Guest Review by Jason Scott
Hello again! A big heat wave's been rolling through Alberta recently, & I thought a movie with a cool winter theme would be appropriate. So, let's take a look at Snowbeast, a made-for-TV monster movie that steals all kinds of inspiration from the then-recent smash hit Jaws. As in the case of many such movies, imitating something good sadly does not automatically produce something good.
The movie opens with a very wintry scene of glittering snow blowing across a frozen forested landscape. The movie was filmed in Colorado, & the admittedly impressive scenery will get a lot of screen time, almost becoming a character in itself, & one that's ultimately more interesting than the people or even the monster.
Next there is a POV shot of the Snowbeast lurking in the woods. This device is nifty, but it's way over-used in this movie. The only bit of the monster that's actually shown is one arm, covered with coarse white hair & bearing a wicked brown claw. These POV shots are usually accompanied by some bestial growling & tense music (a knock-off Jaws theme) to make sure we understand that we're seeing the world through the monster's eyes.
The Snowbeast gestures to its cold domain.
A woman in a bright yellow ski suit is making her way through the snowy slopes, accompanied by another woman dressed in dark green & black. The camera follows them for a while as they ski along, the first of many scenes that will involve people skiing or snowmobiling throughout the forest. The women are named as Jennifer & Heidi.
Jennifer (L) & Heidi (R)
They stop briefly, & Jennifer says that they should keep going. Heidi wants to turn back because "something's funny". She doesn't really elaborate on this strange feeling. She will prove to have pretty sharp survival instincts so maybe this is some sixth sense warning of the danger that we already know is close by. Jennifer won't hear of turning back on such a pleasant day, so they continue on a little longer.
When they next stop, Heidi points to some clawed footprints in the snow. Jennifer dismisses these prints as a prank by some joker who stomped out weird tracks in some random part of the woods to scare people. I think that's a lot of trouble to go through for a pretty small chance at a pay-off. The spot they're in doesn't seem especially well-used, but even if it is it seems likely that most skiers would just go right by these tracks without noticing them. There's surely more effective ways to prank people.
Ah, the classic monster tracks. So many monster movies would be lost without prints like these to set the ominous scene.
The prank theory doesn't survive long anyway as a ghastly howling suddenly issues from the woods. Heidi, doing the cowardly but sensible thing, hightails it away as quickly as possible, not pausing for a moment to see if Jennifer is coming with her. Actually, Jennifer just keeps standing in place & looking around in bewilderment. Her primal terror response must be defective, & she's going to pay dearly for it.
This would be a very good time for you to GET AWAY! OK, fine then. Just continue standing there, but I'm not responsible for what's going to happen to you.
The Snowbeast bursts from the trees & bears down on Jennifer, though it's still a POV perspective that won't allow us to see the creature. Jennifer seems frozen in place, unable to do anything than look more horrified. Her flight instincts are faulty, too, & unfortunately nature has a way of selecting against these traits. Well away from danger, Heidi only stops for a moment when she hears the Snowbeast roaring, then makes good her escape.
After this dramatic opening, the next scene is of a bustling ski resort with happy people getting in their winter recreation. This is the Rill Lodge, which is celebrating its historic 50th Carnival. A rather hoarse-voiced elderly woman tells people over a speaker system what a great time this is & how everything is going along so well.
This banner says it all. They're going to be having under-age kids at an orgy. Tsk, tsk.
This woman is Carrie Rill, played by 67-year old Sylvia Sidney (born Sophia Kosow). Sidney had a distinguished acting career spanning almost 70 years, which included an Oscar nomination for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams that came out 3 years before this film. The character of Carrie Rill is matriarch of Rill Lodge & the first Snow Queen of the Carnival when it began half a century ago.
Carrie Rill, looking a bit medicated here. She's really excited about the Carnival, though.
As Carrie's out talking to guests, the current Snow Queen arrives & is greeted warmly. There's a general atmosphere of gaiety that is only marred by a man in an orange ski patrol suit who rides up in a snowmobile & rushes inside the lodge. His name is Buster, & he has urgent news to share in private with Carrie's grandson & Rill Lodge manager, Tony. Tony's played by Robert Logan, an actor who at this point was getting a steady run of roles in outdoorsy films like this one. I remember watching Logan on VHS in movies like Adventures of the Wilderness Family & Across the Great Divide.
Tony (L) with Buster, but don't get too attached to that guy.
After a quick consultation behind closed doors the two men are heading out when Carrie notices their hurry & gently admonishes Tony that during the Carnival the manager shouldn't be dealing personally with any problems except major ones, which simply can't exist at this time of celebration. Tony quickly assures her with a smile that there's no major problem & then hastily carries on out the door.
