Winterbeast (1991)





Howdy folkses. When we last left you Intern Sparky and I had just arrived in Canada on our quest to track down former CEO Nate, former Intern Kelby and the entirety of Million Monkey Theater's operating cash which they had pilfered on their way out of the corporate offices the previous week. Sadly, after just a few days of inquiries in and around Ontario it became apparent that the cad and the cat with the cash had given us the slip and flown to Europe. This was clearly becoming too much to handle on our own so I suggested to Sparky we hire a private detective to track them down on our behalf. As usual Sparky was one step ahead of me and said he knew just the guy for the job.


"I specialize in missing persons
and knocking shit off the nightstand
for no discernable reason."

That's Tizwin, and frankly he would not have been my first choice. I questioned whether a cat who refuses to shit in his litter would be capable of conducting such an important and complicated investigation, but Sparky insisted, "We need a guy who thinks outside the box!"

"More like 'stinks' outside the box," I muttered, but Sparky had already moved on to grooming his crotch and did not seem to hear me.

Under normal circumstances I would never have agreed, but since Sparky is currently bankrolling not only the search for Nate and Kelby but also all of MMT's operating expenses I felt I had no choice but to acquiesce. I therefore nodded my tepid approval. Sparky stopped grooming, made a few calls and quick as you please Tizwin, P.I. was on the case. I fear I may yet regret this.

With the investigation off our hands we turned to the business of getting home. I wanted to fly back to Pennsylvania right away but Sparky convinced me to rent a Prius and drive us down through New England to see the fall foliage and check on his Catnip Club For Cats annex in Newbury, New Hampshire, conveniently located in a converted warehouse on the shores of beautiful Lake Sunapee. I must admit the town is charming. The leaves were just turning their autumnal shades of rusty umber, burnt orange and chocolate brown, the air was bracingly crisp and a faint hint of mulled cider wafted in on the distant breeze. We stayed at a lovely little hotel called "The Hope and Anchor," replete with a large, cozy fireplace, a well-stocked bar and a loquacious innkeeper who regaled me with tales of Newbury's past, present and future. After entertaining me thus for the better part of an hour my new friend asked me what kind of work I do and I told him of my humble employment as a reviewer of terrible films.

"A couple of guys made a movie here in town once," he said, thoughtfully rubbing the salt-and-pepper stubble on his chin. "Worst damned movie I've ever seen. They called it 'Winterbeast.' I couldn't make much of it myself, but maybe you should look it up."

So look it up I did, and boy-howdy what a stinker! It's a maddeningly disjointed affair, horribly written, directed, acted, shot and edited, aimless, cheap and inane...yet somehow it manages to transcend its own fecality and becomes an irresistible smorgasbord of glorious amateur trash. This movie is so dense with z-movie ineptitude it collapses in on itself, creating a singularity from which coherent narrative, capable acting and competent film craft cannot escape. I want you all to get nice and comfortable before you read this review because there's an awful lot to unpack here. Be sure to bring clean underwear and plenty of snacks.

We open with a title card emblazoned with "Mercury International Pictures Presents," and we know this is an actual printed card rather than an optical title because you can clearly see the edges and a hint of whatever was behind it when they shot it. You know you're in deep trouble when your cameraman can't even properly frame a piece of cardboard.


A brief but telling preview of the level
of cinematic craftsmanship to come.

As the opening titles drag on we get a good, long listen to some original Casio keyboard music which was probably recorded on cassette in someone's bedroom. I hope you like it because you're going to be hearing it over and over and over again.


Viewer beware: the title will turn out
to be a seasonal bait-and-switch.

The film opens with a mustachioed dude in what looks like a police uniform walking into a room lit in red. There's a sleepy-looking guy sitting there and the mustache guy asks him if he's alright. That mustache is a puzzling enigma and we're going to be keeping a close, critical eye fixed on it throughout the film, periodically taking readings with MMT's patented "Mustache Monitor." As you shall discover the damn thing seems to have a life and an agenda of its own.


MMTMM baseline reading:
"medium bush, visible lip."

The guy seated in the foreground turns from the shadows to reveal a half-mangled face and a pedophilic smile.


Hi kids! Wanna watch me wrassle
a Berenstain Bear?

The mustache guy, whom we will later discover to be a forest ranger named Bill, screams then looks up to see a Stop Motion Tentacle Man. It pops up into frame and starts flailing around like a barbiturate-addled Solid Gold Dancer trying to do the wave.


This will not be seen again.

Ranger Bill looks down at Mr. Mangle Face to see him pulling some skin off a huge spurting wound on his abdomen, only now he's sitting on the opposite side of the frame, facing the wrong direction and against a different wall. If it were a better film made by people who understood the basic principals of directional reference and continuity editing I'd have thought perhaps this was done purposely to make the scene disorienting for the viewer, but it's clear from many subsequent incoherent edits that the film makers simply had no fucking idea what they were doing.


That antique lithograph lamp
is probably worth more than
this film's entire budget.

We cut to Bill asleep in bed. He wakes with a start. It was all a dream!


