La Piel Fria / Cold Skin (2017)

Director:Xavier Gens.
Starring. Aura Garrido, David Oakes, Ray Stevenson. Spain. 1h 48m.

The background of this mesmerising  thriller is reminiscent of stories straight from the imagination of HP Lovecraft, but the film is actually based on a story by Albert Sanchez Pinol with the same title. They both involve a lone man on the edge of his sanity who lives locked tight in a light house on a remote and uninhabited island, existing like a hobo and fighting off deadly sea creatures each night.

The film breaks open at sea, a fine-looking ship is being chased by dolphins as a young Irishman named Friend (Oakes) travels to this remote island in the South Atlantic to work as a meteorologist, the only inhabitant of the island is the caretaker of the lighthouse, a tough character called Gruner  (Stephenson). After a cold and abrupt introduction Gruner informs Friend that the previous meteorologist died from typhus. The crew depart leaving Friend to cosy in his new cabin he watches Gruner in his fortified lighthouse with intense curiosity, why would someone need to defend a lighthouse? Friend unpacks and finds a journal from the late meteorologist, detailing nightly attacks from strange creatures form the sea, assuming this was feverish dreams of a dying man he drifts off to sleep until a slimy webbed hand feels under the door and he finds himself under attack. He managed to fight off the intruders, the next day he tries to get Gruners attention but is ignored. He spends the day fortifying the cabin and finds a gun. Awaiting another attack but he’s overrun and in the fight ends up burning the cabin to the ground, hiding on the rocks of the beach with a blanket he spends the night hiding.

Stalking Gruner the following day he stumbles on one of the sea creatures, takes aim and it and Gruner shouts at him to drop the weapon. Eventually Friend is invited into the lighthouse and brutally introduces him to the lifestyle. By day they sleep and prep, Gruner has his “Pet” sea creature a young female which he uses and abuses. and literally gets treated as a dog most of the time. At night he chucks a flare fires up the lighthouse and spends all night killing swarms of sea creatures until the dawn. But he chooses to be there, he feels that he’s free and this life is his destiny. Friend is determined to work out why, after all he’s stuck there until another ship comes by for him in a years time.

Slowly Friend assumes his role but is highly skeptical of Gruner and tries to befriend the Pet and find out more about her species and culture while nightly slaughtering them and not really knowing why?

Cold skin feels like an salty story, and with the addition of the sea critters it really does feel Lovecraftian, and the horror comes with the violent night attacks mostly with guns and knives, as well as suspenseful scenes in the third act where the men intend to lure the creatures into the lighthouse and blow them up. There’s also a beautiful scene where Friend offers to go under water in an old diving costume to reclaim some sunken dynamite while walking along the sea bed, where he knows the creatures might be lurking he is spotted but by a playful juvenile it has a few heart stopping moments and uses most of the CGI budget.

Being more of a fantasy thriller than an actual horror, Oakes does his best to make us believe in hope while Ray Stevenson has perfected his mean old man role and almost delights with his crankiness. There are many gripping scenes as the two men busy themselves with their tasks one hell-bent on destruction the other on discovery. The story stops and starts a lot as each day brings a new challenge, but overall the film feels a little unfinished, albeit that some areas are purposely left for personal interpretation there’s just something not quite finalised and polished overall.

The film looks amazing though, blending the dark realism of a dead end existence with a new curious character but is Friend just destined to become the new light house keeper or can he really change the tides…

Rating 6/10

RLighthouse (1999)
L – Lovecraft Inspired movies, Lighthouse films,
5s – David Oakes, Ray Stevenson

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