Tony & Buster head out to a rescue station where Heidi is being kept. Tony interviews Heidi, who is quite whiny throughout. She can't understand why the rescue team won't believe her story about some beast in the forest, despite that she has no proof. Heidi refuses to guide the team back to where the attack happened, & can't even provide any useful directions. She says that Jennifer's parents tasked her to look after their daughter. I think they could have chosen a more effective guardian than Heidi, who leaves much to be desired. She gets panicked easily, abandons her friend to a gruesome fate, & won't help rescuers trying to locate Jennifer.
"Why don't you show us where these tracks are?"
"What? No way! I don't care if you find my best friend. In survival, you have to look out for yourself first."
Heidi wants to contact Jennifer's parents, but Tony is against it, no doubt thinking the Lodge should avoid any bad publicity right now. He assures her that they will find Jennifer, but notably avoids stating what condition she'll be found in, dead or alive. Heidi does manage to recollect that she & Jennifer had passed an abandoned barn by a stream, which is pretty vague, but at least something to go on.
So the rescue team conducts their search for a while until Tony finds Jennifer's ski equipment & blood-stained jacket lying in the snow. The Snowbeast has been observing the search party from the forest, & lets out a bellow as the scene of its attack is discovered. It doesn't, for whatever reason, make any rush at Tony, but he definitely hears the Snowbeast & glimpses it disappearing into the trees.
I said before that I'm not responsible for this. I gave Jennifer fair warning.
Back at the Lodge the couple of Gar & Ellen Seberg have arrived. Gar Seberg is played by Bo Svenson (born Boris Lee Holder Svenson), a man with a truly amazing record of life accomplishments. Nate's mentioned Svenson's achievements in his review of Virus, & I have to say that it makes me want to hang my head in shame at my own wimpy, unadventurous life. Ellen Seberg is played by Yvette Mimieux, who's quite accomplished in her own right. Aside from a respectable list of acting credits, Mimieux is also an anthropologist & canny real estate investor.
The Sebergs, Gar & Ellen
Two teenagers immediately come up to Gar & ask him for an autograph. The first mention is made of how back in the 1968 Olympics Gar was a phenomenally successful skiing celebrity. One of the kid's fathers got an autograph from Gar then & sold it. Gar's curious how much his signature went far, but Ellen pointedly says to keep the amount a secret so her husband can remain in his illusions. When the teens get the autographs & head off, Gar glumly answers the look his wife's giving him by saying that at least somebody still wants him around. I take it their marriage is at a low point on the happiness scale right now.
They head into the lodge, & Gar gives a friendly call out to Tony when he sees him passing by. Tony, obviously with other concerns on his mind, seems to brush off Gar. Gar's face falls, & he immediately assumes that Tony knows what he's here for & is trying to avoid him. Ellen says that's silly & Tony could just be very busy with the Carnival right now. Gar isn't really convinced, & says that Ellen was right about how coming here was a dumb idea. Ellen replies that she never said coming here was dumb, but that Gar should perhaps try to find work that doesn't involve skiing.
So now we know that Gar is, for whatever reason, at the tail end of his glory days & looking for some kind of job. What has led him down the path from the top of the world to near the bottom isn't explained yet. When Gar states that skiing is all he knows how to do, Ellen accuses him of not even wanting a job, but just looking for an excuse "to back off and still feel right about it!" Gar answers with a curt nod & walks away.
In another room, Tony's in a heated debate with his grandmother. Tony's trying to convince Carrie that there's a dire menace out in the woods & that Rill Lodge isn't safe anymore. Carrie is respectfully listening to Tony, but doesn't really believe in this thing that he claims to have seen, & isn't at all convinced that the happy Carnival atmosphere should be threatened by any alarms. She even points out how strange it is that this beast should show up right when the Carnival's about to begin (good point). Tony pleads that the situation is too potentially dangerous for him to just claim the area where Jennifer was attacked is restricted & carry on as normal. He wants to contact the sheriff, but Carrie reminds him how important the Carnival is for the local economy. The show must go on, as the old saying goes. She urges Tony to keep silent for now & declare the area restricted as he earlier said, throwing in some guilt about how he wouldn't want to upset his dear grandmother. Tony's obviously unhappy but looks as though he's going to defer to Carrie for now.
Tony strenuously tries to convince Carrie of the danger...
...but Carrie still looks medicated.
Tony quickly changes expression & is all smiles as he goes to give proper greeting to the Sebergs. It's obvious that these three have been friends for years but have been out of touch for quite a while. It's also obvious that Tony has a more than platonic affection for Ellen, which Gar doesn't fail to note. It looks as though we might have a love triangle emerging that could throw some dramatic storm clouds over this sunny friendship. Tony stays just long enough to say that there's a crisis arresting his attention so he can't talk right now. Before Tony heads off, Gar blurts out about needing a job. Tony hesitates only a moment before saying that Gar doesn't need a job anymore. Gar seems quite relieved at how painless that was.
