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Blogvent Day 12 – Jack Frost (1997,USA)

12/12/2011

Director: Michael Cooney     Starring: Scott Macdonald, Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker

Whatever you do, do not confuse this 1997 straight to video cheesey horror comedy with the ’98 film of the same name. It would almost certainly be a mistake to sit down with your kids expecting to watch a heartwarming, family friendly Christmas film starring Michael Keaton only to find you were actually watching this – a film with a killer snowman who terrorises a small American town. Admittedly the Keaton film is creepy enough to give the most stalwart moviegoer nightmares (crap dad dies in horrible accident only to return from the dead as a snowman in order to make amends with his son before he drifts off to the afterlife forever sounds like a pretty creepy concept if you ask me) but I doubt it has the distinctly child unfriendly elements of Cooney’s film.

When convicted serial killer Jack Frost (MacDonald) is being transported to his festive execution bad weather results in a terrible accident where his transport crashes into a tanker containing a top secret bio-chemical agent. Melted by the special acid he is presumed dead, however he is reborn, combined with the snow on a molecular level and decides to set about his avowed vengeance on the small town Sherrif (Allport) who put him away for his terrible crimes.

Objectively speaking it’s pretty diabolical. The acting is shocking, the special effects are spirited but a bit crap, the production values are in the basement and the story is simply bonkers but when all these things have been combined the end result is surprisingly good fun and very entertaining. It’s crap and it knows it is and I suspect the simple awareness of it’s own limitations is how the film manages to stay out of “complete garbage” territory and maintain a steady holding pattern in the “so bad it’s good” camp. This is no mean feat, a lot of people aim for this effect and fail miserably. Cooney and Co. though seem to have it sussed.

It doesn’t hurt that they’ve approached the project with a wicked sense of humour. There are plenty of incidental gags and wisecracks, some of which don’t work that well but which, in the main are actually pretty funny (there’s a particularly good rocking-chair based gag that made me properly laugh out loud with the way it plays with horror film conventions). The special effects team, obviously aware of their limitations, have made the snowman-Jack funny looking (oddly far more like the snowman on the cover of the Keaton film than on the cover of this one) in a traditional snowman sort of way, largely non-threatening looking with his big round features and his oven-glove hands and yet somehow, thanks to this, managing to look pretty sinister. Then of course there’s the constant flow of snow-based puns Jack delivers when he makes a kill, all of which have that same groaning entertainment value of Christmas cracker jokes and help to keep the mood suitably light).

It’s not all about the jokes though, Jack’s kills are frequent and imaginative enough to satisfy hardened slasher fans and include the most unusual death by axe I think I’ve seen and a brilliant alternative use of Christmas tree decorations that make Kevin out of Home Alone look like a rank amateur. There’s not a lot of gore but what there is has been quite well realised and deployed strategically for maximum effect. Overall, the slaughter on show here demonstrates far more creativity than most of the slasher films you see these days and that has to be respected and it certainly more than compensates for any limitations that arise from the cheapo special effects and production design.

Good isn’t really a word you can apply to Jack Frost, but it is most definitely fun, far more so than a lot of these Christmas killer movies I have seen recently (and believe me, in the last couple of weeks I’ve seen a few). It’s not a film that revolutionised the genre, won awards or was even considered good enough for theatrical viewing but don’t let that put you off – if you like a healthy dose of laughs with your slasher flicks and fancy something a little bit different this Christmas, you are likely to get a kick out of Jack Frost. Just make sure you get the right one…

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