July 16, 2008

Every once in a while, I’ll see a film that was a near miss.  Could be something with a big budget (like Ang Lee’s Hulk) or something smaller.  Something that gets some of the broad strokes right, but misses on the little things that would make the movie a little more memorable.  Such is the case with Winterbeast.

The movie, by Christopher Thies, owes a helluva lot to Jaws and Poultergeist for its plot – ancient Indian evil fought by fish-out-of-water Forest Ranger. I could see faint glimmers of something good in the dreck: and what a lot of dreck there was.

I didn’t have time to listen to the commentary on the disc, so I don’t know all of the details, but I surmise that, due to a lack of money for film, they didn’t do a lot of setups.  Much of the cinematography seemed to be “set up the camera, and hopefully we’ll get around to getting insert shots when we find more cash.”  Not the best way to build suspense…

The special makeup and visual FX might have been better, had they not seemed to be tacked onto the film in order to pad the running time.  I have to hand it to Thies for having stop-motion in his film at all – back in the antediluvian days of 1991, CGI was absolutely out of the budget of anybody not working for ILM.

The thing is, you can see the stop-motion getting better throughout the film.  If Thies had just held off on some of this until later in the film, it would have been a welcome surprise.  As it stands, though, the work that appears in the beginning of the film seems like camera tests from somebody just getting their feet wet.

There was a genuine spooky moment in the movie too, thanks to the performance of Bob Harlow, as the rich townie who doesn’t want his lodge shut down due to the deaths in the forest – the quality of the film and what they have him do near the end of the movie plot-wise had some serious creepitude to it…

And Thies has an innovative way of disposing of Harlow’s character.  Is he done with his exposition? Excellent…then have his head burst into flames!!!

Which brings me to my final remark on the movie – it takes a real commitment to your vision to write something like this into your movie;

Actual Dialog:

“(The medicine man) said I might be needing this someday…”

Yes, that’s a rubber dildo in the box.

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