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1997, dir. Michael Cooney
89 min. Rated R.
Starring: Scott McDonald, Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, Nadia the foreign exchange student.

Review by Noel Wood

Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a good Christmas-themed slasher flick, and this year, MCFTR has decided to cover some of the finest in that small but significant subgenre. And while more serious fare like Silent Night, Deadly Night tends to get a lot of coverage during the holiday season, sometimes you'd rather watch a bit of lighter fare. Y'know, like movies about a killer snowman.

Yes, you read that right. 1997's Jack Frost is about a snowman who runs around offing people in ways that would make Lloyd Kaufman proud. Now, before your head explodes from confusion, let me explain that this version of Jack Frost does not star Michael Keaton. Yes, it is an alarming coincidence that a major Hollywood studio went off and made a movie called Jack Frost about a guy being reincarnated as a snowman just a year after this one was released, but they are certainly two movies that should not be confused for one another. The Michael Keaton version is way scarier than its B-movie slasher flick namesake.

This film was brought to you by A-Pix Entertainment, a studio known for bringing the world some of the finest low-budget straight-to-video gems to ever crawl from the cesspool of cinema. One beautiful thing about watching movies from B-movie studios like this is watching the previews. In this particular installment, I was treated to trailers for Rough Draft: Diary of a Serial Killer, a thriller that managed to wrangle Gary Busey, Arnold Vosloo, and Michael Madsen; Something called Habitat with Balthazar Getty that I couldn't figure out was supposed to be science fiction or soft porn; and Body Armor, an action cop movie that provides us with the obligatory Clint Howard performance. After the trailers, though, it's time to move on to our feature. Bring on the killer snowman!

Jack Frost sets up its back story over the opening credits. Uncle Henry (not the one from The Wizard of Oz) is telling a small child (or a digitally-manipulated voice that sounds nothing like a child) about a serial killer named Jack Frost who got busted because he baked his victims into pies and sold them to the public. The opening credits are actually pretty clever: they all appear on ornaments of a Christmas tree while the back story is being told. After this, we move in to the action. Soon, very soon, we will get to the killer snowman.

As our movie opens, the serial killer who just happens to be named Jack Frost is being transported to his execution in a big truck that reads in bold letters on the side "State Executional Transfer Vehicle" just in case the dialogue up to this point didn't clue you in. Of course, it's the middle of a snowstorm (enjoy it, because it's the last time you'll see snow coming down for the rest of the movie) and the drivers are having some trouble staying on the road. Cue the truck carrying dangerous chemicals. I'm sure you can figure out what happens next, but the short story is that Jack escapes from the truck. As one of the security guards looks on (and for some reason never thinks to draw his gun until it's way too late) the explosion from the chemical truck causes Jack to melt into the snow and bond to it chemically. Yes, this ridiculously contrived explanation is the origin of our movie's star.

The local yokel sheriff Sam who caught Jack Frost originally is a bit worried still, though. Jack made a promise to get his revenge once he was hauled off in cuffs, and all Sam can think about is whether or not Jack is really dead at this point. The FBI sets Sam's mind at ease, but it turns out that the genetic change that occurred with Jack is some giant government experiment gone awry (which is the basic premise of most zombie movies as well.)

The next morning, Sam is convinced that all is well. He kisses his wife and son Ryan goodbye before going to work. Ryan is making his dad some weird concoction that looks like diarrhea with marshmallows in it, which Sam puts in a plastic baggie to "save for later". Remember that. Ryan is a weird kid anyway. He's way too in to domestic type stuff like cooking and arts and crafts for a boy his age. Dude's gonna totally grow up to listen to Judy Garland records.

On his way in to town, Sam stops by the annual snowman contest. The townsfolk are building all kinds of goofy snowmen and making some bad jokes about how the difference between snowmen and snow-women is "snowballs". Ha! Shannon Elizabeth shows up and then asks perverted teenage kid Tommy who is putting breasts on his "snowbabe" if he wants to go "snowballing" later. Double-Ha! These jokes just write themselves.

Back at the home at Sheriff Sam (who apparently has no last name) Ryan's mom notices a snowman that has mysteriously appeared at the top of their driveway, and Ryan goes out to dress it up. He dresses it up with some coal eyes and a carrot nose and hollows out a mouth with his mitten. Just then, Billy the obnoxious neighbor kid pops in and tells Ryan that the snowman is in the way of their sled race. Ryan gets scared, Billy lops the head off the snowman, and then the kids begin the race. But before he can get much momentum, Billy gets shoved by the killer snowman, and gets decapitated by a sled! The first kill is a good one.

