Tag Bigfoot/Yeti

Abominable Snowman (2013)

Deadly Descent (2013)

Attempting to track down a long-lost friend who went missing whilst climbing, a group of skiers head off into the snowy wilderness. However they find the cause of his disappearance to be a group of giant abominable snowmen and must find a way to escape the mountain alive.

 

There aren’t enough films about the legend of the Yeti. Hammer touched on it early in their heyday with the excellent The Abominable Snowman and the 70s saw TV movie Snowbeast make little impression. Unlike their hairy cousins Bigfoot/Sasquatch who have starred in countless horror films over the years, the Yeti were rarely considered to be horror-film worthy. That is until recently and the birth of the Sy Fy Original. Within the space of a couple of years, the channel has produced a number of Yeti-themed horror films including Yeti, Snow Beast, Rage of the Yeti and now Abominable Snowman. It has been renamed Deadly Descent in some countries. Some countries have allowed it to retain the original title. And some countries have just thought ‘screw this’ and given it the massive title Deadly Descent: The Abominable Snowman. Some countries have made the title plural. Bottom line is: it’s the same film and it still majorly sucks.

For those familiar with Sy Fy, watching Abominable Snowman will be like putting on an old pair of slippers. Granted a pair of slippers that have been worn and worn and worn and have become frayed, stained and generally useless. But old slippers none the less. The films all follow the same formula and it’s now tiresome beyond belief after about the hundredth time of asking. Abominable Snowman could have featured any killer animal or mythical monster and it would have been precisely the same film. The key to these films becomes the monster and the monster alone. Not having a shark or snake or crocodile in the piece, lovers of this type of rubbish will be tuning in solely for the novelty factor of seeing something different. Characters and plots become irrelevant and secondary to the monster action. Abominable Snowman doesn’t get this memo and spends a large chunk of time drawing out its back story before we get any giant furball fury. Do you like skiing sequences? Great, you’ll love the padding that this film throws in.

Actually, the padding makes little different in the long run. As per usual, the biggest disappointment with a Sy Fy film is when it comes to the monster. These are the reasons people like me watch these films and yet again we are short-changed. The CGI for the Yeti is poor and there are only about four animations which are repeated over and over again in the limited number of scenes in which they’re present. They look like overgrown Critters, gigantic balls of fur which roll around the place like the incoherent blur of black graphics that they are. Not sure which bright spark decided to give them black fur in the middle of snowy mountains. Evolution has told us that animals adapt to their surroundings so surely these legendary creatures would have blended in with the snow or else how have they been hidden away for so long? They’re also stunt Yetis and have the ability to do things like jumping tall distances and clinging on to the legs of helicopters like they’re starring in an 80s action movie. Can I emphasise again just how bad the CGI is in this? Straight from the PS One onto your TV screens in 2013. If you’re going to half-attempt to do a job, don’t do it at all and just design a monster suit for someone to prowl around in on set.

It’s not just the monsters which are poorly rendered on the computer but there’s terrible weather effects and a CGI helicopter which has to be seen to be believed. In trying to go all out and entertain, the film becomes too outlandish. It doesn’t help when the characters are particularly unlikeable and one-note. If most of them don’t irritate you, then you must have enormous patience. Despite wishing death upon the majority of the characters, they don’t exactly get killed off in style or deserving of their annoying personalities. The deaths are bland and something of a non-entity. If you’ve got giant ape-like creatures with sharp claws and teeth, let’s see the damage that they can do! The characters go all Home Alone on the yeti at a late point in the film, setting up a number of traps around the chalet to stop them. I’m not sure what it worse: the thought that these people would actually think the yeti would be as stupid as the Wet Bandits and fall for the tracks or the notion that little Kevin McAllister could wipe out the world’s native population with a bag of Micro Machines, some rope and a can of paint.

 

By far and away the worst of the recent yeti films, Abominable Snowman is just abominable. It has to rank down there with the worst of Sy Fy’s creature feature films. That is saying something!

