“Fish Out of Water” (2015): Postnuclear Winter Wasteland Holds Mysteries and Mutations



Writer/director Kirsten Carthew’s science fiction/horror hybrid Fish Out of Water is a head-scratcher in the best sense of the term. It presents some mysteries and leaves our imaginations to fill in the gaps as it introduces viewers to a snowy, postapocalyptic wasteland and two of its facially scarred inhabitants.

Soon after the film opens with shots of hockey sticks standing upright on a frozen lake, a lone woman is seen traversing the harsh landscape. Eventually she catches some potential food but the animal is mutated (I’m avoiding spoilers here so I won’t go into more detail), which tips viewers off that there may have been a nuclear event in the area. The woman’s partially scarred face – part of Nicole Garbutt’s impressive special effects makeup work – is further evidence. Suddenly a young girl appears in the distance and the woman tries to make contact with her. The proceedings soon become more horrific.

Fish Out of Water was shot in -40 degree winter weather in the Canadian Arctic. The bitter landscape is practically a third character in the film, thanks to cinematographer Tara Marchiori’s solid work. The short has a mysterious, ominous feeling throughout that is bolstered by Michael White’s score and the sound design of Rob Plotnikoff and Greg Sabitz. Sound design plays an important role at the end of the film, too; make sure to watch and listen through the credits.

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What is the woman (Mira Hall) looking at through this pane of glass? That is just one of the mysteries and enigmas in Kirsten Carthew’s sci-fi/horror short Fish Out of Water.

The cast consists of two nonprofessional actors, both of whom do convincing work. Mira Hall imbues Woman with a sense of strength for surviving in these severe elements and shows that the character hasn’t lost her compassion for other survivors. Ella Bertelsen as Girl gives a commendable turn, as well.

Fish Out of Water (X1Afilms.com) is the type of film that is difficult to discuss in detail in a review because the short needs to be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible. Kirsten Carthew does a marvelous job of introducing viewers to a bleak world, slowly unraveling its mysteries, and startling us with its dangers.

Fish Out of Water screened at the Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo tour event in Nagoya, Japan, in February 2016.

Fish Out of Water: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)


Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.