Jack Frost (1997)

2 out of 5

Directed by: Michael Cooney

Jack Frost – the central serial-killer-turned-radioactive-mutant-snowman-killer in the film bearing his name – he gets it, cracking obnoxiously wise for almost every line he utters, and making a sneery bogeyman evil face in his human incarnation’s appearances.  Composers Chris Anderson and Carl Schurtz get it, offering up small town yokel music cues and holiday parodies throughout the movie, playing up the horror movie trope of local dullards who end up as the killer’s fodder.  And writer / director Michael Cooney certainly gets it from a shooting perspective, mixing stereotypical POV shots with some fish-eye style goofiness and shots that only exist to play up attemptedly comedic beats.  But the remaining cast of Jack Frost?  They’re not in on the joke of this being a horrible, campy, stupid movie, playing it entirely straight throughout, which is likely the only reason that Jack Frost remains watchable.

Even with that, I kind of struggled to make it through longer than 15 minute intervals, as there was just a resounding question of Why Does This Exist? in my head throughout.  Fair enough that that question could be leveled at a million low budget horror flicks, but often when you approach with awareness of whatever demographic is being aimed at, or accepting that the goal was just to toss out a buck-making cheapie, it lightens the blow of a movie’s badness and can – depending on your tastes – become appealing.  But Jack Frost is made with this weird blend of passion project – there is effort put in to making the script at least logical in its own context, and the main (non-Frost) actors do a surprisingly good job of making their characters seem like realish people – and incredible laziness, with scene construction not really serving up the most effective anything: frights, jokes, whatever.  It makes for a rather non-existent tone, despite the above-mentioned signs that want you to know that this is a willfully dumb movie.

And for sure, it is.  Notorious killer Jack Frost’s jail transport crashes into a truck transporting chemicals, he mutates into a snowman and starts to kill people; there’s no non-dumb version of that.  But if Cooney had invested more energy (or the minimal budget) into either more entertaining / more imaginative kills, or at least some quality “hero” versions of the snowman, which is otherwise a mostly non-moving prop, or just gone overboard with kookiness and said screw everything else, that dumb premise could be a great B-movie.  Instead, it just seems really restrained most of the way through, with a couple of chuckles and then a scene where a girl is molested by a snowman.

However, because of the juxtaposition of the serious actors against this silly backdrop, the movie hums along with a weird innocence.  This suggests an alternative to what I’d suggested above: minusing out the molestation and R-baiting imagery and making a Goosebumps style version of this.  That one would probably be pretty good too.  Insert a joke about the Michael Keaton movie here.