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sasquatch Mountain (2006)

Sasquatch Mountain (2006)

Believe The Legend

After robbing a small town bank, the group of thieves crash into a car on the road whilst they are making their getaway. Taking the female driver hostage, they venture into the woods to escape the pursuing police. Both groups soon find themselves up against a deadly monster that has come down from the Arizona mountains and they are forced to team up in order to survive.

 

Over the last twelve years or so, Bigfoot has seen a revival in horror with a number of films, mainly low budget, pitting man’s hairy relative against a group of people in the middle of the woods somewhere. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them haven’t been very good. I guess the idea of being attacked by a gigantic walking carpet isn’t exactly up there on anyone’s ‘Top 10 Things to be Scared of Being Killed By’ list. Sasquatch Mountain joins this ever-increasing list of not very good films about Bigfoot. Originally entitled Devil on the Mountain, the title was changed to make it sound more threatening and more sasquatch-orientated – basically a bit more exploitative and focus on a niche audience of monster movie fans such as myself.

The myth about sasquatch/Bigfoot/the Yeti/Abominable Snowman is one of great interest to humans and has been the subject of so much research and attention down the years that it’s hard to understand why no one has really gotten the subject material right (and I say this having seen a few Bigfoot-themed horror films but not all of them so someone may prove me wrong). Sasquatch Mountain throws in a decent opening sequence but this promises that the film will not be anything but a typical Bigfoot horror. Why do filmmakers always have to make these creatures so vicious, angry and blood-thirsty? I highly doubt that such creatures still exist but if even if they did, they’d most likely find the taste of overweight, sugared-up humans to be a little off.

Though I wouldn’t get too worried about the creature in all honesty. Sasquatch Mountain spends most of its time focusing on the troubles between the bank robbers and their hostage, and then the cops when they turn up and is a talky affair as a result. You won’t get to know enough about any of the characters to really care about them and their philosophical bickering and macho tit-for-tat seems to go around in circles as they traipse through the forest. As is always the case, the more time the characters spend arguing with each other, the less time the monster is on display, thus making the production a lot cheaper. Of course, they also need to actually get to the forest first and we see far too much of the robbery and the following chaos. This is definitely not Heat.

This is the film’s major problem. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – having your main characters as bank robbers, murderers, terrorists or any form of ‘evil’ bad guys and then putting them up against some form or monster or threat. Just who are supposed to root for? It’s certainly not meant to be the asshole characters who kill innocent people to get away with some cash. But these characters take up a lot of screen time and generally not very likeable. You can’t even root for the good guys in films like this as they are required to make stupid decisions by virtue of the script in order for the narrative to flow and have them all team up at some point.

At least the monster is a guy-in-a-suit and the makers of the film opted not to go down the CGI Bigfoot route. This adds a nice element of realism to the attack scenes as the creature is happy breaking backs and snapping necks but these sequences are virtually blood-free. We get a few glimpses of the monster but it’s generally confined to the shadows until the big reveal towards the finale. There is that little of the monster that you wonder whether it walked in from another set. Despite the novelty of the suit, the quality of the creation is awful and looks like someone just stuck a load of worn carpet together. Think Chewbacca having to live off the streets of New York for five years and you’ll get the impression.

There’s a decent cast here which is all the more shame for the script being so rubbish. Lance Henriksen gets top billing and must really have a thing for Bigfoot as this was his third such film within the space of four years. As the grizzled truck driver who lost his wife to the monster years earlier, Henriksen chalks up a number of clichés in order to pay his bills for the week. Craig Wasson (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) is the head bank robber, Tim Thomerson (from Dollman) is on hand as the token hunter character and the lovely Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever) adds glamour as the female hostage.