MMTMM Reading:
"Full bush, overlip, trim recommended."

Now we cut to some guy (probably Mr. Mangle Face pre-mangle but possibly someone else) leaning against a tree and opening his shirt so a little skull-face hand puppet guy can pop out of his stomach and make scrunchy faces.


Let's pretend this is nothing at all
like Alien (1979).

According to sources online this puppet was a prop left over from a Dokken music video. Now I am no fan of 80's hair metal--frankly it makes my palms sweat and my colon cramp up--but I watched every single Dokken video on YouTube until I found the little fucker. I hope you appreciate the dedication I bring to my work. There he was, swaying and winking along to the dulcet tones of the band's scintillating 1987 opus "Burning Like a Flame."


For me it burned more like a hemorrhoid.

Anyway...all of that shit I just wrote about is just the first two minutes of the movie. I told you there was a lot to unpack here.

Cut to a couple of guys sitting in what appears to be the location from the dream sequence, which turns out to be the remote ranger station where Ranger Bill works. Outside the sky is dark with a raging storm and the wind whistles and howls over the stilted, nonsensical dialog. One of these guys wears a light jacket over a blue ranger shirt and the other sports multiple layers of plaid, with an outer shirt of yellow plaid cut sleeveless to form a vest and a red plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up underneath. This is our first, brief taste of the astonishing quantity of plaid we will be exposed to throughout the film. This guy throws down the plaid gauntlet as a plaid challenge to the plebeian plaidites who would endeavor to usurp his plaid place as Plaid Master.


Who shall accept this worthy challenge?
Sadly almost everyone else in the movie.

The ranger guy is a painfully rude and unfunny "comic relief sidekick" type character who thinks he's cool because he cracks wise and wears sunglasses when it's dark. He talks in an adenoidal Brooklyn accent and has a penchant for insults, alcohol and porn. His name is Stillman but I'm gonna call him Douche.

Ranger Bill comes in and Douche fills him in on how another one of their rangers, a guy named Tello, has disappeared up on the mountain. Another ranger named Bradford made it back to the station, shaken but unharmed. Apparently Plaid Master found her and helped her, but Douche is suspicious of him and thinks he may have had something to do with the disappearance. Plaid Master's real name is Dick Sargent, just like Darrin #2 from "Bewitched."


"Please don't drag me into this piece of shit."

Sorry Dick Sargent, Darrin #2...the makers of this piece of shit already did.

Bill exits to speak with Bradford. His mustache was back to baseline at the start of the scene, but as soon as he steps into the next room it all but disappears.


New MMTMM reading:
"barely detectable peach fuzz."

Bradford, despite having been with the other ranger when he disappeared, can provide exactly zero useful information as to his whereabouts. When Bill asks her what happened she says "nothing," then makes a little speech about how she just doesn't like it up there because it's "so quiet, so dead."


"I'm just here to have my opinions
completely ignored."

Bill goes back into the other room and his full mustache suddenly reappears. He asks Dick Sargent if he'll take Douche up to where he found Bradford. They decide to meet at dawn outside the "bait and breakfast" shop, which Douche describes as "that place where they sell worms and eggs." Remind me never to eat there. Bill notices a nasty wound on Sargent's arm which he evasively claims is from a hunting accident. He seems a bit cagey, pulls his sleeve down to hide it and tries clumsily to change the subject. Both Rangers seem mildly suspicious as Sargent exits the station.

This incident will not be mentioned again.

There's a brief transition shot here of a rosy sky with glowing cirrus clouds. Surely the storm is over, a new day has dawned and it's time for Ranger Douche to meet Dick Sargent for worms and eggs and begin their search for the missing ranger, right? Well, no. We cut back inside the station where the windows are still dark, the wind is still howling and Bill claims he can't get anyone on the radio because of the continuing bad weather. There's a shot of a clock showing it's just about ten minutes to eleven.


Shockingly there's no one listed
in the credits under "continuity."

Now it's booze and exposition time. Not that any of it matters without a coherent story to hang these kinds of details on, but Bill grew up about 30 miles away and left the area for a number of years before returning recently to become head ranger on the mountain. "What mountain?" You might well ask. The mountain. That's all the info we're gonna get, people.

We discover that Douche joined the ranger service because Swank, a pornographic men's magazine, suggested it might be a good way to meet women. I fear he may have been slightly misled by that otherwise sterling publication. We learn that the mountain had been a popular resort area in the 1950's but had fallen out of favor and most of the cabins and hotels had subsequently been abandoned. One place, however, The Wild Goose Lodge, was recently reopened by local businessman Dave Sheldon, spurring a resurgence of the local tourism trade.

Douche complains a bit about the old station then shares with Bill some of the old brochures and vintage pornography he found while cleaning it. Apparently he's something of a human dowsing rod when it comes to porn.


Some of the pages are stuck together with
dried-up globs of a white, crusty substance.
Use your imagination.

The scene ends with a close-up shot of one of Douche's pornographic playing cards.


