Of Mermen, Monsters, and Madness: “Cold Skin”

I don’t often review films here, but when alternative life forms are involved, I’m on board! Cold Skin by Director Xavier Gens based on a book of the same name is a French-Spanish collaborative 2017/18 effort that checks off so many boxes that it’s both challenging and astonishing. The film crosses the genres of science fiction, horror, suspense, and is a period piece set in 1914. It’s been compared to Lovecraft meets Jules Verne, kind of a “first contact” film involving evolved intelligent amphibious life.

Now we’ve seen some things in a similar vein, most recently The Shape of Water although you could look as far back as The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In Cold Skin, World War I is brewing as a young British “weather observer” (meteorologist) is dropped off at a remote island in the south Atlantic, his only other human companion the operator of a lighthouse there. “You should have stayed on the boat,” the weatherman named “Friend” is told by the gruff lighthouse keeper, Gruner, who has been on the island entirely too long. We soon learn that legions of humanoid amphibious creatures emerge nightly from the sea to attack the humans stationed there, an invasion which the lighthouse keeper has learned to repel from his crudely fortified lighthouse with firearms, fire, and edged weapons.

His desire to exterminate the amphibious humanoids has not stopped the lighthouse keeper from “taming” one of them and keeping her as kind of a pet who he abuses physically and sexually…yes, mer-rape rears it’s ugly head here! The film chronicles the evolution of the “weather observer” from frightened pacifist to survivalist to sympathizer with the mermen/women, all set against the growing madness spawned by harsh isolation and incomprehensible threats.

The submissive female creature, named Aneris (Spanish for “siren” spelled backwards) is an extraordinary feat of makeup, requiring hours of work to transform actress Aura Garrido into an amphibious mermaid with occluded ears, nostrils, and membraneous eyes. In spite of her full body makeup, our mermaid despite lack of articulate speech projects a greater range of emotion than does her human abuser, raising again the classic question of who is actually the real monster. The film shows us the madness of war through the microcosm of a small yet isolated island where extraordinary things are taking place…

If Cold Skin fails In any way, it may be because the film perhaps tries to be and accomplish too much, but it makes a truly memorable effort. It was easy to miss this film in theaters, but Cold Skin may currently be seen on Amazon Prime, and I give it two paws up… 🦊

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5 Comments on “Of Mermen, Monsters, and Madness: “Cold Skin””

  1. carycomic Says:

    If you want a real Lovecraftian pastcihe/homage, watch the sci-fi/disaster flick UNDERWATER. Detailing the struggle of mining colonists, at the bottom of the Mindanao Trench, to survive against the after-effects of a tragic depressurization. Including the sudden encounter with undersea humanoids!


    • carycomic Says:

      Some people claim the Chthulu figure was CGI. I say it was someone in a rubber suit (a la Ricou Browning in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON). filmed from forced perspective (a la Haruo Nakajima in every Showa-era Godzilla film you can name).

      Liked by 1 person

      • vulpesffb Says:

        A rubber suit I’d be happy for! It’s the rubber room they want to put me in I’m not as keen on… 🦊


  2. carycomic Says:

    Speaking of aquatic cryptids: what are your thoughts on whether or not the Israeli Mermaid sightings might actually be a Red Sea dugong (or two) having made a Lessepsian migration through the Suez Canal?

    Liked by 1 person

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