Happy Holidays, dear reader. This week we have a festive winter treat for you, served up in the form of Jack Frost. No, not the 1998 Michael Keaton movie. No, not the 1979 claymation movie either. No, not the 1934 cartoon that we steal our scarecrow sound effect from for the podcast either. Turns out, it’s a common name. We watched Michael Cooney’s 1997 mutant-killer-snowman slasher. Did we regret it? You bet we did! Read our spoiler filled review to find out why.
Reviewed by: Mark
Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is a serial killer who has terrorized Snowmonton and its neighboring communities for some time. When he is finally caught by Sheriff Sam Tiler (Chris Allport) he swears revenge before being sent on his merry way to the electric chair. En route to his own execution, the transport is sideswiped by a truck carrying “genetic acid.” Jack escapes, is covered in the acid, melts, and his genes fuse with the surrounding snow.
Before long Jack returns to town in his new form, that of a mutant killer snowman. He works his way through various snow-themed murderings (or just shoving an axe down someone’s throat) slowly collecting various accessories such as coal eyes, a carrot nose, and a scarf. After sufficiently terrorizing the town he ends up trapped in the local police station as Sheriff Tiler and few other folks fill it with aerosolized gas. When the townsfolk blow up the police station they believe Jack to be finally dead and celebrate their willful act of domestic terrorism.
Except, PSYCHE, Jack’s not quite dead yet. Turns out he’s essentially impossible to kill. He surprise attacks Sam and Sam’s son Ryan. In the ensuing struggle Sam hits the snowman in the face with a baggy of oatmeal that Ryan made him earlier in the day. Why is that important? Well, turns out Ryan is a murderously stupid kid, and he put antifreeze in his dad’s oatmeal so that he wouldn’t freeze. Luckily for everyone involved, Sam didn’t have any of the poison and antifreeze just so happens to be the snowman’s achilles heel.
Once Sam discovers this weakness he executes an elaborate plot to drop Jack into the antifreeze-filled bed of a pickup truck. It works, and Jack dissolves into the pool of polyethylene glycol. They rebottle all of the fluid and bury it in an unmarked grave outside of town. Everyone lives happily ever after except for those who were brutally assaulted or murdered. Merry Christmas!
What the Movie Does Right
The movie in general has pretty solid effects. Frankly the opening scene in which human-Jack melts looks pretty phenomenal. From there on out the effects look goofy, but overall serve the tone of the movie. I’m not sure there’s a great way to show a woman being turned into a christmas tree, but they took a shot. It doesn’t look great, but at least they didn’t really pull any punches.
The movie itself is also pretty funny. There’s decent background humor happening that keeps you engaged throughout most of the movie. Now, some scenes are highly cringeworthy and regrettable at best, but in general they nail the B-movie stupid humor. At one point a kid gets beheaded by a sled (best kill of the movie), and two characters are arguing about whether or not Ryan could’ve pushed the kid. When the mothers argue that Ryan couldn’t have done that because he’s “two feet shorter than Billy” an unseen character yells from off-screen “not anymore he ain’t.” Stupid humor, but in the moment the line delivery is actually pretty funny. This type of thing permeates the movie enough to keep you at least moderately entertained throughout.
Lastly, very minor point here, but I enjoyed the score. It comprises mainly dirgish covers of Christmas songs so it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but the way they sprinkle it in works well with the movie and complements most scenes without overpowering them.
What the Movie Does Wrong
In a movie featuring a mutant killer snowman, it really felt like they ran out of ideas about halfway through. Yes, the sled decapitation is a great scene, but past that you just give Jack ice-teeth and the ability to shoot icicles through people’s heads. Obviously they were a little budget limited, but that’s not enough of an excuse.
On top of the kills not being particularly creative, the biggest issue that this movie has is in its connective tissue. The kills feel like they are each a self-contained mini movie in a way that really disrupts the immersion. It seems like the writers sat down and came up with what they wanted Jack to do, left a blank line in the script to connect the individual scenes, and then forgot about it until the day they started shooting. “Awww, goddammit, we forgot to write the script.” They probably exclaimed. “That’s alright, we’ll just shoot it anyway.” Replied the more level headed producers.
Ultimately, Jack Frost is a bad movie, and it was intentionally made that way. So to try and explain what the movie does wrong as anything other than “everything” or perhaps “existing” is a bit of a trivial exercise. The filmmakers set out to make a bad movie, and they succeeded. So… everyone’s a winner?
Story: 2 - I actually kinda like the idea of a killer snowman, but the setup here is so drenched in camp and idiocy that the core concept is hard to keep focus on.
World-Building / Immersion: 3 - The humor and sheer goofiness can save this movie at times. That being said the complete and utter lack connective tissue makes it hard for the film to build momentum. I don’t recommend sitting down to watch this movie without bringing a laptop or phone to distract yourself when you hit a long stretch of boredom.
Scare-Factor: 2 - It has a few moments. If you were to show this to a small child I could see it leaving some light emotional scarring. Maybe they’ll be afraid of sleds? That’s the best I can come up with.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 4 - This is probably the highlight of the movie. There are scenes where the effects actually look surprisingly good. The rest of the scenes don’t look great, but the cheesiness actually kinda serves the overall tone of the movie.
Overall: 2 - I’m gonna level with you. I also watched the sequel (which is freely available on Youtube if you are so inclined) and it is worse. As such, I knew I had to leave a little room below my score for the other movie. They set out to make a bad movie, and they succeeded. Don’t watch it.