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‘Centigrade’ review: A battle against snow, ice, and paranoia

Know your enemy.

Even those who have not been diagnosed with claustrophobia will admit to a dislike of being in closed spaces. People often talk about being “boxed in” when in precarious situations and yearn to be places where they can “stretch their legs”. On the whole, humans generally need space. The idea of being trapped under layers of snow is a frightening prospect for anyone. 

Inspired by true events, Centigrade is the story of a woman named Naomi and her husband Matt. On their way to a book signing, the two become trapped in ice and snow. To make matters worse, Naomi is pregnant. As supplies run out and tempers flare, the two must confront their mortality. But is the real enemy the elements or each other?

Horror movies set in desolate wintry landscapes are nothing new. In Centigrade, the terror is not a knife wielding killer. The surroundings and time are the big villains here. Again, this is not a novel concept, but it is one that is more relatable. In a single setting movie, it is important to give audiences a sense of claustrophobia. Centigrade director Brendan Walsh does a great job of shooting the lonely landscape. Overhead shots of ice capped mountains and the buried car are absolutely frightening. They give the idea of how hopeless the situation is.

Ironically, Centigrade is less terrifying in the car. The vehicle seems huge (even for an SUV) and the couple rarely seem to be trapped in a confining space. They seem more inconvenienced than actually in a life or death situation. The lack of supplies also does not come across as dire as it should. Naomi and Matt look no worse for wear even after a week and a half trapped in the car. (Passage of time is also not handled very well.)

For all its faults, Centigrade does a lot right. The feeling of punishing cold is conveyed very well. With each day, more ice develops in the car. Near the end of the film, the car looks like a meat locker. Naomi and Matt are wrapped in jackets and scarves and are still shivering. The temperature may be more frightening than the isolation.

Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza do an excellent job as a couple who are barely holding on emotionally. Rodriguez is particularly great in a role that conveys paranoia. With each passing day, there is a noticeable change in Naomi. There is no telling what she is going to do next. Rodriguez succeeds in adding another layer of tension to Centigrade.

Movies shot in one location require a lot, ironically. The performances have to be top notch while the right atmosphere has to be created. If something does not work, then there is little to cover it up. The good thing is, strong writing can correct any early issues. It takes some time, but once Centigrade finds its way, it is a terrifying story.

Centigrade premieres Friday August 28th in select theaters and video on demand.

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