"I wonder where I can meet her," says Douche.
Cue the raucous, forced laughter
of two sad and lonely men.

Now we cut to something completely different, as in completely unconnected to the rest of the film. A red-haired woman stands up and begins to unbutton her blue satin pajama top in what appears to be a living room. An exterior shot shows a swing set and a couple of small cabins nestled amongst some brightly sunlit birch trees. Suddenly we see this peculiar looking gentleman:


Stop Motion Tree Face Guy attack!

We see his POV as he walks towards what appears to be a completely different cabin nestled amongst some other brightly sunlit birch trees. Red Haired Woman takes off her top and exposes her breasts. She does one of those arms-up, chest-out half-stretches that only nude models and exploitation film actresses ever do.


This is not a natural posture for anyone
outside of those two specific vocations.

She seems to hear something stirring outside the window...


"Whatever could that be? And how can I
hear it over this deafening wallpaper?"

She looks outside but sees nothing because it's pitch dark...so dark, in fact that she can't even make out any of those brightly sunlit birch trees. Suddenly something breaks through the window and the topless woman screams!


I may be wrong but that hand sure doesn't
look like it's made of wood..

Tree Face Guy reaches through a differently shaped window on a differently shaped cabin that looks absolutely nothing like the other cabins we've just seen, pulls out a lumpy felt puppet of a brunette in what appears to be a white sweater and throws it against the outside wall.


If you can't take care of your toys, Tree Face
you don't deserve to have any.

None of this will ever be mentioned again.

We now get another shot that looks like dawn breaking over the mountain. A car drives up a wooded path to the Wild Goose Lodge, standing dark and foreboding against the bright blue sky...and suddenly it's night again as Bill and Douche walk up to the office door and enter the building. The days really fly by up there on the mountain.

They can't find anyone at the reception desk so they follow the sound of clinking glasses and end up in the lounge. Here we encounter Dave Sheldon, proprietor of the lodge and ostensibly the town's most prominent businessman. This is also where the movie kicks into plaid overdrive.


Ladies and gentlemen I think we have
a new Plaid Master!

Douche decides to mingle while Bill talks to Sheldon. At first Sheldon fears Bill is there to discuss his not having obtained a raffle permit. It seems he's splurged on a toaster for the big prize in a contest celebrating the reopening of his lodge. A used toaster. This is not Publisher's Clearing House. Bill assures him the matter at hand has nothing to do with the raffle and asks if they can speak privately.

Bill and Sheldon step into a quieter area to discuss the missing ranger. Sheldon is unimpressed and downplays Bill's concerns, refusing outright to post flyers warning people to stay off the trail where the guy disappeared. He thinks it would be premature and doesn't want to spook his customers during tourist season. So basically this is now turning into Jaws (1975) with Sheldon as a smugly effeminate Mayor Vaughn and Bill as a dull, sleepy-eyed Sheriff Brody.


Plaid. More plaid.


MMTMM: "Well-groomed three day growth."
Also matching double background plaid.

Back in the lounge Douche is annoying an older couple who are clearly trying to get away from him. As they leave he asks the old woman to come up to the ranger station sometime, saying "I'll give you some maps." Is that what they're calling it nowadays? I get the impression he either bummed several beers from them or he's drinking the leftovers from bottles left on the table...maybe both.


I knew guys like this when I lived
in New Jersey. This character really
hits home for me.

Elsewhere in the lounge Dick Sargent is drinking and trying to make conversation with another patron. When guy rebuffs him Dick Sargent grabs him and they start to fight.


He's just upset because he had to hand over
his plaid crown. Also I think I recognize
that lamp from somewhere.

Douche turns to watch the fight but doesn't intervene, and eventually the two brawlers break the table and end up on the ground. Sheldon comes in and yells "What the hell is going on here?" in a voice that makes Liberace seem like John Wayne. We cut to an exterior shot of the lodge in daylight, but Bill and Douche walk out the front door of the lodge into the night. Jesus, how long were they in there? Bill tells Douche that Sheldon didn't seem concerned about Tello's disappearance and reminds him that they've got to go check the trail area in the morning. Bill looks down and notices that Douche has won the toaster.

Douche meets Dick Sargent outside the worms and breakfast place and we notice that the latter has been shamed into surrendering his yellow plaid vest. Only the true Plaid Master may layer and accessorize. So it is written so mote it be. They engage in a little small talk, but there is no mention of the bar fight the night before, not so much as an awkward glance between them. They walk past the camera and on towards their quest. This is the last we will see or hear of Dick Sargent.


God's speed, abandoned character
from an earlier draft.