Outside, Tony is met by Buster, who says that he has a pretty good idea where Jennifer is to be found & requests permission to take a team out to that spot. Tony bluntly orders him to stay away from that area, & put up all kinds of signs declaring it restricted. Buster asks for an explanation, but Tony is tight-lipped. He had earlier taken his rescue team out of the area with the Snowbeast without explaining to them what he had seen, & under Carrie's influence is still keeping quiet.
Buster doesn't like his orders at all, & in the next scene he's strapping on skis to do a solo run out into the forest to find Jennifer. So Buster skis...& skis...& skis some more. The movie must have needed padding out, & I'm tempted to think the permission to film in Colorado came with the condition that everything be done to promote this state as a winter tourist destination. The scenery is attractive, but watching somebody just ski around in a monster movie isn't very thrilling.
Suddenly, Buster hits a rut in the snow while going down a hill & takes a really bad spill. After tumbling for a bit (managing to somehow lose his toque & skis multiple times), he ends up plummeting over the side of the hill. He grabs on to some tree roots to save himself, but Buster's in a bad spot. He can't get enough purchase to clamber up to safety, & the drop down looks like it would be pretty painful.
Don't look down, Buster. It won't make things any better.
And help is NOT on the way. The Snowbeast is heading over, once again seen only through the increasingly annoying POV shot. Buster looks up from his precarious position just long enough to scream at the Snowbeast reaching down for him before the screen goes red.
This red screen is used in many instances, I think as a way to cut to commercials.
The scene cuts to the abandoned barn that Heidi mentioned earlier. A truck with a family in it is pulling up to this building. They're presumably tourists, though I don't really know what they're intending to do here. A boy gets out of the truck & immediately runs into the barn, which I don't think would be a really fun place to play in. A moment later he slowly walks out in a state of shock. His father asks the boy what's wrong, & the boy mumbles about something inside, in the water trough. A quick investigation turns up the grisly remains of poor Jennifer, although the only thing we get to see is a bloody arm. The Snowbeast has been looking on at these people rummaging around what is evidently its den, but doesn't make its presence known.
The abandoned barn, where a fair bit of action will be set.
"Dad, I'm going to need a vacation to get over this vacation. And lots of therapy."
The closest we ever get to gore on-screen.
Back at the Lodge the last character of note in this movie appears, sheriff Cole Paraday. Cole is played by Clint Walker (born Norman Eugene Walker) who is most famous for his role of Cheyenne Bodie on the series Cheyenne, which is credited on his IMDb biography as "almost single-handedly start[ing] the western craze on TV in the 1950's". Very impressive.
Sheriff Cole Paraday
Paraday is hanging around at the Lodge when Tony & Gar drive up. Tony yells out to Cole that he has something important to talk about. Then a call comes in over Cole's radio, alerting the sheriff to the ghastly discovery in the abandoned farmhouse, which apparently once belonged to the Fairchild family. Cole drives off immediately, before Tony has a chance to share his news.
Now there's a scene where Tony & Ellen talk in the Lodge's chalet, mostly about Gar & how far his star has diminished in the past decade. Ellen, it turns out, has a career of her own as a television reporter. Her job's exciting, but when she goes home at the end of the day she finds that Gar is still living in the past. He hasn't strapped on the skis since his momentous achievement in '68 when he won multiple gold medals, & just seems to be stagnating. Tony makes a bold pass at Ellen, claiming that he's always loved her & even giving her a little kiss while her husband is just down the hallway talking to some people. Tony's voice & mannerisms are hardly as impassioned as one might expect under these circumstances.
"Oh Tony, I've been having fantasies about you! Just seeing you now makes my insides melt from the heat of my passion."
"I knew you always wanted me! You only married Gar out of pity. Let's get rid of him & spend the rest of our lives together. We can blame it on that monster running around in the for...Oh, forget that last thing I said."
Gar walks over to Tony as Ellen leaves. He's definitely not the remotely jealous type, as the only remark he makes about the kiss that he witnessed is to good-naturedly rib Tony. Competition over a woman's affection can easily lead to the destruction of long friendships, but that doesn't seem at all likely in this case, which makes me wonder why it was even included in the movie. Love triangles are over-used, & I don't see what the point is of including such a potentially dramatic situation when nothing is really done with it.
Another dramatic opportunity is lost when Tony doesn't mention what he & Ellen were talking about or make any attempt to confront Gar about the reasons for him abandoning his skiing career & coming to Rill Lodge. Instead, Tony tries to tell Gar about the Snowbeast, having him swear to secrecy first. Just as Tony's about to speak, Carrie calls to him from the door of the chalet with a worried look on her face, wanting to stop him from leaking any upsetting news. Tony tells Gar to meet him later at the pool & heads off.
