Edward Furlong (or Shaun Ryder, I’m not sure any more) stars as a writer who wants locked in a freezer while he finishes a screenplay he MUST finish to a deadline. If it’s not finished then his career is. With everything at risk, he decides to go out to the middle of nowhere to be put at the mercy of a woman (Kristin Booth) who has one helluva big freezer ideal for such a bizarre purpose. As time passes and Furlong struggles to come up with an idea his mind tries to work out different scenarios (involving a potential killer played by the great Michael Berryman). As more time passes the low temperature and isolation start to take their toll and pretty soon fiction is bleeding into reality and vice versa.
The more I think about Below Zero the more I really like it. It is similiar, in a number of ways, to Red Velvet. It’s not quite cut from the same comedy horror cloth (though there is plenty of black humour) as that film but it definitely contains a number of shared touchstones concerning the telling of tales and the utilisation and twisting of genre conventions.
Justin Thomas Ostensen directs very well but he’s given a head start by a cracking script from Signe Olynyk. Miss Olynyk has managed to create something as inventive and deconstructive as anything I’ve seen in the horror genre in the last couple of decades. I won’t do it justice with the following description but blend Scream with The Princess Bride and Sucker Punch then throw in a bit of Groundhog Day and you’re still not close to everything wrapped up in this wonderfully-constructed puzzle box of a film.
Despite my joke in the opening paragraph alluding to how Edward Furlong has changed over the years, he does well in the main role – convincingly at the end of his rope and close to losing his mind through pressure and extreme conditions. Kristin Booth is great, though possibly looks a bit too much like Laura Linney for her own good, and her character provides a lot of humour at the start of the movie. Sadie Madu is a young girl who does well playing a young boy, Michael Eisner has some screentime and does fine but horror fans will be most pleased to see Michael Berryman back in a very prominent role. He’s as scary and riveting to watch as ever and makes for a fine villain.
The problem that Below Zero may have, when it comes to finding an audience, is that it’s actually a lot more cerebral than it is visceral. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing when it comes to horror genre work but I fear that it’s best to warn audiences beforehand. The film is much more about the creation and tweaking of ideas than it is about standard horror movie moments. Personally, I thought it managed to have its cake AND eat it but I can easily see many people disagreeing with me on this one. In the meantime, I’ll stand by these ramblings and recommend this.
DIRECTOR: JUSTIN THOMAS OSTENSEN
WRITER: SIGNE OLYNYK
STARS: EDWARD FURLONG, KRISTIN BOOTH, MICHAEL BERRYMAN, DEE HANNA, MICHAEL EISNER
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX