COLD SKIN (2017) Review, Directed by Xavier Gens, Fantasia 2018

Cold Skin, Directed by Xavier Gens, France/UK

Overview: In 1914, a young man (David Oakes) arrives at a remote island near the Antarctic Circle to take the post of weather observer only to find himself trapped in a watchtower besieged by deadly creatures (who resemble the aliens of FANTASTIC PLANET) which live in hiding on the island.

Director: Xavier Gens
Writers: Jesús Olmo (screenplay), Eron Sheean (screenplay), Albert Sánchez Piñol (novel)
Starring: Ray Stevenson, David Oakes, Aura Garrido

Gavin’s Rating

Cold Skin Review

The popular line is that director Xavier Gens had a great film some years ago (2007’s FRONTIER(S)) and has been slipping, or at least fumbling, ever since. But in all fairness to Gens, it takes more than a great chef to make a meal — it takes the right ingredients. This time around, he found one of the best ingredients on the market with cinematographer Daniel Aranyó (REGRESSION). The color scheme manages to give the film the right look for the time period, as well as add to the isolation and desolation inherent in the environs.

The one thing keeping COLD SKIN (affiliate link) from being a complete success is that the CGI is adequate, but not always great. In particular, there is a scene where numerous creatures are scaling a wall, and it looks as much like a cartoon as it probably can. To be fair, however, this could be blamed almost as much on my cynicism towards CGI; many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have low-grade CGI and they’re still selling millions of tickets.

There is enough story here with just the creatures and the fight for survival, but a layer of depth is added when we find that the men at the lighthouse have had time to ponder philosophy, the world, and their place in it. We have thoughts on war (appropriately enough for a tale in 1914) and an opinion on just who the “enemy” of the story is. This is actually quite fascinating: on the surface, if monsters begin attacking two men on an island, we instinctively root for the men. But the point is raised: the monsters were there first; it is the men who were the invaders. This point is well-taken, and could be expounded upon… but let’s not get too political!

Because of the mixing of humans and fish-people, there will be the inevitable comparisons to THE SHAPE OF WATER. However, before anyone takes the similarity too far, let it be known the novel on which the film is based was published in 2002. And even the film itself was in development before SHAPE was released. So, yes, a comparison could be made, but the fact is that any similarity is pure coincidence.

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