Scant Sci-Fi Thriller Cryo (CFF) Chills with Familiar Premise
First Non-Festival Release: April 28, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Barrett Burgin
Writer: Barrett Burgin, Mason D. Davis
Runtime: 118 Minutes
Starring: Jyllian Petrie, Mason D. Davis, Morgan Gunter
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Chattanooga Film Festival in 2022.
Five people awaken from their cryogenic induced slumber in a bunker without any memory on why they are there. Quickly they deduce that they are members of a research team performing an experiment on cryogenic sleeping. They cannot remember their names but they do recall their roles on the team: a Doctor (Emily Marie Palmer), an Engineer (Curt Doussett), a Biochemist (Morgan Gunter), a Soldier (Mason D. Davis), and a Psychologist (Jyllian Petrie). Unfortunately, their prospects look grim. They do not know how long they have been down there, which means their supplies are scarce, the air outside may be toxic, and there is a nonzero chance that there is a murderer amongst them.
Although rough around the edges, Cryo is suitably engaging albeit predictable sci-fi horror mystery.
The two-hour runtime might be daunting for some, but it truly flies by thanks to engaging script. Cerebral, and a little tragic, Cryo offers up a decidedly average setup filmed under not-so-average constraints. An entirely student production, Cryo is an exceptionally well-done film considering the limitations and the rawness of the talent involved.
The characters of Cryo are standard for this type of sci-fi horror. When everyone is a suspect, every action is scrutinized and the attempts to subvert the audience are met with suspicion. The motivations of some of the characters comes into question, especially once the reveals happen. It says plenty about the person left standing that they refuse to learn from their own mistakes. Doomed to failure, it fits poetically with the film’s deeper message of betrayal.
One of the recurring motifs in Cryo is its emphasis on ‘Dante’s Inferno’. The ninth circle of hell, the deepest, in ‘Dante’s Inferno’ focuses on punishing traitors. That is exactly what happens in Cryo as the crew finds themselves stuck in their situation due to the duplicity, failure, and ultimately ego of one of their fellow survivors. This works especially with the concept of hell Dante created, which is described as icy permafrost dedicated to torturing the worst of all sinners. In the deepest bowels of this level of Inferno is Satan himself, doomed to spend eternity with the most wicked of mankind. In the end, Cryo depicts a version of this with its characters doomed to make their failed choices with no chance of changing.
Mason D. Davis’ steady portrayal of the Soldier is the standout among the cast. He is the most emotionally volatile of the team and has to embody the biggest range. Both Morgan Gunter and Emily Marie Palmer give solid performances as well despite having less screen time. Thankfully, the overall performances get better as the cast gets knocked off.
It’s clear that Cryo is filmed on a budget. Its constraints appear every now and then threatening to undermine the tension it creates. It is visually rich in colors even though it takes primarily in a dim bunker. Vivid reds and blues add plenty of dynamic contrast to an otherwise cinematically stagnant film.
Flashes of memories and hallucinations force the viewer to question the reality that faces these five unlucky souls. Strong editing allows for these moments to intrude at just the right frequency and length to be noticed and woven into the tapestry of the cinematography. It helps mimic a believable trick of the mind rather than an extended pause in the action of the scene most films employ.
Cryo is not going to win many awards but there is plenty of heart in the film making it worthy of a watch. If one is able to overlook the rough dialogue and middling performances, Cryo is plenty of fun. Fans of deduction will enjoy unravelling the who and the why, while those looking for the subtext can indulge on the sentiments of psychology, free will, and the cyclical nature of humans. What makes Cryo so unique and boosts its credibility is the fact that it is entirely student made. It is easily one of the most mature of its kind and is a promising start to these young creators’ careers.
Overall Score? 6/10