For what it's worth this is what I believe happened with regards to the Dick Sargent character: I surmise that writer/director Christopher Thies and producer Mark Frizzell originally set out to make a simple slasher flick but quickly ran out of money. When they'd saved up enough to resume filming they couldn't find the guy who played Dick Sargent (or he wisely stopped returning their calls) so they decided to make a supernatural horror movie instead. You could easily piece together the first couple of scenes of the lost slasher by re-editing some of what we've already seen. The red-haired woman who was grabbed by the tree monster was probably the first victim and the human hand crashing through her window belonged to the psychotic killer. Later, when one of their rangers goes missing Bill and Douche consult Sargent and notice the cut on his arm. When Sargent agrees to take Douche up the mountain it throws the rangers off their guard. He seems to be helpful and honest enough at that point, but later the fight he starts in the bar shows them his volatile character and refocuses the suspicions they felt upon seeing the cut on his arm...and that's pretty much as far as it got. So we lost what I'll call "The Mountain Lodge Killer" but got Winterbeast instead...and you got this review within a review and my ever-sparkling commentary.

Back in the movie they actually made we get an establishing shot of a cheesy souvenir shop with a gigantic statue of an Indian chief, because cultural appropriation is always acceptable as long as you can make a few honest bucks from it.


History is written by the conquerors.

Outside the shop Bill meets with this guy who we will later learn to be Charlie Perkins, a childhood friend.


Welcome to my racially insensitive
souvenir establishment! Can I interest you
in some Chinese-made moccasins?

We cut to Douche up on the mountain, emerging from some trees and finding whatever the hell this is:


I was wondering where I'd left that.
I'm so absent-minded sometimes.

Later that day Douche, Perkins, Bradford and Bill schlep up the mountain to have a look. Perkins is just a little too cheerful and excited as he snaps some photos of it and explains that the dessicated human remains hanging on it must have been left as a sacrifice. "A sacrifice to what?" asks Bradford. It's a quite reasonable question and one would think it would warrant a response, but instead of answering Perkins turns and asks Bill "What's wrong?"

The answer to that would seem pretty obvious. Bill has a man missing and they've just found a couple of corpses hanging from an array of ancient totem poles right smack in the middle of the trail where the guy disappeared, but Bill responds that the problem is actually that he's seen this thing before in a dream.


The Mustache Meter just blew a capacitor
from all the contradictory data.
Also Bradford's face healed up nicely.

Douche now asks again what the sacrifices might have been left for, and perhaps because it's a guy asking the question this time Perkins responds. "Chocorua most likely. They worshipped him up here." He pronounces this word as Chakuro, which made for a hell of a time trying to find it online being as that's a character from an anime called Children of the Whales. To confuse things even further Bill had referred to this area as the "Chukar Trail" earlier in the film. A chukar, it turns out is a type of wild pheasant.


Like the white people who made this film
the chukar is not native to North America,
but is an invasive species. It was introduced
as a game bird in the late 1800's.

After a bit of hair pulling and earnest prayer I discovered that Chocorua is actually a mountain and lake in New Hampshire named for a Pequawket Indian chief of local legend.

Bradford is spooked and suggests they should all leave the area before whatever left these bodies comes back. Douche tells her "Relax...this shit's been up here for years." Bradford retorts "People have been disappearing up here for years." Which seems like a good point that will, unfortunately also be ignored.


They stopped to do a photo shoot
for their upcoming folk-rock album.

Back in town the October Fall Foliage Festival is in full swing, with taffy, cider, pumpkins and craft vendors lining the streets.


I guess "Fallbeast" and "Autumnbeast"
didn't have that special ring to them.

Bill hunts up Sheldon who is beside himself with how many happy tourists there are in town for him to fleece. Bill tells him they have to talk. Sheldon for some reason thinks Bill wants to rent a room at the lodge, telling him he's all booked up, but of course Bill is just trying to get him to help steer people away from the strange and nebulous danger up on the trails. Sheldon isn't having it, claiming that his guests won't stay at the lodge if he tells them not to hike the mountain. He dismisses Bill's concerns and even asks him to keep quiet about the missing ranger so as not to upset any potential paying guests. There's a lot of bad editing in this scene. The dialog is choppy and disjointed, and at one point Sheldon even gets cut off mid-sentence.


Few men could pull off this outfit.
Dave Sheldon isn't one of them.

Bill now catches up with Bradford. Since she's lived in town her whole life he hopes she can suggest a local guide to help them search the trails, but she tells him the locals won't go up on the mountain because too many bad things have happened there. She talks of missing hikers, mauled bodies and those pesky legends of Chocorua. She pronounces it "Chikura," however, which is actually a town in Chiba Prefecture, Japan with a vibrant fishing economy. This one conversation is shot from three different angles at three different locations.




And three different mustache lengths.

She also says "Rickman might think it's funny, but there's something about that place," which is particularly interesting because there is no one with the name Rickman in the movie.

Cut to night in the woods. Bill, Perkins and Douche come across a broken sign along the trail.


Okay...who broke the "No Fucking" sign?

Douche thinks it was destroyed by vandals but Perkins thinks it was something bigger, claiming there are claw marks on it and some animal hairs. Bill is more concerned because two people are missing. Wait...when did it become two people? Did they find out about the red haired woman sometime between talking with Sheldon and finding the broken "No Fucking" sign or did Bill miscount?

Bill goes to Perkins' house and meets Perkins' girlfriend Barbera, whose connection to the plot is superfluous at best.


