Thursday, December 13, 2018

In short: Jack Frost (1997)

Thanks to small town sheriff Sam (Christopher Allport), hard-travelling serial killer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) has finally been apprehended. When he’s being carted off overland to his place of execution, a nice murder/accident combination involving a crash with a truck carrying a mysterious “genetic material” turns the killer into a living, moving snowman in the traditional style. Well, actually, he looks and moves a bit (a lot) cardboard-y, but let’s not speak ill of a guy who has the sartorial sense to pop in a carrot nose (please don’t ask what he’s going to use it for later, sensitive reader) and all the other accoutrements of his new status as killer snowman. Except for the top hat, alas.

As luck will have it, all of this happened just inside the borders of the town Sheriff Sam polices, so Jack’s right away getting started on killing people in absurd – what else would one expect of a killer snowman – ways. He’s planning to visit Sam and his family eventually. Just before the town is cut off from the rest of the world by the mandatory snow, a rude special agent (Stephen Mendel) and the usual whiny and possibly slightly mad scientist responsible for whatever turned Frost quite this frosty arrive as a rather dubious kind of cavalry. But as we all know, one can’t keep a good US small town down. Particularly one armed with hair dryers.

As my frequent imaginary readers know, I’m not terribly fond of films that have their tongues planted quite this firmly in their cheeks, nor do I have much love for films that go the “see, we know that this is bad, but it’s bad on purpose, so it’s actually good” route. So by all rights, I should hate Michael Cooney’s Jack Frost. Curiously enough, I don’t. Now, it may be the charitable spirit of the season taking possession of me, but watching this, I quickly and repeatedly found my mouth twitching into that strange facial expression humans call a “smile”; sometimes slight guffawing followed; there may even have been a bit of actual laughter involved. Why, it’s as if the film’s jokes are actually repeatedly funny, and as if Cooney hides a rather great talent for comical timing under the surface of the film’s ironic badness. As a matter of fact, the film as a whole is rather well paced, with every little comical and absurd little set piece actually pulling the simple plot forward.

Even better for my tastes, the film demonstrates a fine understanding of how a traditional cheap shoddy horror movie about a rampaging small town monster works, and adds, between the more obvious bits of nonsense, some really clever twists on the formula. I found myself falling a bit in love with Jack Frost’s sense for the deadpan, too, for while there’s a lot of goofy absurdity going on, it plays a lot of these scenes wonderfully straight (which of course only increases the absurdity of the whole affair), often pretending it is a perfectly straightforward little B-movie, yes sir! So expect very serious hair dryer fights, and an inspired scene in which the scientist explains that Jack’s turning into a killer snowman through SCIENCE(!) is proof of the existence of a soul.

I don’t know about that, but Jack Frost the movie certainly has one.

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