 

Well Sasquatch Mountain killed an hour and a half on Sy Fy so their investment was well-spent in that respect. It doesn’t go off into mindless monster mode too much and has a few moments where it threatens to get deep and emotional but overall, Sasquatch Mountain is a bore with sporadic moments of Bigfoot which will leave you feeling grossly unsatisfied. Maybe Henriksen could try a fourth Bigfoot film and see if he can do any better?

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Savage (2009)

Savage (2009)

Some creatures are best left undiscovered

As fire fighters battle a blaze which is ripping its way through Bear Valley National Park, the forest animals are being forced out of their natural habitat. But there is one beast which emerges from the forest that was best left undiscovered, proving the local legends about Bigfoot to be true.

 

When a film has to proudly boast an IMDB user quote on the front of its poster because no one else has anything positive to say, that’s a pretty damning verdict from the get-go. Bigfoot horror Savage is one such example, with an IMDB user proclaiming this “way better than just about any other Bigfoot movie out there.” Clearly the said user has never seen Abominable. But the Bigfoot sub-genre has never been one to set the world alight and despite a slew of Sasquatch-related horror films over recent years and with the exception of Abominable, it’s been painful to experience.

Savage is a film that rarely lives up to its title. A promising opening scene in which fire fighters are attacked in the forest proves to be a false dawn and the film becomes less ‘savage’ and more ‘domesticated.’ It is neutered viewing, with little gore, kills that are mostly done off-screen and a distinct lack of violence and aggression. There’s no real tension, suspense, atmosphere or any sort of horror factor and on many occasions the film borders on dull documentary-like levels of pedestrianism. Scenes inside the forest which could have been built up to generate some dread and menace before the trigger was pulled are simply left to meander aimlessly until the next scene. There’s nothing savage and primitive about this film – rarely has Bigfoot been so boring.

There are a couple of sub-plots thrown in for good measure to keep the film going including the unscrupulous mayor who wants to build a tourist resort at the town and a pair of bank robbers on the run from a botched hold-up. But these are minor filler, not really given enough time to warrant full-blown connection with the audience and just eating up dialogue which could have been better used towards creating some sort of central conflict between the party of humans trekking through the woods and Bigfoot. Or even stripped away completely and some more time given towards making the film exciting. There’s literally a handful of ‘action’ sequences and even the big pay-off finale ends in little more than a whimper.

It doesn’t help that most of the cast are just as bland with the exception of Martin Kove. As he who played the evil sensei famous for the “Sweep the leg” quote from The Karate Kid, Kove does his turn as the backwoods tracker who borrows plenty from Robert Shaw’s Quint character from Jaws. It’s hardly a great performance but at least it seems he is making an effort to liven things up. On the other hand, Tony Becker could put anyone to sleep with a lifeless performance as the lead park ranger and he sucks out what little energy Kove had injected into proceedings. This guy seriously needed some coffee or energy bar.

And finally we come to the star of the show. What do you expect Bigfoot to look like? Or more correctly, how do you expect Bigfoot to be portrayed in a low budget horror film. That’s the million dollar question I asked myself before I sat down to watch Savage. The correct answer is a guy-in-a-suit and that’s what we get here. Given the nature of Bigfoot, there’s no way that CGI would be able to properly represent the creature. It is supposed to be, after all, the ‘missing link’ in human evolution so the only feasible solution is to dress a guy up in a fancy dress costume. The only question is how good or bad does it look? Well you don’t get to see a lot of it apart from a few glimpses in the finale and what you do get to see is adequate and serves its purpose.

The problem Savage has is how the creature moves. Here, it is able to haul fully-grown men single-handed into the trees, is capable of swinging around like the Predator from tree to tree and possesses ridiculous land speed. No explanation is given to how it came to be or the fact that some characters religiously believe in its existence and others have never even thought about it, despite living in the same town.