There's a striking shot of a mountain set against a clear blue sky, which becomes the backdrop to Tony & Gar's conversation. The heated pool the two men are immersed in hardly seems like a good place for a rather secret rendezvous. It just looks like another advertisement for the sort of enjoyments visitors to a Colorado ski lodge can indulge in.
A majestic mountain peak, which you can see lots of if you book your next winter vacation in Colorado (now where's my cheque?).
Tony asks Gar whether he's heard any legends of Bigfoot, to which Gar replies that he's quite familiar with such stories since, by amazing coincidence, Ellen researched a story about Bigfoot sightings a short while ago. Wow, how convenient is that? This research has led Gar to be a bit more receptive toward the existence of a creature like Bigfoot, so he doesn't just dismiss Tony's talk of the bizarre not-man/not-animal creature he saw out in the woods. Gar is a bit upset at Tony's suggestion that this creature should simply be hunted down & exterminated. Gar actually leaves the pool in a bit of a huff at the thought that Tony only hired him as a sort of weapon to kill the Snowbeast.
Back inside the lodge, Tony continues to try getting Gar on his side. It really doesn't take much persuasion. Gar thinks that the Snowbeast is a misunderstood animal that should just be left alone, but he becomes much more grim once Tony explains how this monster has already probably killed a young woman.
"Kissing my wife in front of me is one thing, but I draw an emphatic line at you wanting me to kill some poor brute I've never met. This thing could run a nursery for orphaned animals out in the forest for all we know."
"Yeah, sure. Hey, if you're so interested in the monster, why don't you go run off with it & I'll take your wife?"
The scene switches to Ellen, who is all geared up for skiing. She meets Carrie, & asks her where Gar is, but Carrie doesn't know. Then a deputy with a very droopy mustache rides up on a snowmobile. He asks where Tony is, but neither woman knows that, either. The deputy tells the women to have Tony come to the old Fairchild farm when they see him. The sheriff wants to ask Tony about an incident being investigated up there. The deputy drives off, but his news has piqued Ellen's interest. The next we see she is skiing through the forest heading toward the farm, although I don't know how she knows where it is.
Amazingly, Ellen spies upon what's happening on the farm in about the same spot the Snowbeast was earlier. Fortunately, the monster's nowhere around right now, but after several minutes of fruitlessly observing the farmhouse without seeing anything interesting, she notices the Snowbeast's tracks heading off into the forest. Ellen decides to follow these tracks, though I don't see what she really intends to accomplish. She has no idea what she's following, or whether it's dangerous. Ellen doesn't have a camera to take any pictures of this thing if she does find it, & in fact has no supplies at all, plus nobody knows where she is. I'm a bit concerned for Ellen, though she's the female lead & that greatly decreases the likelihood of monster attack, unlike poor Buster. By the way, Buster's disappearance has gone completely unnoticed by everyone thus far, but he was supposed to have the day off so I guess that's why noone's concerned about where he is.
Tony & Gar drive up to the farm on snowmobiles, stopping for a moment when Gar thinks he sees something lurking in the trees, though this sighting leads to nothing. When they get to the Fairchild farm, Cole has Tony come inside & shows him the remains of Jennifer to see if he can identify her. Heidi's not called in to do this for an unknown reason, & I have no idea what happened to her. I imagine she'll be done with skiing for a very long time, if not the rest of her life.
Since this movie was being shown on TV, the gore is very minimal; in fact, it's practically non-existent. What's happened to Jennifer is never shown, although Cole does mention that it's impossible to identify the body by the face, because there is none. The disgusted expressions of everyone who looks upon the corpse suggest that she's been horribly savaged. Tony's able to identify Jennifer because the yellow suit matches the jacket he found in the wilderness.
Now the three men have a discussion about the possible beast behind this attack. They're all quite convinced that this wasn't a murder but the act of some wild animal. Cole is thinking that it might have been a crazed grizzly that was disturbed from its hibernation, which seems reasonable, but Gar & Tony won't give up their notion of a Bigfoot-type creature. Gar talks about the research Ellen has done that indicates such creatures could exist, though he has to admit that there's no conclusive proof.
Cole at least is willing to concede that there's something dangerous out in the woods that should be hunted down, & he proposes the three of them form a little posse. Tony doesn't think Gar's going to want to be in on it given his earlier objection to killing the creature, but Gar has had a change of heart since then. After seeing what the monster has done to Jennifer, Gar understands that this beast should be destroyed before it can pose a danger to anyone else.
"Say, while we have our posse formed, why don't we go take out that gang of poachers that's been working this area? Some sharp vigilante justice should teach them the error of their ways."
