REVIEW: CENTIGRADE (2020)

Vincent Piazza as “Matt” and Genesis Rodriguez as “Naomi” in Brendan Walsh’s CENTIGRADE.
Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

“Hello?! Hello?! Hello?!”

We’ve seen those shows like Survivor, or even movies like Cast Away, only to think, “what would I do if I were in those survival situations?” It’s an eerie thought to have, but one you can’t help but ponder as you sit on your couch eating pizza while Bear Grylls drinks his own urine. The strange thing is, what would happen if you found yourself stuck in a blizzard as your car is overtaken by the frozen elements that surround you? It’s an eerie thought, but a thought that comes to fruition with director Brendan Walsh’s newest film, Centigrade.

Based on true events, Matt (Vincent Piazza) and Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) are an American couple, traveling through Norway on a small book tour for Naomi’s new book. While traveling one evening, the frozen rain from a severe blizzard prevents the couple from traveling to their hotel, which is about 80 miles away. The couple, overcome with fatigue, fall asleep and wake up trapped underneath mounds of frozen tundra. With no cell service, very little food, and Naomi being eight months pregnant, the couple is, at first, calm, believing they will be rescued in a day or two. But the optimism soon vanishes when the days begin to bleed together, with no rescue in sight.

Centigrade solely relies on the character performances from Piazza and Rodriguez. Both of them do an outstanding job at illustrating the sheer nightmare that this couple finds themselves in. The film doesn’t shy away from putting these characters through various situations like going to the bathroom in a towel, rationing out their food and water, the crippling hypothermia, or the overwhelming anxiety of being trapped in a car with no way out. It’s a simple film, when you look at it. It doesn’t hold back, nor does it paint this couple as the survivalist type. And instead, aims to show how human they are. Though the two are driven by fear to fight for their lives, there are those moments that show the love that this couple has for each other — with hopes that they will make it out alive.

For multiple reasons, a movie like this shouldn’t work, but somehow Centigrade does. With only one setting, there’s a minute amount of things for our characters to interact with. And even with those limitations, the story continues to pull you back in, as one thing after another begins to unravel. This isn’t a fast-paced film, where the characters will be chopping off their arms for added gore and horror. It moves slowly — creating that constant unsettling feeling, that fear, that continues to build. It’s the quiet nothing — the silence — that envelopes Centigrade. The unknown that looms around our characters, as the audience begins to wonder whether, or not, this couple will make it out alive.

I’ve said it before, the best horrors aren’t the bloody jump-scares of a psycho killer. No, it’s the nightmares that could become a reality for any unassuming human being. And in this case, a real threat to our friends in the snowy north. Centigrade falls into that category. With its piercing story, superb acting, and brilliant directing, Centigrade is one of the most unsettling films of the year.

Centigrade

Directed by: Brendan Walsh

Written by: Daley Nixon and Brendan Walsh

Starring: Vincent Piazza and Genesis Rodriguez

Rating:

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