Frank Zappa was one of my childhood heroes growing up. My dad and I listened to nothing but classic rock growing up, and FZ did nothing but challenge my mind with his complex musical rhythms and melodies, humorous lyrics, and insightful speeches. Not only has he impacted me, but he’s had an impact on most things I enjoy. I've spent most of my life striving to be like him, and I find myself thinking about him now more than ever, what with the world being in such a state.
One of the really neat things about FZ was his style of humor, like what he named his four kids. Their names are Moon Unit Zappa (who sang on her father’s most popular song, “Valley Girl”), Dweezil Zappa (an accomplished guitarist in his own right), Ahmet Emuukah Rodan Zappa (a published children’s author and pterodactyl monster) and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen (I think she knits sweaters). When my boss told me I’d be reviewing a movie called “Jack Frost,” I looked it up on IMDb and found out it had the first three of his progeny in cameo roles. Sweet! I’ve got a two paragraph lede and something to look forward to whenever Michael Keaton’s bumbling around onscreen. That’s when Mr. Pataki slapped me in the back of the head and mumbled something about reviewing the 1997 version of Jack Frost. Alright, fine, don’t have to hit me for it, let’s just load up the ol’ IMDb and…
This is the exact VHS you saw at Jon’s Video when your insatiable curiosity led you to stumble into the horror section. You mistakenly looked at all the covers and thought, “No, I will never be ready to watch an R-rated movie. I am a scared little manchild, and I desperately need my terrycloth-covered wire mother.” Then you saw this next to Pinocchio’s Revenge and thought, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
It’s immediately apparent, upon viewing the cover, what kind of movie this is. This is the movie you rent with your buddy for “bad movie night” because you both ironically like horror movies and you both ironically like bad movies. You put this on and it’s on in the background and you don’t pay attention to it, you’re busy flexing your muscles to each other or talking about your feelings. Unfortunately, it seems like Michael Cooney had that exact idea in mind when he made this movie, because it’s fucking awful and no one should watch it ever.
This worthless little cockroach of a movie begins with a voiceover of a vaguely British man telling his definitely American niece a “funny scary story” about a psychotic serial killer who roamed from town to town maiming anyone who crossed his path. I’m not sure what the film’s definition of “funny” is, but it seems to differentiate from the lexicon used by most residents of the planet Earth. The little girl’s voice is done in one of those obvious falsetto voices that was funny when Monty Python did it, but somehow isn’t here.
That killer’s name is Jack Frost, making this officially one of four movies I know by that name. This is somehow only the second worst. Frost is the worst kind of serial killer, the one who’s a font of misplaced rage. Name your cliché; mother held him too much or not enough, last picked at kickball, late night sneaky uncle, whatever (if you ever need anyone to quote Con Air verbatim, I’m your man). While other movies make serial killers dark and mysterious, there’s absolutely no motivation for Frost’s killings, and he’s not even scary because we don’t know anything about his killings except that he ripped off Sweeney Todd’s meatpie business venture.
The movie switches from the lousy credits sequence to a shot of a truck carrying Frost to Snowmonton (hip hip hooray, this is the second movie in a row I’ve reviewed featuring a town with a stupid name). This is where we can see one of the first problems with the movie, and one of the hallmarks of bad movies in general: everything’s in a really tight shot. This means you can’t see much of anything, so the filmmakers can hide how cheap their terrible movie is. One of the draws of this movie is that we know – based on the cover – a mutant killer snowman is murdering people. I don’t know if this movie was made for any member of the human race, but whoever inexplicably does want to watch this, they’re renting it to see a mutant killer snowman kill people. I can already tell from these early shots that it’s going to be difficult to see this money shot, and that’s not going to pay well for the intended audience. To make matters worse, the whole quality of the film just looks bad; for a 1997 movie, it somehow looks like Future War, or one of the Italian Ator movies. There’s just something about this movie that indicates not very much effort was put into the cinematography. Seriously, we’re only five minutes in and we can tell this is going to be as ill-advised as stuffing a fork up your nose, and slightly less pleasant.
