A family vacation in northern Maine goes south in a hurry, when a hungry gill-man crashes the party .
The opening scene sets the tone in this indie-horror effort. A man walks out onto a frozen lake and admires the quiet until he spots some birds flying south. He watches them until their path takes them over a hunk of animal remains perched out on the ice. He takes a step forward and all hell breaks loose as he plunges into the frozen lake through some thin ice. By the time he is fished out of the water, he has forgotten about the dead animal and his fate is sealed for that oversight.
The man, Ray, is at the lake for some ice fishing. It is a vacation/celebration meant to congratulate his son, David, on finishing college. The boy has brought his girlfriend, Gina, and they plan to join the Peace Corps and try to pay back some of the good fortune that led to their being able to go to school during economic hard times. (I told you this was an independent film, so don’t expect drug use and nudity in front of the camera, Indie films restrict that behavior to the crew.)
The party gets crashed by a father-and-son duo, the Cotes, who bring tunes, weapons and a tricked-out camper. This turns out to be a nice diversion, since the fish aren’t biting. The Cotes believe that a giant sturgeon is to blame and they plan to capture it. The loud motor on the Cotes’ ice runners awaken a beast in the lake, and it is quite hungry. They spot it under the ice but it moves to fast for a solid look. Luckily, it emerges, but that turns out to be unlucky, as it makes a meal out of Cotes Jr.
The group figures out that the creature is venomous. They also theorize that global warming is to blame. Now they have Al Gore’s attention, but that means little if they can’t get off the lake alive. Their best efforts are hampered by the creature. It manages to wipe out all but two of them by the end. Unfortunately, the final survivors actually make it out alive by employing the lamest strategy ever attempted in a monster movie. They actually guilt the creature into letting them go by making a weepy speech about human rights, animal rights and the fact that they never would have come to the lake if they realized it was inhabited by a monster that would eat them. That’s right, folks — they get all Dr. Phil on the beast.
Despite the dang awful finale, I liked this a lot. The creature is kept in the shadows mostly, and that adds to the mystique. The gore effects are pretty good too and include the aftermath of a guy being ripped apart at the trunk. The frozen lake setting is bizarre enough to keep you on the ropes, though the creature appears to pop out of the ice at will.
Being an independent film, it lacks a commercial soundtrack of recognizable pop tunes, and that is a good thing. Dead quiet is what fishermen want, no matter what the terrain, and it comes off as realistic. The film also benefits from a starring turn by Michael Rooker as the dad. He is a fine actor who is almost always cast as a villain (probably because his first lead role was in “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”). He is quite good here as an everyday factory worker who loves to fish and is totally out of his element when the fish strike back.
“I’m not leaving here until something is dead.”
“Steve was right about one thing: legs . That thing has got legs, and I’m going to slice them off. Then I am going to fry them up and then I am going to eat them.”