 

Savage isn’t the worst Bigfoot film out but it could well be the most boring. It does a few things right and it gets bonus marks for avoiding the CGI monster route but it’s far too bland for its own good and just not exciting in the slightest. Savage? More like Gentle.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Snow Beast (2011)

Snow Beast (2011)

Survival is everything

A divorced researcher takes his rebellious teenage daughter along with him on his next trip to study the endangered lynx in a remote part of Canada. They can’t find any traces of lynx in the area and it appears that something else has replaced them at the top of the food chain. However the team is unprepared for the realisation that what they are dealing with is a very deadly and very hungry Yeti.

 

I’m not entirely sure whether this is supposed to be a remake of the 1977 TV movie of the same name or whether it’s a totally unrelated movie about a snow monster which menaces a mountain but the fact of the matter is that Snow Beast is still dreadful monster movie making at it’s finest.

Following the standard Sy-Fy formula to the latter (I’ve finally succumbed to calling it that, instead of Sci-Fi), Snow Beast trots out all of the usual clichés and predictable plot developments to the letter. As well as the standard ‘monster on the loose’ storyline that the film follows, the father-daughter combo of Jim and Emmy provide the necessary human drama of a divorced man struggling to keep a relationship with his rebellious teenage tearaway. I’m sure that coming face-to-face with a man-eating Yeti will put paid to any sort of conflict the two characters have with each other by the end and everything will be hunky dory come the credits. It’s the additions of teenage characters to this type of film which bugs me to pieces: as if featuring one token teenager in a film is going to make it appeal to a younger market? Snow Beast is hardly being aimed at the Twilight crowd so just cut the kids out, give the adults a bit more substance and the drama will come naturally in the face of a life-threatening situation. John Schneider sees to be getting a regular pay cheque from Sy-Fy to star in these terrible low budget creature features and his constant monotone delivery throughout gives the impression that he’s bored. No wonder his character has problems with his daughter if he’s always this enthusiastic about life.

Aside from the handful of main characters, everyone else in the film is of inconsequential value. A couple of people out for a trek in the snow? Snowboarders? Random guys stopping to pee by the side of the road? Say “bye bye” to them before you even catch their names. Even the local sheriff and his deputy, built up at the beginning of the film into what one would assume to be pivotal parts of the story, are discarded almost nonchalantly. This conveyor belt of characters fed to the Yeti is pointless, giving us no real reason to fear the monster as we’ve never taken them to heart and mourn their demise.

But now we come to the star of the show, the ‘snow beast’ itself. Anyone familiar with an episode of the original series of Star Trek which featured a ridiculous shaggy, ape-like monster called the Mugato will know exactly the sort of creature that we’re dealing with here. It’s a guy-in-a-suit monster of the old fashioned kind which might work in small doses when it’s kept off-camera. But this Yeti loves the camera, running around comically (and struggling badly) through the snow and pretending to look intimidating. The suit doesn’t look too bad in all honesty, especially during the quick edits in attack scenes when you only catch a glimpse. It’s when the camera lingers on it during prolonged sequences that the cheese factor oozes out – the finale inside the ice cave clearly indicative of an injured grad student fighting a ticked-off fancy dress enthusiast. About 90% of the film is shot in the daylight too, illuminating the creature in all of its bottom-dollar glory.

As touched on earlier, the Yeti is fed a lot of throwaway characters but when you see how it actually manages to accomplish this task, you’ll wonder how it ever manages to eat. When it’s not pimp-slapping victims, it’s charging across the screen and sacking them American football-style. In some instances, it’s happy enough to drag the unlucky victim back to its ice lair to freeze for later. Other time it just leaves the bodies out in the snow. Depending on which character is being attacked, the Yeti conveniently changes its tactic for killing and eating on the spot or dragging back semi-conscious to finish off later. It’s lazy writing at its best – either don’t put the main characters into this type of situation or kill them off and shock the audience. Don’t have the creature change its feeding habits because someone in the cast is getting paid more than the extras. Re-write the script and don’t insult the monster…and the audience at the same time.