To be honest I think she's only there
to balance the shot composition
with those three masks.

Perkins wants to show Bill something his Indian friend Burning Wolf gave him many years ago. He asks Bill to keep an open mind and reveals:


A dick in a box.

Perkins explains that it's an artifact that dates back many generations. It had been obtained by a medicine man who had taken it from the body of a warrior who had been killed by Chocorua...which he now pronounces like the town in Japan rather than like the anime character. He says it was prepared for use as a protective charm. Bill doubts the provenance of the object in question claiming:


"It could be the tooth from any large animal."

That's right, people. There's a dick in a box and no one ever acknowledges its existence.

This was the moment I fell in love with this scrappy little, micro-budget train wreck of an engine that couldn't. This wasn't ineptitude at work, this was full-on fucking with an audience they had no reasonable expectation of ever reaching--something of which I heartily approve.

Now we join a couple of women taking a hike in the woods up on the mountain.


I see they're recycling Dick Sargent's
shirt and vest.

They find a battered suitcase festooned with stickers from various travel locations. As the blonde woman examines it the earth begins to quake and this ugly bastard pops up out of the dirt:


"They call me DJ Turdpile, yo!"

The brunette lady watches Stop Motion DJ Turdpile drag her friend away, then stands there and waits as he comes back and does the same to her. As she disappears into the undergrowth we get a close-up of the suitcase with a prominent pennant-shaped decal for the Wild Goose Lodges slapped thereon.


Need I point out this won't be mentioned again.

Back at the souvenir shop Perkins is heading out with his camera to take a few snaps of the evil totem array.


I'm sure somebody thought
this was hysterical.

He leaves the shop wearing a red plaid shirt but arrives at the totem wearing a denim jacket. The full-sized prop totem wiggles a bit every time the wind blows and is a different color from the model we saw before.


The rangers decided it was best to just
leave those mummified corpses
where they found them.

Back in town Perkins hands Bill a manila envelope containing prints of the photos he took and invites him to meet he and Barbera later for dinner. They're standing in front of the office and gift shop of Sargent's Lake Shore Cottages, which makes me think that had this been "The Mountain Lodge Killer" Dick Sargent would have been the proprietor, a la Norman Bates in Psycho. I also have reason to believe Sargent would have been a red herring in that uncompleted project and not the actual killer.

When Bill leaves Sargent's Lake Shore Cottages he looks like this:


When he meets Dave Sheldon in the next scene he looks like this:


He stopped home in between to pick up
that sweet vest and the exotic mustache
he bought in Scotland.

Bill thinks if he shows Sheldon some photos of the weird totem with the bodies on it he might take the threat seriously. He wants Sheldon to shut down the lodge and trails long enough for the ranger service to conduct a thorough search, but Sheldon is unwilling to comply or cooperate in any way.


Is there an ordinance compelling people
to wear plaid in this town?

Perkins meanwhile has been doing a little research on the totem and tells Barbera that they may all be in deep shit. It seems the thing is the Indian equivalent of a gateway to hell and that all the charms and trinkets he found there are meant to confine the evil to the mountain. We never saw or heard mentioned any of these charms and trinkets, but Perkins assures the audience, via exposition to Barbera that they are definitely there.


Finally her function in the plot is revealed!
Also there's that fucking lamp again.

As they talk something begins wailing and growling outside. The entire place begins to shake and the lights go out as it passes by.

Suddenly we're in a snowy cataract watching a waterfall cascading down slick, jagged granite. An intrepid hiker rappels down the sides of the gorge past the rime and icicles festooning the rocks and foliage. This looks suspiciously like it could be winter, perhaps justifying on some level the film's title. Perhaps not. Anyway here's another utterly random stop motion monster attack!


This guy looks like a packet of moldy dates
that somehow came to life and grew
to an unmanageable size.

Stop Motion Moldy Date Man starts tugging on the rapeller's rope, pulls him up and pops his head off like it's made of clay.


Because clearly it is made of clay.

I'll give you three guesses as to whether this is ever mentioned or seen again...and I'll bet you'll only need one.

Bill and Perkins are putting up what Bill calls "missing persons" flyers around town and they run into Barbera who is out and about snapping photos and enjoying the brisk autumn weather. When we finally see one of the flyers it's not actually a missing persons flyer, but a hand printed sheet telling folks that certain parts of the mountain are closed.


Bill has used an apostrophe in "areas,"
turning a plural into a possessive.
I fucking hate that.

Sheldon comes into the town ranger office to scream at Bill about the flyers and now he's dressed like Colonel Sanders. He questions whether Bill has the authority to reassign rangers from town and place them up on the mountain. Being as Bill is the duly appointed head ranger of a state park the answer would be absofuckinglutely he has that authority, but Sheldon seems to think the ranger service should work for and exclusively obey Himself, as the Irish like to say.


"The Colonel would never tolerate this insubordination!"

Outside the office Sheldon goes properly mental, screaming about how his family has lived there for generations and that "there aren't any demons in this town except assholes who try to create them!" I'm not even going to attempt to parse that statement.