All the time the men have been talking, Ellen has been continuing to follow the tracks, even when she sees that the sun's going down. There are POV shots of the Snowbeast to show that its watching her intruding into its turf, but it doesn't attack, even when Ellen crashes into the snow much like Buster did earlier, though she fortunately does not end up dangling precariously over a steep hill. She even goes past the spot Buster had his fateful spill, & looks down where he was stuck before the monster "rescued" him. I don't know why the Snowbeast doesn't attack since Ellen is so alone & vulnerable. I guess that it's just not hungry & feeling in an unusually happy mood. Ellen does hear the snarling of the Snowbeast all around her, which convinces her to give up the pursuit she's on & find a place of safety.
Ellen buried in the snow. I didn't have much more success when I went skiing.
Now it's night out, & the Snow Queen's coronation is being set up in what looks like a school gymnasium. Gar enters the gym & a bunch of excited kids flock around him, indicating that his tarnished legend hasn't completely wasted away. A school band is playing, & Carrie is bustling about in her glory.
A party crasher is coming to bust up this revelry, however. The Snowbeast is bearing down on the school. Why it's decided to come to town on this particular night, & why it's headed for the school, is a mystery. Maybe, like Grendel in Beowulf, it's just really bitter about how people are having so much fun while it stays stuck out in the wilderness, so it's going to incite some mayhem out of vindictive spite. Or, maybe the Snowbeast got irritated by so many people invading the farmhouse where it keeps its food & is looking to turn the tables on these meddlesome humans. Or, maybe the Snowbeast flunked out of school because it couldn't overcome its social deficiencies or figure out quadratic equations, & now it's getting revenge.
The Snowbeast makes its presence known when the Snow Queen is told to smile, looks out the window to see a bestial face peering inside, & screams her head off. We don't really get to see this horrifying visage, unfortunately. The Snowbeast never enters the gym. It smashes the window & then lets everyone inside stampede in a mad rush to the exits. Why doesn't the Snowbeast come inside? Is it freaked out by all the artificial lighting?
The Snow Queen's coronation is about to be rudely disrupted. She will have an ill-omened reign.
In the confusion, Carrie falls badly & injures her arm, but what she gets really upset about is that the Snow Queen crown gets crushed by the foot of someone fleeing to safety. The crown looks pretty underwhelming to me, the sort of standard tiara that might be worn by the winner of a high school beauty pageant. For Carrie, though, it has emotional significance, having been handed down to Snow Queens over half a century. Now it's just a pile of crushed refuse.
The crown goes squish. It's amazing how quickly symbols of authority can lose their significance in a state of alarm.
The Snowbeast can't leave the scene without killing somebody, of course. It's like there's a union for monsters that requires members to carry out a certain amount of death & destruction in order to keep their benefits. The Snowbeast finds it easier discharging this duty because the Snow Queen's mother drives up in the Snow Queen Carriage. She arrives just as everything is turning to Pandemonium, & her vehicle inexplicably stalls even though it had been running just fine a few moments ago. Rather than making any attempt to get away, this woman follows Jennifer's path-to-extinction practice of just staying in place & screaming as the monster advances on her. She hasn't been named or said a word during the movie, so her death isn't all that affecting, but the Snowbeast should at least get some union credits to help him keep his health benefits.
"I was never told that my role in this film was to get eaten by the monster. I'm getting out of here. Wait a minute! Who tampered with the ignition?"
The current Snow Queen runs up to her Carriage & suffers what I would imagine to be severe & lasting psychological trauma by seeing the bloody remains of her mother. There's still nothing really shown on screen, though. The film crew carefully shies away from displaying any sort of violence. It's implied as much as possible. There was apparently a more brutal version of this attack scene that was scripted & even filmed, but rejected because it was thought too violent for TV. Just like with how the Snowbeast itself is only indirectly seen, obliquely showing the results of the Snowbeast's attacks is an effective technique but shouldn't be used all the time. It's hard to build a sense of horror when there's little on-screen that's really horrifying.
The Snow Queen does her best to sell the horror of this scene, though.
In the aftermath of the attack, Carrie is being loaded into an ambulance with Gar by her side. She tells Gar to give her apologies to Tony, who had been right about going to the authorities earlier. She just couldn't stand anything spoiling the Carnival that she had nurtured for so many years. It's easy to feel sympathetic toward Carrie, because she's never been presented as greedy, insensitive, or manipulative. The character could easily have been written much more negatively, just as more could have been done with the Gar-Tony- Ellen love triangle. As it is, Carrie's portrayed as a pleasant old lady who's just a little obsessive over her Carnival. She's nice but unmemorable.
Gar heads back home & looks out at the mountains. A pair of skis is conveniently laid out right in front of him, & as he gazes fixedly upon them he starts to have flashbacks to his great '68 performance. He taps his hand against the skis as his pensive state continues, & quite suddenly he's outside on the slopes strapping on the skis for the first time in many years. Even though it's quite dark out he still wears skiing goggles for some reason (probably because it's actually day out & there's a night filter being used). Gar heads down the slope, & there's another lengthy skiing scene as Gar overcomes the demons that have been keeping him off the hills all this time.
