The Station – Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2013 Review

September 18 2013 – The climate change debate has been bandied about for decades. From scientists to politicians and everyone in between everyone has proffered their entrenched position with the utmost conviction.  So it would stand to reason that the entertainment industry would put their theatrical stamp on this vexing global issue. This is Director Marvin Kren’s follow up to his zombie inspired directorial debut, Rammbock. He returns with an eco-inspired horror film that, on the surface, provides a compelling premise. The Station is a sweeping exercise in the ravages of targeted climate change and the hideous fallout that results.

Instant parallels will be drawn between The Station and John Carpenter’s The Thing, for obvious reasons. Both have remote outposts, scientist research stations, unruly conditions, monstrous mutations, and the list goes on. Kren picked his battle by taking on, in my humble opinion, the mother of all mutation films. Unfortunately, it became a battle he cannot win.  The strong eco-narrative and breathtaking vistas, although well executed, cannot make up for the one dimensional organisms and minimalist offerings that diminish the horror quotient in the third act.

The story is set high in the Austrian Alps at a remote climate observation station.  Janek (Gerhard Liebmann), the overly malcontent technician along with three other environmental scientists discover a strange receding glacier on their most recent outing. It’s actually Tinnitus, Janek’s rambunctious Vizsla, who unwittingly serves as the canary in the coal mine that first sniffs out the formation. That is nothing out of the ordinary except this glacier is drenched in a red primordial ooze. And unbeknownst to all, the melting red ice is releasing organisms from the planet’s ancient past that have the unique ability to infect multiple hosts.This results in horrific mutations of the local flora and fauna. Added to that, the official visit of a prominent government Minister Bodicek (Brigitte Kren) with climate change activists in tow, so any sort of misstep could derail their funding and cancel their research grants permanently. But, just as the minister and her crew arrive, bringing with them Tanya (Edita Malovcic), another scientist who had a romantic past with Janek that didn’t end well, all hell breaks loose.

With all this going for it, Kren just had to ensure these evolutionary abortions elicited the required phobia and anxiety audiences would expect from such grand mutations.  With the bare minimum of CGI to fall back on, The Station’s fear factor wasn’t a factor at all. Where more imposing fare such as the Alien franchise challenged its audiences with other-worldly highly evolved enigmas, The Station’s attenuated hybrid offerings elicited only a quiet desperation for something more.

Verdict: 3 out of 5:  Penning an eco-horror film set in the remote Austrian Alps is a premise that most seasoned screenwriters would find intriguing.  But executing on that vision is another matter altogether.  The Station has some wonderful performances worthy of this narrative and Kren’s use of jagged and unforgiving mountain scapes and the shadows that followed to create impending dread should be commended. But, that still leaves a vacuum where debilitating fear should have resided in the second and well into the third act. This was a valiant effort on Kren’s part but The Station still comes up short.

Closing Thought: What has man wrought ?

Genre: Horror
Country: Austria
Language: German
Release Date: September 2013
Director: Marvin Kren
Producers: Helmut Grasser
Screenwriter: Benjamin Hessler
Runtime: 97 minutes
Cast: Gerhard Leibmann, Edita Malovcic, Hille Besler, Brigitte Krem, Peter Knaack, Felix Romer, Wolfgang Pampel, Murathan Muslu, Michael Fuith, Adina Vetter, Coco Huener.

 

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