Back up on the trails Bradford is poking around, looking for stray campers or hikers or whatever. She comes across an old tombstone set by itself in the middle of the forest.


Another Sheldon? At least this one is dead
so we don't have to hear him whine.

Bradford notices that the coffin lid appears to be right up at the surface and decides to lift it and have a peep. We don't see what she finds, but she does look confused...as if the coffin is empty perhaps? Suddenly...


Shows how much you know!
He's only mostly dead!

Blue Zombie Great Grandpa Sheldon attacks! For some reason he's all wrapped up in linen strips like an Egyptian mummy. Maybe that's how those wacky Sheldons did things up in rural New Hampshire back in the day. He knocks a rather impressive firearm out of Bradford's hand and knocks her to the ground. As she struggles to reach the weapon he slashes at her and tears her face open, instantly killing her.


Or maybe he just smeared her face
with chocolate custard
triggering a diabetic coma.
It's hard to say.

I'll actually miss Ranger Bradford. She was the closest thing we had to a sympathetic, well-developed character and actress Lissa Breer did a great job of making her genuinely likeable despite her limited screen time and thin dialog.

Later that evening outside the Wild Goose Lodge, Douche tells Bill that despite an extensive search he could find no trace of Bradford. Bill sends him off to check another trail and Perkins stops by to ask when they can discuss what he's discovered about the totem in his research. Bill says he needs to speak with Sheldon first, so the three pile in the front door of the lodge. Only Bill and Perkins show up at the reception desk, however so maybe Douche doubled back to try and tap that old lady he was chatting up back at the beginning of the movie. Sheldon is looking pretty pissed off and is clearly in no mood to listen, especially when Bill tells him he needs to shut down the lodge. With multiple people missing and dead folk strapped to poles up on the mountain you'd think Sheldon might be inclined to cooperate at least a little, but instead he throws a tantrum, saying that the only problem he can see is Bill telling his stories and upsetting his customers. It's quite a performance. He screeches like a toddler on the cusp of a sugar-crash and actually maxes out the sound levels on the recording equipment. As Bill and Perkins leave Bill warns that he'll be back. Sheldon gets a sinister look on his face and menacingly whispers "maybe not!"

Back at the ranger office in town Bill is having a crisis of faith in his work. He tells Perkins "Maybe we should get out of here while we still can," which prompts Perkins to ask Bill why he came back after his three years in "the big city." Bill makes a speech about not really having what it takes for a life of excitement and how he now realizes "life really is just a regular job with the ranger service...all you get is a lot of TV dinners."


We learn that he spent his years in the city
as a school crossing guard, so
becoming a forest ranger in New Hampshire
was a lateral move at best.

Morning at the lodge brings a cool breeze, the cheery chirping of birds and Dave Sheldon stringing up Bradford's battered corpse at his reception desk.


"No puppet! You're the puppet!"

He seems very pleased with himself. He also seems to enjoy both slapping her face and sticking his fingers inside a gaping would on her neck, which just seems unhygienic to me, but then again I've never been or claimed to have been a psychopath. What does it matter? It makes him so happy.

He enters his private office, cranks up the old record player and spins a vintage children's waltz called "What Can the Matter Be." He mouths the words and dances to it like a little girl, which makes him even happier. Now he takes an old Halloween mask off the wall and puts it on.


He's reached maximum density for happy.

Had "The Mountain Lodge Killer" been completed I think it's pretty clear that Dave Sheldon would have been the murderer. I also think most of this sequence was filmed before Thies and Frizzell abandoned the project in favor of the shit I'm stuck here reviewing instead. They're hitting a lot of standard slasher tropes from films like Halloween (1978), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Tourist Trap (1979), including a psychopath with a creepy mask, bodies kept as trophies and a killer performing an exuberant happy dance. This theory would help explain many of the continuity problems and the generally disjointed nature of the whole project. I can see why they wanted to salvage this particular footage, though. It's pretty bizarre stuff and even manages to be kind of creepy if you squint a bit and don't think too hard.

Bill and Perkins arrive and decide to do a little covert investigating. Bill sends Perkins around the back to go up to the office and says he'll check the front desk. He immediately finds Bradford's corpse hanging there like a marionette. You'd think this might upset him, but he's made of sterner stuff than you and I. He reacts as if he's just found a pube on the toilet seat and can't figure out whether or not it's one of his own. Perkins meanwhile loudly breaks into Sheldon's office and snoops around the room with the phonograph. He's holding something brown and lumpy in one hand but it's awhile before we get a good enough look at it to determine what it is. It could be wood, it could be clay, it could be a hunk of camel shit carved into the shape a human face. At this stage we just don't know.


Between you, me and the wall:
bet on option three.

Perkins peers into the next room and sees Sheldon in his mask dancing around and caressing the faces of several mummified bodies propped up in armchairs.


Steve Martin was wrong.
Dead men do wear plaid.