Remember Ellen, & how the last we saw of her she was blundering about in the wilderness ineffectually following the Snowbeast? Wondering what happened to her? Well, it turns out that she went back to the Fairchild farm to spend the night. The local law enforcement has not apparently posted anyone there or secured it at all, despite that the monster on the loose obviously frequents this area. Pretty shoddy police work, I'd say. I expect Ellen is starving & dehydrated after spending all day skiing around without any provisions, but she actually seems in pretty good shape.
She hears a noise & fearfully creeps forward. She's doomed if this is the Snowbeast, but providentially it's Gar. I don't see how Gar could know Ellen was here, but perhaps he figured he could stay overnight in the farmhouse, too. Gar indicates that he was really worried about Ellen, but there's been no indication that he or anyone else even realized that she was missing. Anyway, the two are happily reunited. Gar hasn't brought along any food or water, but Ellen doesn't really care. Gar does make a fire, which will be really helpful for getting through the night sans hypothermia. Perhaps there's a fire pit already inside the building with a way to vent smoke, otherwise it could get awfully choky.
Hooray! The Sebergs' marriage has just shot back up on the happiness scale.
Ellen & Gar have a fireside chat where Gar finally opens up about what's been inhibiting him for years. Basically, once he was done basking in the glow of his triumphant '68 achievement, Gar became very anxious at the thought that he would never be able to match it, & that he would join many other former champions who dwindled away into irrelevance. He thought that if he just stopped skiing period, his golden time would be forever frozen & never deteriorate. Gar gets choked up a little as he realizes how foolish this dream of his was.
I might pick on Bo Svenson's emoting, but even at his current age of 72 I bet he could still pound the snot out of me if he ever found out I criticized him.
This is a nice character moment, but it didn't impact me that much. It would have fit this movie much better if Gar had overcome his skier's block as a way of slaying the Snowbeast, which is supposed to be the climax of a monster movie, not an athlete recovering his edge. A whole other movie could easily have been constructed from a greater exploration of Gar's psychological hang-up, Ellen's frustration with her husband, Tony's attraction to Ellen, & Carrie's obsession with the Carnival. It's telling how far short Snowbeast is as a monster movie when the titular monster could have been eliminated entirely & the final product might even have been better.
Having reconciled, husband & wife stay the night in the farmhouse & seem peculiarly reluctant to leave next morning. They must be quite hungry & thirsty by this point, & Ellen at least should really want to wash & change clothes. Plus, a search is on for the two of them. A helicopter has been combing the area, & Tony with Cole & some deputies are riding about on snowmobiles.
To give Gar & Ellen incentive for moving along, the Snowbeast is now heading back to its lair, where it will find squatters have taken over the place. I'm vaguely reminded of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. Just before the Snowbeast makes its presence known to Ellen & Gar, they stumble across the body of Buster (okay, a dummy dressed up like the body), which is seen very briefly as it falls from the ceiling where it's been wedged. In another demerit to the police, they somehow failed to notice this other corpse, indicating they either didn't search the barn or did so quite poorly.
The Snowbeast returning home. Note the Keep Out sign, which nobody seems to pay any attention to.
Now the Snowbeast tries to get inside. It has a strangely hard time with the worn out, rickety wooden door, however. Gar tries to get out using another blocked up entrance, but the Snowbeast sees what's happening & cuts off that escape route, sending the couple back to the main door, which Gar also has trouble getting open.
The Snowbeast finds its entry baffled by the ingenuous device of a wooden bar over the door.
It looks pretty grim for the Sebergs, but fortuitously the snowmobile search party comes riding up at this moment, causing the Snowbeast to flee. Tony & company don't even realize Ellen & Gar are in the farmhouse. Tony's going to search it, but Cole spots the Snowbeast heading into the woods & the group takes off, except for Tony who Gar & Ellen manage to wave down.
A funeral is held outside for Buster, which includes a gun salute from the other members of the ski patrol. Carrie's in attendance with her arm in a sling. It's her last appearance, & she looks pretty miserable.
"Maybe I should have let Tony tell the ski patrol what was lurking in the forest?"
Carrie would also be upset that Rill Lodge, buzzing with activity quite recently, is now forlornly empty.
After this scene a large group is gathered at the Lodge (maybe there, it's hard to be sure) when the droopy-mustached deputy enters to announce that the sheriff has killed the creature that's been causing so much havoc lately. Everybody rushes out to see what's been terrorizing them all. It turns out that the corpse on display is that of a black bear, which was somehow roused from hibernation & attacked the sheriff. Almost everyone in the crowd thinks that this is the real cause of the recent trouble, though it's obvious that Gar, Ellen, & Tony have another opinion. From the way Cole avoids looking at the three of them, it would seem that he too has his doubts about whether he's really eliminated the true threat.
