Shannon ElizabethStephen MendelChristopher AllportScott MacDonald
Jack Frost
Medium: film
Year: 1997
Director: Michael Cooney
Writer: Michael Cooney, Jeremy Paige
Keywords: Christmas, horror, rubbish, slasher
Country: USA
Actor: Scott MacDonald, Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker, Eileen Seeley, Rob LaBelle, Zack Eginton, Jack Lindine, Kelly Jean Peters, Marsha Clark, Chip Heller, Brian Leckner, Darren O. Campbell, Shannon Elizabeth, Paul Keith, Charles C. Stevenson Jr., Nathanyael Grey
Format: 89 minutes
Website category: Horror modern
Review date: 19 December 2011
I don't hate it. It's not worth even that much attention. Imagine a small child who thinks it's funny to say swear words he doesn't understand and expose himself in church. You'd want to talk to his parents, but the boy himself is of no interest and you merely want him to go away.
This film is that child. I can see why some people like it, but I've been spending all morning trying to decide if it's the worst thing I've seen this year. It's not, I think, but it comes close. It's clearly orders of magnitude worse than, for instance, Carry On Dick, The Dominators, Dancer in the Dark, The Abashiri Family (2009) and Big Tits Dragon: Zombies vs. Strippers. I'm not even going to compare it with unpopular films I liked, e.g. The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. The Castle of Fu Manchu was a train wreck, Ninja She-Devil barely even counts as a film and I didn't get more than twelve minutes into Chatterbox, but those are better too.
What beats it to the bottom, for me, is the nearly unwatchable Warning from Space and its wooden ilk, but we're in trouble if I can't find a worse film without resorting to 1950s SF. This is the 1997 killer snowman flick, by the way, not the 1998 comedy with Michael Keaton.
To explain why I took against this film, I should start by defending it. People like it because it's a horror-comedy. A mass-murdering snowman goes around saying lines like "The world's most pissed-off snow cone!" and "Gosh, I only axed you for a smoke." In fairness the car kill nearly works as intended. That was a bit entertaining. More generally it's inspired by Gremlins in that the snowman kills annoying people first and I think we're supposed to find him cool.
What I experienced though was a film with anti-integrity.
We begin with a serial killer being transported to his place of execution. He's called Jack Frost, by a coincidence that's never explained, and the film's trying to make us admire and/or be impressed by him (and possibly also serial killing in general). Thus for instance we have this Death Row prisoner being transported in a van with the following security:
(a) handcuffs
(b) a guard sitting opposite him
...and that's it. There are two more hicks sitting up front, but they're driving and wouldn't even realise if Jack Frost, say, killed his guard because he's Just So Damn Cool. In comparison I don't mind the crash with a tanker full of experimental gene-bonding immortality serum that turns Frost into an indestructible killer snowman, because if that didn't happen then we wouldn't have a movie. Anyway, the first fifteen minutes of the film feel like a sequel to another film, in which Frost gets caught by Sheriff Sam Tiler (Christopher Allport) and swears one day to get his revenge.
Allport lives in a town called Snowmonton, by the way.
I quite liked the small town setting. Allport's a nice guy and it's the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else and your sheriff is also your next door neighbour. Yet again I was creeped out by the attitude that the correct response to unexplained violent murder is to hush it up, mind you. I see this sometimes in American movies, usually from the 1950s, and it always strikes me as something for which people should be going to prison. What if someone died because they didn't know about the danger and weren't being careful? They try to justify it here by having the town's good old boys form a vigilante mob as soon as they learn that something's going on, but no. Sorry. It's bollocks.
The real problem though is the tone. A teenager gets decapitated in front of his friends and their response is "Holey moley, Bill's head came off!" (Admittedly that's not the only lame swearing in this town, e.g. "Oh, shoot," but these kids are supposedly big tough bullies.) Soon afterwards the dead boy's grief-stricken father gets angry with Allport... and the scene's so cheap that I felt insulted. You don't need to have suffered a bereavement to be offended at the lazy character work there, but merely to be a human being. On finding the mutilated corpse of one of their neighbours tied to her tree, a cop says, "You don't reckon we should keep her up for the Twelve Days of Christmas, then?" Shannon Elizabeth gets raped to death and we're supposed to find that funny too. This might have been watchable had it been genuinely dark and going hard for pitch-black comedy, but instead it just seems cheap and perfunctory.
Annoying people are annoying for all the wrong reasons. The cock who's obviously doomed to die is such a rocket-boosted turbo-powered super-cock that he stops being a character and becomes instead a horror movie cliche. (He also doesn't die.) The silver bullet that kills Jack Frost is anti-freeze, which Allport discovers courtesy of his son's cooking. The little scamp put anti-freeze in the oats because he was worried about his father getting cold! He looks about eleven. Piss off, you stupid film.
Oh, and Jack Frost can melt and then re-freeze his body, letting him enter hairline gaps. It's The Waters of Mars! However if he suffers facial injuries due to anti-freeze, those will remain even if he melts and then rebuilds himself.
There's one scary bit, when we think a small boy might lose fingers. However on the downside, Shannon Elizabeth gets naked and we don't see her tits. There's a scene where Stephen Mendel tells Allport that scientific advances have made footprints just as accurate as fingerprints. (In fairness this might just be the character lying and/or being a dick.) To me, this isn't a film. It's a blancmange of material that's been pushed into an approximate film shape, but never finds a way to work. It's got potentially Troma-level material, but it lacks Troma's balls. It's offensive because it doesn't have the guts to be offensive. It has one likeable character (Allport) and everyone else is some kind of cliche or joke, appearing to react inappropriately to swannee whistle horror because they're in a lazy film rather than because of anything growing out of situation or character.
The most frightening thing about this movie is that it got a sequel, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman. What's more, that's supposed to be worse than this. At first I didn't believe that it could be, but on closer inspection I see that the sequel is once again written and directed by Michael Cooney. Maybe it really is worse? Goodness me. That would almost be impressive.
"The soul is a chemical."