This scene is very peculiar and seems to last a very long time, but Sheldon eventually tires of his capers and his crusty companions. He stops dancing and slowly exits up some stairs to another room. Our intrepid hero follows at a distance.


Camel shit face sculpture for the win!

When Perkins enters the next room he isn't carrying the camel shit face anymore, so his hands are free to grab a handy spear that happens to be hanging on the back wall.

Bill shows up now wearing his fullest and bushiest mustache yet. After startling the shit out of Perkins he leads him back down to the office to look at something he's found. It's an old document concerning a man who will come "to finish his forefathers' unfinished work." It seems the Sheldon clan has been working to bring Chocorua through the hell gate for several generations and Dave Sheldon may be about to make it happen through the dark necromancy of human sacrifice. Just as Bill and Perkins decide to get the hell out of there Sheldon pops up from behind a chair in his creepy mask. He takes it off and we get one of those "tell the heroes your plans" scenes.

The short of it is that Sheldon thinks he can control the demons he will summon because reasons. It's all senseless gobbledegook, but at this point we've given up all hope for a logical and coherent plot, so senseless gobbledegook is the best we can hope for.

We suddenly cut back to that guy with the skull face sticking out of his belly from the first two minutes of the movie and get a much longer edit of a scene that we still must pretend is not at all like Alien. The thing finally emerges completely, makes a few faces like it's just trying out a new set of dentures then scuttles off into the forest.


He's let his hair grow out
since that Dokken video.

This is the birth into our dimension of the titular Winterbeast, the dreaded demon Chocorua who almost instantly grows to the size and visage of the guy you saw up there on the poster.


He's even better-looking in person.

Then Dave Sheldon's head spontaneously bursts into flames.


Like a roman candle, my friend.
A roman fucking candle.

Cut to what is probably a few days to a week later. Bill is working at the ranger station handing out trail maps and doing various ranger things. He calls Perkins to let him know he's decided to have Douche go up and tear down the totem hell portal. Perkins begs him not to do it on the grounds that it's a valuable artifact that should be preserved. He tells Bill a team from the museum could be up there within a week, but Bill is firm: Douche is going up with his little axe that very afternoon. It's clear from this conversation that these bozos think this thing is over...well I'm here to tell you, people, it definitely ain't over. There's still almost twenty minutes left.


That same milk has been on that table
every single time we've seen this room.

For some reason Douche decides to go up to chop down the totem array in the middle of the night. I'm assuming he was hung over and couldn't drag his ass out of bed until after dark.


Still haven't moved those sacrificial victims.

Douche lifts his axe and begins swinging, when suddenly:


That's my foot you're choppin', bitch!

Stop Motion Totem Head wakes up and starts waving his arms around, jigging and weaving like one of those fan-operated dancing ribbon people you see at used car lots. This effects model, by the way was a leftover from the same Dokken video as the squinty skull face puppet guy, except the head has been swapped out to make it look less cubist and more totemic.


A new head and a fresh coat of paint
just freshens him right up.

Totem Head Guy picks up a plush facsimile of Douche and throws him down, but we don't see Douche land or get hurt in any way. It just cuts to him running away into the forest. The next day Bill and Douche go poking around the abandoned cabins and lodges up on the mountain ostensibly looking for Totem Head.


Gunfight At The O.K. Can This
Please Be Over Soon

They putz around the decaying structures for a while and Douche suddenly sees something that makes him jump off a creaky porch and run.


Stop Motion Lizard Guy attack!

Bill, meanwhile tries to run over to help but he starts to get sucked down into the sandy ground like there's an itty-bitty sarlaac under there. The crappy Casio keyboard background music ends about now and then just starts over.


"If I'm destined to be slowly digested over
the course of centuries they could at least
play some decent music."

So Douche is on his own, being pursued by the Lizard Guy. I rather enjoyed seeing Douche cower and squirm in terror. Even better was seeing him get his head bitten clean off by Lizard Guy's nasty, big, pointy teeth.


I know Douche was actually just a cutout
but I still found it strangely satisfying.

Back at the Perkins residence, he and Barbera are shooting the shit when suddenly she notices something alarming in something she's looking at. She shows it to Perkins who is also alarmed by that something and says "Shit! I knew I shouldn't have let them go up there." We never actually see the something they're looking at but whatever it is Perkins leaps into action.


Looks like they finally got rid of that milk.

He runs out from his shop and we cut to some chickens in a coop. Perkins' leap into action has led him to the petting zoo adjacent to his culturally insensitive souvenir establishment. He glances up from the gaggle of little mother cluckers assembled there to see this one big Stop Motion Mother Clucker angrily flapping and squawking in his general direction:


"Everybody's talkin' 'bout chicken,
chicken's a popular word,
but anywhere you go you're bound to find
a chicken ain't nothin' but a bird."

My heart is starting to hurt a little now. I just know this poor guy is gonna flap around a bit then vanish, just like all of the other stop motion creatures in this film, never to be heard from again. It's just so upsetting and confusing. Where did they come from? Where did they go? Were they abducted by some seedy drifter and sold into stop motion slavery? Why does no one care about these poor, forgotten denizens of Indian Hell?