The unfortunate bear that's this movie's red herring, very much like that tiger shark in Jaws.
Gar & Ellen come to see Cole shortly afterwards, confronting him about whether he really believes the bear he shot is what killed Jennifer, Buster, & the Snow Queen's mother. Ellen goads him by stating that it's his duty to let the people know that they're still in danger. To his credit, Cole doesn't really get angry or defensive at this barbed remark that he's being professionally derelict. Ellen gives Cole some more information about the research she's done, but Cole says that even if people believed that this legendary Bigfoot sort of creature existed, the knowledge would only lead to a dangerous state of fear.
"Saying that I'm shirking my responsibility, Ellen? You're just really lucky your imposing husband is between us, or I might not be so calm."
Gar agrees with Cole's reasoning, & says that the best thing is for them to revive their former idea of a posse that will hunt down the Snowbeast. Ellen insists on going, as does Tony. He's not present when the three decide to head off, but somehow finds out what's happening & joins the company as it ventures into the wilderness to slay the beast.
"I must come with you! You can't possibly succeed without my gorgeously thick hair & rugged good looks."
Interestingly, Ellen mentions when talking to Cole that she doesn't really think that the Snowbeast is the same sort of creature as the literally hundreds of Bigfoots that she figures could be wandering around the country (I have my doubts about there being that many, or any at all, but perhaps). She speculates that this monster could be some kind of weird genetic mutation, or a lost relic of some past ice age. Nothing comes from any of this theorizing, & I don't know why it was even kept in. We don't really need to know the origins of the Snowbeast, but if the movie's going to insist on bringing up this subject, it should follow this thread a bit & not just let it hang, which is what happens here.
Anyway, now Gary, Ellen, Tony, & Cole are cruising around in snowmobiles searching for their nemesis. They have a lot of ground to search over, & so far they haven't come across the faintest trace of the monster. One of these four is bound to be killed off before the end arrives. I'm betting Cole's the luckless one here, being the least significant character of this group. There's an outside chance Tony could end up dying instead or as well, perhaps in a manner similar to Hank in Attack of the Crab Monsters.
Actually, while they are out actively hunting down the Snowbeast, it's come across the camper the four are using as their base. Say, I wonder how it is they transported the snowmobiles out here using just a truck & camper, which doesn't seem to have enough room? I guess Cole's police truck that he drove out of town with was used. Where is it now, though? I expected the Snowbeast to trash the truck & camper badly, but all it does is break off the ski rack on the rear of the camper. It's a pretty lame effort given what a ticked off bear or even a wolverine would have done in a similar situation.
"I'm gonna throw these skis in the snow! That'll teach those dumb annoying humans a lesson."
The group eventually returns to the camper & figures out pretty quickly that the Snowbeast has been around. They decide there's no point in continuing the search when the Snowbeast knows where they are & will doubtlessly return. They take turns in groups of two standing guard for when the monster makes its next attack.
Gar & Cole take the first shift. Ellen, remembering her domestic duties as the only woman in the party, goes into the camper to prepare dinner. Tony comes with her, & the two have a little conversation that wraps up the tepid, dull love triangle. Tony asks the reason why Ellen turned him down, & she says that Gar needed her more so she chose him, even though she loved them both equally. Tony accepts this explanation & the whole plot angle concludes respectfully. Yawn. What a waste of time.
Ellen: "Why did I reject you? Well honestly, I never liked you very much. All that stuff I said earlier about fantasies was a total lie."
Tony: " I knew you never loved me! I'm going to storm out of this camper & shoot Gar, or punch him in the face, or yell at him, or do anything else other than just stand here & blandly smile!"
Ellen & Tony come out hours later to spell off Gar & Cole. When Gar emerges from the camper later things finally start to get a bit exciting. A large pile of logs is lying directly above where the camper is parked out on the road. I don't know what all these logs were intended for but the Snowbeast finds a use for them. With one strike of its furry foot the monster sends the logs tumbling down. Gar, Ellen, & Tony get clear, but alas, Cole is still inside the camper.
"I have to thank whoever stacked these logs here so helpfully. I'll be sure not to eat that person's face. The body will be much easier to identify. See? I can be a nice monster now & then."
The logs smash into the camper, sending it toppling over on to its side. Gar & Tony rush over to try to extricate Cole from the wreckage. We can see Cole inside, unconscious with a bleeding head, which makes it rather darkly humorous when Tony asks him if he's hurt.
Yeah Tony, I'd say he's hurt.
Cole's condition is going to get much worse, for the Snowbeast is advancing. Thrown into disarray & unable to get to their weapons quickly enough, the three run off & abandon Cole to the non-mercy of the dreaded Snowbeast. Cole revives just long enough to see the doom before him & scream dramatically, copying what all the monster victims in this movie have done.
