Centigrade is a lukewarm attempt at chilling true story.
Centigrade (another term for Celsius, in case anyone was wondering) is being labeled as a “based on true events” horror film by IFC Midnight, a division of IFC dedicated to the horror-thriller films that have trouble identifying a film genre. Besides Relic, films like this one or The Other Lamb are more of the drama and thriller variety. When they do go for straight horror, you get a mixed bag of tame (The Rental) or truly inspired (Relic). Centigrade has its moments, but the result is a lukewarm effort that was served up on a chilling platter.
Director Brendan Walsh’s film is based on the true events of an American couple, Mike (Boardwalk Empire’s Vincent Piazzo and of the criminally undervalued The Passage) and Naomi (Man on a Ledge’s Genesis Rodriguez) who decided in the middle of the night to pull over on the side of the road to sleep in the frigid mountains in Norway instead of driving fifty more miles to their hotel. The problem is when they woke up, they were encased in a frozen bed of snow that completely covered their car and they could not get out. To make matters worse, they have limited water and food supply, adequate clothing, and Naomi just happens to be eight months pregnant.
Walsh wrote the script with Daley Nixon, and the idea alone should make the hair stand up on your arms while the realization of it being a true story should send shivers down your spine. The problem is the film is rather tame with its reveals (the typical I lost my job evaluation makes an appearance), and the execution of any real thrills is not necessarily missed but fouled off based problems with pacing and simple casting. Piazzo is a fine actor who cranks up the tension after each passing day, but the real problem is Rodriguez. She is woefully miscast here as a woman going through the complex emotions of wanting to survive along with her unborn child. It’s an uneven performance that needed more depth and complexity considering the outcomes.
A thriller like Centigrade needs to be perfect in its casting to make it work. That’s why similar or relatable films like Buried and Locke, while focusing on only one person and close-ups for 90-minutes, could have never come together otherwise. It was a solid effort and has multiple positive qualities going for it like an engaging story, Piazza’s performance, and sense of mood, but ultimately could not overcome a lack of chemistry and uneven pairing between the leads.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.