If you have any information please call.

So Mother Clucker chases Perkins around a little and eventually he falls backwards and rolls down a hill. It's very dramatic. The whole way down he makes "uh...ooh...oh...owww..." noises that would not be out of place in a badly-dubbed, low-budget 70's kung-fu movie.


Stunts!

He reaches the bottom and stands up unharmed. By a happy coincidence he has tumbled to within a few feet of his own truck. He hops in, cranks the engine and drives off. His mission, we discover is to destroy the totem array. He walks up and douses it with gasoline. Well, he pours a small quantity of (very watery-looking) gasoline within about a foot of the one full-sized prop they had made and then drops a match. For some reason instead of simply starting a fire it causes an explosion.


A very weak explosion. It doesn't destroy it
or even knock it down, but the skeleton
does drop off.

Now Bill is out for vengeance. He shows up on the side of the mountain packin' heat and ready to rumble.


He brings all the power and determination
a sentient mustache can muster.

He's not up there but 30 seconds before the dreaded Chocorua himself appears, and our intrepid hero...runs away into the brush like a scared little rabbit. Mr. Chocorua apparently has very poor tracking skills, though because the entire chase is basically Bill looking over his shoulder and moving at a medium trot while the Beast flails around confusedly in slow motion as if he's lost sight of a puppy in the brush.

After a minute or two Perkins shows up in the truck, Bill hops in and they drive off...for about 50 feet. As soon as Chocorua crosses their path Perkins pulls off hard to the right and falls out. This requires him to open the door and jump, of course, but he is undeterred in his firm determination to be completely fucking useless.


More stunts!

Bill crawls out of the truck with a bleeding head wound. Chocorua tries to throw a log at Perkins, but Bill levels his gun and fires.


The rather impressive firearm Bill had
earlier (the same one Bradford dropped
at Zombie Sheldon's grave) has now
been replaced with a flare gun.

Perkins runs and Chocorua flails around some more in slow motion. Bill fires another flare at him but all it does is make him angry.


"Yer darn tootin' I'm angry! I ain't never
been so angry in my entire life!"

Bill looks desperate. Chocorua starts charging at him but thankfully the demon can only run in slow motion. Perkins has plenty of time to toss the dick box animal tooth charm over to Bill, rendering him temporarily safe.


The charm both wards off Chocorua and makes forest ranger overcoats disappear between edits.

Of course now Chocorua decides he's gonna go after Perkins...who picks up a stick. To defend himself against a 10-foot-tall all-powerful demon-god.


Even Chocorua is like "Seriously, bro?"

Chocorua takes a swipe at Perkins'face and knocks him to the ground. Bill (whose overcoat has returned to him after having had a quick wee behind a bush) fires a few flairs to distract the beast so Perkins can get up and run away. Perkins suddenly sees the little camel shit face he was carrying earlier in the movie nestled in amongst some grass.


How did it get there? I have no idea.
I've completely given up at this point
trying to make sense of any of this.

So there's a bit more scurrying about from Bill and Perkins, a bit more flailing about in slow motion from Chocorua and a few more flares needlessly fired into the air and I am so ready for this to wrap the fuck up. As Bill prepares to fire a flare directly at Chocorua, Perkins flags him down and signals that he should fire at the camel shit face idol instead. Which he does, destroying it and causing Chocorua's head to burst into flames.


Like another roman candle, my friend.
Another roman fucking candle.

Bill helps the battered Perkins to his feet. As they walk out of frame together Bill says "Next time we hunt for bears," and for the second time we hear the forced, raucous laughter of two sad and lonely men. We cut to a somber shot of the Wild Goose Lodge door.


The End


Final observations:

--Filming began in 1986 but Director Christopher Thies quickly ran out of money and was unable to return to the project until 1989. Later, when it became apparent that no more location footage could be shot, producer Mark Frizzell decided to add the various stop-motion sequences to fill in the gaps where parts of the story were missing. He worked at the time for a small production company called Olive Jar films which provided effects for television commercials and music videos and came in early each day to shoot the necessary footage.

--Several cast members' names are spelled differently between the opening and closing credits.

--The film was released on home video in 1991, two years after it was completed. When the video distribution rights expired in 2008 the production team self-released a "special edition" DVD, hoping to exploit the "so bad it's good" video market. They chose the tagline "It has to be seen to be believed," a rare bit of truth in advertising.

--Bob Harlow, who played Dave Sheldon was active in regional theater in New Hampshire and was the only cast member with previous acting experience. He was also by far the worst actor in the film.

--Thies and Frizzell teamed up again in 2009 for a new production called "Hooked," a horror film about an opioid-addicted fisherman who replaces his own rotten teeth with those of a shark and goes on a killing spree. Like Winterbeast it was an on-again/off-again project. It was permanently shelved after Thies' death in 2015.



As always, cheers and thanks for reading!



Written in November, 2018 by Bradley Lyndon



comments powered by Disqus

Go ahead, steal anything you want from this page,
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...