Anyway, this truck crashes into another truck carrying some acidic genetic chemical, which acts as the deus ex machina that genetic chemicals always do in any work of fiction. In reality genetic chemicals will likely do nothing but get your coat damp if spilt on you, but this one is acidic and thus dissolves Frost’s skin, hair, organs, bones, and clothes; in addition to combining his cells with the snow’s…cells. Does snow have cells? It does now. It also has Jack’s personality and, indeed, soul. He’s just sorta…in the snow for now. Everyone naturally assumes he’s dead, and I’m left wondering how Jack feels about all this.
The sheriff of Snowmonton, Sam Tiler, is our boring protagonist, and he’s the man who actually caught Frost on what appears to be a routine traffic stop. Frost is understandably perturbed and vows revenge on Tiler. The sheriff is now haunted by the memories of the serial killer mugging to the camera and roaring about his hypothetical revenge. It’s not often that the lead actor in a horror comedy is 50 years old, but here we are.
Tiler decides to waste time in his stupid hometown with the stupid residents making stupid snowmen for a stupid snow festival. They waste a lot of time doing uninteresting things and having dull conversations because movies have to be at least 90 minutes to be taken seriously, and creativity is difficult.
What usually happens whenever you write something is your initial draft, which is put aside for a short period of time, whereupon you look back and change things around that didn’t work and Google whether you used a comma correctly. Jack Frost, on the other hand, clearly went through exactly zero rewrites. This is an actual joke from the movie: “What’s the difference between snowmen and snowwomen? Snowballs! Get it? Don’tcha get it?!” You can practically hear the DVD straining with the effort to get a laugh.
Tiler walks into the station, joking around for whatever dimwit reason (I really hope he was improvising because this script is horrible), while his receptionist reacts with silence. “What, did someone die?” he scoffs. She holds up a memo that says:
Is that a genuine, honest-to-goodness attempt at a joke? Don’t pretend like you laughed at that. Try to pretend like you know the person who would laugh at that sort of thing. Give up? So did the producers. Turns out Frost – fused spiritually and metabolically with the snow, mind – killed some old guy by snapping his neck. We don’t know how. We never know how with this movie. He also somehow morphed into the standard regulation three-spheroid stack snowman, and he’s coincidentally situated himself in Tiler’s front yard. The sheriff’s son gives him coal eyes and a carrot nose (as found in your How to Build a Snowman handbook), and we’re set for the MOST DISAPPOINTING SNOWMAN OF ALL TIME (yes, even moreso than the one in Coolboarders 2).
|Michael Cooney needs lessons from Calvin|
Alright, I think we can all agree that this movie isn’t going to scare anyone; not with a villain like that, anyway. As such, it’s up to this movie to be as silly as possible and genuinely make us laugh – it can’t try to be so bad it’s good; we’re so fully entrenched in “so bad” territory that we might as well enjoy our last few moments in this foxhole. This movie wanted to be like Leprechaun, but instead it has more in common with The Creeping Terror.
A group of bullies say this is “Black Ice” territory (I swear it sounds unmistakably like they’re saying “Black Guys”), they decapitate the snowman, and then…something happens, and a sled runs over the main bully’s neck, thereby decapitating him. That’s seriously the best I can describe it; the film’s editing is so poor that you seriously have no clue what’s going on. It’s certainly not funny, and it’s too brief to count as a scary gore kill, so I’m not sure what this movie is trying to do. There’s no success in anything it’s attempted thus far.
Jack proceeds to kill the parents of the bully he killed, presumably because he’s going for a secret bonus score and you gotta keep the combo multiplier flashing before you can use your special moves. The effects in this movie are utterly atrocious, which combined with the editing and tight shots make this one of the most visually unpleasant movies I’ve seen since A Serbian Film.
Jack goes around killing people, there’s a terrible attempt at suspense, a terrible attempt at humor, an even worse attempt at gore, and I start to drift off into a daydream wherein I don’t hate everything about my garbage existence. I’m awoken from this truly magical fantasy by what is unmistakably a rape scene; a rape scene that is unmistakably intended to be seen in a humorous light, no less.
If I could just say something briefly to Michael Cooney, it would be this: fuck you.