 

Snow Beast is production line poo from Sy-Fy who surely can’t go on churning out the same ridiculous films for years upon end without even the slightest deviation in formula? Anyone? There’s only so many times my intelligence can be insulted. Oh wait, there’s 2-Headed Shark Attack….I’ll be right back.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sasquatch (2002)

Sasquatch (2002)

They found the missing link….. and it’s not friendly.

Billionaire Harlan Knowles leads a rescue mission into the mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest to look for his daughter who went down in a plane crash, along with a top secret project known only as the Huxley Project. As the team heads into the mountains, they come to realise that they are not alone and that something is watching them. Something intelligent and which doesn’t want the top secret project being found.

 

Bigfoot – one of the big mysteries of the unexplained which man has yet to really answer and one which Hollywood has seemingly done little with over the years. You could probably count the number of Bigfoot films on one hand, there have been that few of them. And even fewer are the amount of Bigfoot films which have actually been any good. Off the top of my head I can only think of another two films which involve Bigfoot and even one of them isn’t about Bigfoot, it’s about the Abominable Snowman. It’s a great idea for a horror film just waiting to break free. The possibility that they do exist in the world and the possibility that they may be pissed and hungry for human flesh is too good for a horror buff to think about! It’s an idea which has seen a sudden emergence thanks to a spate of Bigfoot-themed horror films. Sasquatch is the first one I’ve watched and I’ve got Abominable and Sasquatch Hunters to come!

The first thing that I should tell you about this is another director-studio feud which has resulted in the original vision of the film being skewered by the studio’s desire for cheap shocks. The re-titling to Sasquatch (it was previously named The Untold) for the video market and the addition of more shots of the creature were not what Jonas Quastel had in mind. It’s unfortunate because no matter how bad a film may be, I always prefer to see the director’s cut because that is usually the vision that was intended from the start, not one that has been tailored for money-making purposes. The director is the man calling the shots throughout filming and he should be the one calling the shots on how the film turns out. When studios start messing with the films they make, they might as well have directors done away with and get some second unit directors to film loads of random scenes to be put together. I was one of those lured by the title Sasquatch – I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance with the named of The Untold. So I guess the studio has won after all.

However the flip side to this is that the film blows and I can’t really see anything that Quastel could have removed or changed that would make me change my mind. The thing that really strikes you when you sit and watch this is how hard Jonas Quastel has tried to stamp his own mark on the film. He has tried to mark his own directing style with his use of editing and fades to black. He probably knew that the material sucked so he had to get people to take more notice of him than the material. After all, even if the film sucks, at least producers can see the talents of the director shining through and then offer them better budgets for future films. However here you know there’s a scene change coming because it fades to black. Time and time again. It gets so annoying after the first ten times. Fade to black is usually a device to indicate that a longer period of time has taken place between scenes but here characters only have to step outside their tents for the fades to black to hit.

The constant fades to black are probably the least of the film’s worries though. There’s a distinct lack of anything happening apart from a group of characters trawling through the woods. Bigfoot is out there but you wouldn’t guess it. The creature doesn’t have a whole lot to during the film other than rustle trees and ogle the gorgeous Andrea Roth taking a naked dip into a hot water spring in the middle of the woods (how else we were going to get our T & A quota?). It’s also got some Predator-style vision (not the only Bigfoot film to do this I might add) and when it is finally revealed, it’s bald! I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing but it just looks downright silly and looks nothing like the scary mother on the cover box. The creature probably tore it’ own hair out when it just kept waiting to do something.

At a slim eighty-two minutes, the film has no right to be a slow and uneventful as it is. But the wafer-thin plot doesn’t even keep us going for sixty minutes let alone eighty-two. Not only do you have the mystery of Bigfoot to toy with, you’ve also got the mystery as to why Lance Henriksen has starred in more terrible films than he gets good roles. As usual, Henriksen turns up, pulls his performance out of his ass and then walks off with another payday which should last him another month until his next low budget feature. Does this guy have an addiction to crap films or what? He’s a great actor and deserves so much better. Andrea Roth looks hot as hell when she gives us the teasing moment in the jaccuzzi but does little else barring that. I guess her character serves her purpose and hey, I’m not complaining. I guess the guy in the gorilla suit did a good job too, simply because he was the only guy who wouldn’t see how ridiculous he looked in the costume.