"No way! They told me my character would survive to the end of the movie. I've got to get out of here. Too late!"
Despite having just left their friend to die horribly, the remaining trio isn't bothered too much with survivor's guilt. Gar for some reason is convinced that the Snowbeast is attacking out of malice now, rather than hunger. I'd say that it's entirely possible the Snowbeast's previous attacks were prompted just as much by a desire to tear things apart as by a desire to eat. Nor does it really matter at this point what the Snowbeast's motivations are, since it must be killed no matter what. This remark's really as pointless as Ellen's earlier conjecturing about the monster's origin.
Tony suggests heading to the Fairchild farm, though Gar points out that's hardly a safe place given how often the Snowbeast goes there. Tony answers that the monster knows that it has been tracked down there before, & may avoid the site for that reason. I wouldn't really be persuaded very much by this argument, but the Sebergs go along with it. Going to the abandoned farm proves a waste of time, however, since they no sooner arrive than Tony decides to head back to the camper to salvage their precious supplies, especially the rifles. Since Gar & Ellen smartly don't want the group to split up, all three head back to where they came from, providing yet another go-nowhere diversion. I think this movie could pretty easily have been trimmed down to an hour or less.
Sadly, all that's left of Cole is a bloody smear on the snow. The rifles Gar, Tony, & Ellen were using are stuck under the camper now, but there are extras within, which Ellen crawls inside to get after Gar & Tony push aside the logs. All she can find are a set of skis & ski poles, which she hands to Gar. The Snowbeast enters the scene now, perhaps having waited around for the three to return here. Rather than capitalize on surprise by attacking immediately, the monster stands up at the top of the rise where it knocked the logs down. Tony has been fishing for a service revolver in the glove compartment of the truck, & has much more success in his search than Ellen. He emerges with the gun & quickly shoots at the Snowbeast, hitting the monster at least once. It runs off, & Gar quickly suits up in the salvaged ski equipment to chase it down, taking along the revolver Tony tosses to him.
So now there is the final chase, as the wounded monster stumbles through the forest pursued by the man on skis. This is also the last extended skiing scene of the many throughout the film. Gar appears to lose the trail of the Snowbeast, which is peculiar since he wasn't that far behind the beast, which is helpfully leaving very noticeable tracks & blood spots. Ellen has finally found the extra rifles, as well as more skis, & with Tony she's heading after Gar.
Gar gets the monster-killing honors, however. The Snowbeast throws caution aside & decides to attack Gar rather than get away as it might still be able to do. It attacks from too far away, however, giving Gar a chance to fire off several point blank shots. Some hit, but don't do much more than stagger the monster slightly. Gar runs out of bullets, so to finish the monster off he uses the only weapon left, his ski pole. He braces the blunt end against a tree trunk, & holds the pointy end up for the Snowbeast to impale itself on, which it obligingly does.
Here's how a man should look when slaying a murderous beast. I should practice making this expression to see if any of Bo Svenson's awesomeness can rub off on me. Probably not.
Mortally wounded, the Snowbeast stumbles around for a bit before toppling down a hill & dying while the assembled team of Gar, Ellen, & Tony gaze down on its body with satisfaction.
In case you're wondering why there are no caps of the actual Snowbeast, it's because we never ever throughout the entire movie get a good complete shot of the monster. In this final climactic battle scene there are only TWO very brief shots of the Snowbeast's face! This movie's free to watch, & I still feel cheated. What kind of monster movie doesn't have even one money shot with the actual monster the movie's named for? Yes, in Jaws, which as I said Snowbeast flagrantly copies, the humongous shark isn't revealed until late in the movie, but it IS revealed. The people behind Snowbeast seem to have watched the shark movie & thought that they had come across a great way to cheap out on the monster effects by having practically none. I suppose a lot of the money went to paying for the cast (Bo Svenson, for example, was around this time one of the highest paid actors on television) who all do a competent job. Given what few real acting demands there are in this movie, though, a less expensive cast could have been hired & the monster could have been made much more memorable. I just watched The Amazing Spider-Man, & I would have been tempted to go after a refund if the only shots I got of the Lizard were lousy POV's that left everything to the imagination. This is a movie, not a book, & I want to actually see something. Ugh. Just terrible.
So, there's Snowbeast, a derivative & dull film that has weak drama, slack tension, & no monster pay-off. I'm sure you could spend your time more enjoyably in many other ways.
Thanks for reading! 'Bye.
[Editor Nate: Outstanding review, Jason, but you referenced Jaws an amazing four times, which is in clear violation of MMT's long-established "No Fucking Sharks, Ever! God, I Hate Fucking Sharks!" policy. Demerits will have to be given, sorry.]
Written in July 2012 by Jason Scott and used with his permission.
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