror cinema history. The dark textures and appeasing creatures feels like a work of art amidst the terror and destruction they bring with them and Gens is not afraid to show the death and destruction in its blood soaked glory.
Starting as a horror and blending into a more stable drama of the nature of man, COLD SKIN is a story of fear that will have you gripped from beginning to end. As with his other work, Xavier Gens has delivered the goods once again.