If I could speak more garrulously on the matter, I’d say that rape is a very complex subject in movies. I’ve always considered myself staunchly anti-censorship, but I can’t stand rape scenes. Once Upon a Time in America, The Evil Dead and Gone with the Wind are all classic movies that have rape scenes. If I honestly think about them, they’re all movies that would still stand up as classics if the rape scenes were removed. After speaking with Mr. Pataki, he and I could only come up with two good movies that included necessary rape scenes: American History X and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Regardless, this movie is not a classic, and had absolutely no need for a rape scene. It’s objectification of women and it normalizes rape. Hell, worse than that, it builds up rape as a funny prank; there’s even a pithy one-liner for the button at the end of the scene. There’s absolutely no laughing at this scene, and it ruins the entire movie. There’s nothing worth seeing in this movie, and I could certainly end the review right here (I would, but for the other dumb shit in the film). You’d imagine two 15-year-olds would rent this to view ironically, but how would they feel after that? It ruins the whole night. As it stands, it’s the second worst rape scene I’ve ever seen.
The government sends over two special agents to help Tiler eliminate Frost in some capacity; see, Frost moves around by turning himself into puddles of water (see what I mean about preventing the viewer from seeing what he wants to see?) instead of moving the big ugly snowman around from set to set. At one point one of the agents decides to shoot the puddle of water and gets visibly upset that it didn’t work. It might feel like you’re in Hell, but you’re not dead, you’re just watching Jack Frost. There’s a bunch of scenes of violence and poorly attempted humor, but nothing can scrub away the stain of what came before.
At one point Frost gets held at bay by some hair driers, despite the fact that he was smoking a pipe in an earlier scene. I can no longer tell if such an oversight was intentional. Tiler gets trapped in his car with Frost, you think the movie will mercifully come to some sort of end, and Tiler’s desperate attempt to save his own life involves dumping some oatmeal his kid made for him onto the mutant killer snowman. Surprisingly, this seems to work. The kid explains that he put antifreeze in his father’s oatmeal because he didn’t want him to get cold. Tiler’s understandably happy that he’s not dead, but nowhere near incredulous at his idiot son for doing something so dangerous. Tiler decides to get a pickup truck full of antifreeze (is that good for a truckbed? I’d ask my dad but he’s asleep) which leads to a fakeout kill of Frost, then the real kill of Frost which isn’t real at all because there’s a sequel. So let’s watch that.
Look at that cover. Just look at it! It’s perfect. We’re already at a marked improvement over the execrable original film. I’m not sure what the best part of the title “Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman” is, but I’m willing to stake all my shekels that it’s the number two.
Sadly, the movie begins in a rather self-masturbatory fashion, with Tiler recounting his story to a clinical psychiatrist. The staff is listening in surreptitiously and laughing at all the beats Cooney expected people to laugh at in the first movie. If a good director/writer had helmed the first movie, this scene might’ve worked, but there was genuinely nothing funny or enjoyable about Jack Frost. Even the concept isn’t that funny, and Cooney made a massive mess of it. Then again, the film was apparently successful enough to spawn a sequel, so I guess I’m the dumbass.
Tiler’s still as haunted by the memory of Frost as I am, so he and his wife decide to spend their vacation in the tropics. This whole movie somehow looks worse than the first movie. I don’t know how they managed to make this movie look worse than a Suite Life on Deck episode, but somehow Cooney managed it. Meanwhile, Frost was awakened for the second movie because someone spilled coffee on him or some analogous bullshit, and he immediately searches for Tiler, because this movie is basically like Jaws 4: The Revenge but without Michael Caine to class it up.
So it cuts to the ocean (leaving me to wonder – wouldn’t Frost be more powerful if he remained in liquid form?) where there’s two guys adrift in a raft. Somehow Frost’s carrot nose ended up in their lunchbox, and seeing as that’s all there is to eat, they try to kill each other…with the carrot…mugging for the camera…God, this is going to be almost as bad as the first movie.
Now we see a bunch of people enjoying themselves at some beach luau thing, and the movie slips into the cloying black mass of depravity. The tight shots are amazing; Cooney’s literally afraid to show us something the characters are pointing to. Everyone’s unlikable except Tiler and his wife, and then this guy shows up:
Really? Honestly there’s no way I think Michael Cooney can look in the mirror and say to himself “I put my full effort into this.” I’m sure he, the cast and crew had fun making these abominable movies, but there’s no way he put in his full God-given effort into this movie.