 

Watching Sasquatch is about as enjoyable as having piles. There’s a good horror film waiting to pop out about a killer sasquatch and thankfully another film took the bull by the horns and did it (see Abominable). It’s no wonder the creatures are so reclusive. If they know how bad their images were being tarnished in crap like this, I bet they’d extinct themselves!

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Sasquatch Hunters (2005)

Sasquatch Hunters (2005)

Bigfoot… Sasquatch… Some legends never die… They Kill!

A group of scientists and forest rangers head into a remote forest somewhere in the Pacific Northwest after a previous trip uncovered some bones belonging to an abnormally large primate. Apes aren’t native to this part of the world so the team wants to find out what they belong too. What they don’t bet on is that the bones belong to a family of Sasquatch, still living in the area and unhappy that their burial ground has been disturbed.

 

Is Bigfoot the biggest straight-to-DVD horror craze that I’ve seen for a while? Forget killer shark flicks, Bigfoot is now the modern day king of the home video monsters. I can think of no less than four recent Bigfoot-themed horror films with surely more in the pipeline. The less said about his snow-bound relative, the Yeti, the better. What is the sudden craze in the big hairy monster when no one has even touched him for years? Why is Lance Henriksen in three of them? Why do two of them have exactly the same cover box? Why do most of them suck? Questions that this review will hopefully address…

Let me tell you first of all that this is the Bigfoot film which doesn’t star Lance Henriksen (he’s got his hands full with Sasquatch, Sasquatch Mountain and Abominable). I wouldn’t have been too surprised to see his weary face pop up for another brief cameo, simply to say that he’s got a monopoly on Bigfoot horror flicks. Even he has standards it seems, as low as they may be. Sasquatch Hunters may be the worst Bigfoot film ever made and that is a stretch given how boring Sasquatch was. It’s not that this film isn’t boring, quite the contrary, it’s got plenty of the hairy fellas running around the screen. It’s just that all this film sees to do is have characters walk around in the dark and let Bigfoot attack them. Instead of doing something like, maybe getting the hell out of there, they just slowly walk around the forest looking for one another. Needless to say Bigfoot has never had a lunch easier than this.

Pretty much the entire middle part of the film involves the characters splitting up in the forest and then being attacked. There is a small pre-title sequence in which a trio of rednecks is killed off by Bigfoot. Well, one of them survives and it looks like he’ll find his way to the expedition later in the film to warn them of their impending doom. But before he even reaches them, he’s killed off! Simple character filler to pad out the running time doesn’t come more evident.

Bigfoot comes to life like never before! Well that’s how the makers of this would have wanted to you to believe. A mixture of a man in a monkey suit and CGI, this must rank as one of the worst-looking monsters I’ve witnessed. For shots of the monster walking in the distance or approaching the camera, it’s a man in a suit. For any close-ups of the face or any attack scenes, the face has been enhanced with CGI to make it look scarier. There is one hilarious scene right at the end when the survivors make a dash for the jeep, only to be pursued by a whole horde of sasquatch. Imagine what the 100m dash would look like if the track was the woods and the runners were dressed in gorilla outfits. I nearly cried when I saw this. A hilarious moment of pure cheese and worthy of mention here. When I consider how mean the Bigfoot in Abominable looked, I can only wonder what this one would have looked like if they’d have put a bit more effort into the suit and ditched the CGI.

Director Fred Tepper has a long career with visual effects, having worked on projects like SeaQuest DSV and Titanic. Unfortunately it seems he’s forgotten anything he learned about effects when he made this. There is one decent moment with a woman using the flash on her camera to see where she is going in the dark, leading to the moment where she takes a photo of Bigfoot right in front of her. But moments like this are too few and far in between. For the rest of the time, the film is set to auto pilot.