Billy's dad, Jake, is pretty pissed off at Sam for all this. He accuses Ryan of killing his son, despite the fact that he's half his size and acts like a girl. Jake and his wife Sally appear all too calm that Billy is dead, and Billy's sister Jill (the aforementioned Shannon Elizabeth) cares so little that she decides to go off and fulfill her promise to go "snowballing" with Tommy. She runs off and leaves her parents alone to die at the hands of killer precipitation. Jake goes out to think and have a smoke, and starts hearing a voice coming from the snowman, which is now in his front yard. Before long, he has an axe handle shoved down his throat. Sally meets her fate moment later, and in exquisite form: first she's strangled with Christmas lights, then gets a glass ball ornament shoved down her throat, and finally her face is dragged across the ground all over the broken glass until she's a bloody mess.

Our snowman killer, Jack, has managed to show off some of his special powers thusfar. He's able to melt and refreeze at will, which allows him to travel through closed doors and the like. But before long, he's going to be able to shoot icicles and even bite heads off with icicle teeth. Just you wait.

Meanwhile, Sam has discovered the truth about Jack's reanimation and orders a neighborhood curfew. His family decides to stay at the local shelter with some of the other citizens. And because his house is empty, Jill has decided that it would be an ideal place for her and a reluctant Tommy to perform their carnal acts. Yeah, I don't get it either, but they break in to the house and start making out in the kitchen. She demands a fire and a bottle of wine before she'll put out, and goes in to the bedroom to dry her hair despite the fact that it's not wet. Yeah, I still don't get it. Tommy finds a bottle of bubbly but hears some stirring outside and gets freaked out. A few moments later, and Jack has speared him with aforementioned projectile icicles.

Jill is too busy with the hair dryer to hear the commotion in the kitchen, but finally finishes re-drying her hair and notices the bathtub is full. She thanks Tommy for running her a bath, despite no evidence that he did, and strips naked and crawls right in. No, I still don't get it. These are like the two stupidest people to ever get offed in a slasher flick, and that's pretty goddamn stupid. Anyway, for those of you who are all excited about a Shannon Elizabeth bathtub scene, don't bother renting this for that. Nothing is revealed that you can't see on basic cable, and it ain't like she was ever all that to begin with. But I digress. As she's soaking in the tub, the water suddenly turns super-cold and a carrot appears between her legs. Finally, the water freezes all around her and we get a killer snowman rape scene before she finally assumes room temperature. You know, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

Now that that entire family is dead (and for no explicable reason, other than the fact that they seem to be the ony other family in the town other than Sam's) Jack Frost can move on to his real target: the sheriff that locked him up to begin with. Sam has been working with FBI agent Manners and crazy government scientist Stone on trying to figure out Jack's weaknesses. They determine that he is only vulnerable when he's frozen, which totally negates the next scene where they attack him with a hair dryer. After a long and convoluted scene where Jack chases after and terrorizes everyone in sight, Sam gets the idea that they should lure Jack into the boiler room. They all grab hair dryers and push Jack into the room, where he seems to be extinguished for good.

But since this is a low-budget horror flick, we all know that Jack won't stay down. He reappears and kills off Stone and Agent Manners, and makes a beeline for Sam. After a scuffle in the car with Sam and Ryan, the baggie full of oatmeal gets used as a weapon ( ! ) and melts Jack's snowman face ( ! ! ). When Sam asks Ryan what he put in the oatmeal, Ryan tells daddy that he didn't want him to get cold so he put antifreeze into the oatmeal ( ! ! ! ) despite the fact that Ryan's mother stood by and watched the kid make the oatmeal ( ! ! ! ! ). There must be this whole subplot we're missing where Sam's wife is trying to poison her husband and collect his pension or something. But regardless, how stupid does this kid have to be to make antifreeze for breakfast? Sam winds up getting impaled by one of Jack's icicles and looks to be in dire straits until his crazy gun-shop-owning buddy shows up with a truck bed full of antifreeze and Sam and Jack plunge into the thing. Now, I'm not expert on such things, but I'm guessing that soaking an open wound in antifreeze is not exactly a healthy activity, but whatever. Jack is dead and soon to be buried next to a bunch of bottles of antifreeze. Sam spits on the grave, which means a sequel is bound to happen. Oh, wait. It already did.

Taking Jack Frost seriously would be an effort in futility. If this film were not designed as a spoof of the slasher genre, then the filmmakers made a pretty happy accident out of the whole thing. Although the script is terrible and better acting can be found in a used car dealership commercial, There is some inspired camerawork and some inventive horror sequences. The score is actually pretty amusing as well, twisting some holiday classics into a spooky music bed. Sure, the snowman looks absolutely ridiculous, but that's half the charm. It's made of something that looks more like styrofoam than snow, and is animated about as intricately as an episode of South Park. You're probably severely pussified if this movie scares you at all, but you're sure to find a chuckle or two.

If you ever feel compelled to rent Jack Frost, which I highly recommend if you're a fan of things like Troma and B-level horror flicks, then make sure you get the one with the demonic lenticular snowman head image (which, of course, looks nothing like the snowman in the movie) rather than the happy smiling Michael Keaton-headed snowman, or else you're in for a real crapper.


All Material Copyright 1998-2006 Movie Criticism for the Retarded.

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