So there’s these girls, right? They’re sitting on the beach waiting to engage in more vestigial dialogue with two other girls, when Frost’s nose (a carrot, remember) washes ashore. It seems his personality and spirit are now contained in the carrot, rather than the snow, although the snow/water is where Frost derives his powers from, so he wants the girl to gather him coal, and thennnnnnyyyaaaaaAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH
Okay, okay, I’m good, this movie can’t break me, this is Christmas, remember? Trying to have a good time here. Alright, what happens next…let’s see…he’s in the tree…trying to kill the girl with icicles…he turns himself into a giant MSPaint snow anvil that kills the girl.
So as the girls get knocked off one by one, you can tell that they’ve really upped the gore in this movie. It’s still not scary, and it’s certainly not funny, but there’s a lot of (very sick) people who are really into gore, so one can at least postulate that this movie was made for someone.
Tiler and the people running the island understand that Frost is back, because why wouldn’t he be, and they set up a cunning plan to catch him – throw a big costume party, where people will dress up and you’re likely to confuse someone dressed as a snowman for a mutant serial killer.
Turns out that’s exactly what happens, as Tiler knocks out the only cool guy in the movie, who’s basically a skinnier version of Jim Carrey’s little helper in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (so basically Nigel Thornberry if he were played by anyone other than Tim Curry). Frost goes on to kill a model in a swimming pool by freezing it (so really he’s just God now), and I begin to realize that you see precious little of Frost in either movie. The main draw of this whole concept is seeing a snowman kill people, not imagining it. Hell, this is usually all we see of him:
So Frost makes it snow in the tropics (again, he’s God, just deal with it), and everyone handles it surprisingly well; having an impromptu snowball fight, laughing and joking around with each other. Oh look, Captain Fun is in this movie. I’m so glad I’m watching this instead of doing something more useful like learning how to program or feeding the poor or smashing my hands with a hammer. Frost kills someone in a ripoff of that awful tongue + frozen pole scene from A Christmas Story, he throws a small snowball that somehow slices off a man’s arm, and he throws a bunch of icicles at everyone in some of the poorest special effects I’ve ever seen. Tiler teams up with the agent from the first movie (played by a different actor, which should surprise no one, but the movie draws attention to it twice for some reason), and they plan to kill Frost with antifreeze (they actually have a decent reason for having that stuff on a tropical island). Regrettably, Frost’s become resistant to the stuff because he got fused with it at the end of the last movie. I don’t even care about this nonsense even more.
Frost pukes up a snowball, which the humans decide to pick up no reason at all. It “hatches” into…really just another snowball, except this one’s pointier at the top, I suppose. Not really sure what the point of that was since the hatching animation lasted one second and was just a close-up of some snow, but it is what it is. I bet you’ll never guess this next part: it has a really annoying voice and it tries to kill all of them!
Tiler’s wife takes the helm, as she endeavors to capture all the other minisnowball creature things that are now populating the island in the most pathetic attempt at emulating Gremlins since Hobgoblins. The snowmen go around killing more and more people but there doesn’t seem to be a way to kill them off, even with heat, so the initial strategy is just to contain them. HOWEVER, for some reason they can be killed by bananas since…Tiler is allergic to bananas. He’s not the one spawning them, so I don’t know how this works. Maybe there’s an essence of spirituality to this movie that I’m just not getting.
Frost finds out they’re killing his spawn (weird, he’s never cared about life before), and he flies into a rage, killing more people until Tiler snaps out of this bizarre comatose state to shoot an arrow via a bow and arrow, thus blowing up Frost. We’ve seen before that this wouldn’t come close to stopping the snowman, but the credits mercifully begin to roll. Speaking of, during the credits we see this enormous carrot smashing a Japanese boat, which I guess implies that Frost has become kaiju-sized? Hooray, the first kaiju movie I don’t want to see.
Actually, they never made a third movie, and that’s because God loves us and wants us to be happy. Don’t watch these movies. Don’t ever watch these movies. The first one is pretty horrendous and irredeemable, and while the second is infinitely better just on the basis of its effects being so terrible you have to see them to believe them, there’s just better things you can do with your time. Go hug your loved ones, go wrap some presents, or donate $11.50 to terribleblog.net. Merry Christmas, everyone.