 

I didn’t think things could get any worse for Bigfoot after Sasquatch but I was wrong and Sasquatch Hunters has proved that. Maybe this was a sub-genre that didn’t need creating after all. It’s no wonder that the legendary creature has proven to be elusive in real life (if it exists that is) if this is the sort of promotional work it’s receiving!

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Abominable Snowman, The (1957)

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

See It With Someone Brave! — A Timeless Terror to Freeze You to Your Seats!

An English botanist and an American scientist lead an expedition to the Himalayas to search for and prove the existence of the Yeti.

 

One of Hammer’s early sci-fi/horror films is yet another prime example of just how good their output was during their early years before they hit it big with Gothic horror. The Abominable Snowman had a badly timed release shortly after Hammer’s breakthrough film, The Curse of Frankenstein. With that pushing the boundaries of on-screen blood like never before and bringing horror to life in vivid colour, this intelligent, low-key black and white film seemed rather outdated. The Abominable Snowman tends to get overlooked and it’s a shame too because it’s a quite brilliant film.

Like The Quatermass Experiment before it, this owes it’s excellence to yet another amazing script from Nigel Kneale. Not a line of dialogue is wasted as Kneale uses every moment he has to add something to the story or the characters. Kneale loved writing about the unexplained mysteries of this planet and conceives all manner of weird and wonderful explanations for their existence. Here he has given the myth of the Abominable Snowman a whole unique spin – what if they were an undiscovered species waiting patiently in the Himalayas waiting for man to destroy itself?

I loved the characters of Dr Rollason and Tom Friend – the two sides of man that come out in the face of scientific discovery. Rollason is the scholar who wants to learn things for the good of man and to further man’s progression in evolution. Friend is the entrepreneur, taken over by greed and the desire to make a name for himself at the cost of these advances. There’s no middle ground between them. It’s no coincidence that the rest of the cast are expendable enough to leave these two men bickering and squabbling until the very end. Even the whole characterisation of the Yetis are done in way so that we don’t know what to expect from them when they appear – they could be a Rollason and use their hunger for knowledge to further their existence or they could be like Friend, out to destroy all that is alien to them. Not knowing whether the Yetis will be the rampaging monsters they are usually depicted in film or peaceful and enlightened is one of the highlights of the film.

Peter Cushing is excellent once again. I get sick of writing this statement in my reviews but it’s true – the man is arguably the finest actor I’ve had the pleasure of watching in a horror film, in fact any film period. He just brings so much depth to his roles, even the ones which are badly underwritten. Cushing was able to bring to life any dialogue and make it sound like the most brilliant speech you’ve ever heard. Forrest Tucker is also excellent in his role as the American, Friend. He has all of the qualities you would expect from a brash American and plays this to advantage. The two men excel in their roles, providing humanities duelling nature amidst the harsh environment of the Himalayas.

Val Guest’s direction also helps the film. There are some wonderful shots of the Pyrenees (doubling quite nicely for the Himalayas) which create the sense of isolation that is needed and the sets that are used aren’t too bad – black and white certainly helps them look better than they probably should do. Guest manages to build tension up gradually and once the expedition starts, it’s just constant suspense as you know that the group are being watched all of the time. The Yetis’ wails of misery are just some of the most haunting sounds I’ve heard and thankfully the Yetis themselves aren’t shown until the finale. Once more, ‘less is more’ and the less we see of the Yeti, the greater the mystery is. Looking at some of the recent depictions of the Abominable Snowman on film (including Snowbeast and Yeti), it’s clear that the old ways were the best for keeping things hidden for as long as possible to increase the audience’s anticipation of their eventual unveiling. Men-in-suits they may be, but by the time they grace the camera with their presence, you won’t care because the script has done such a good job in building them up as intelligent, living and breathing creatures.

 

Another intelligent, thought-provoking and superbly-made gem from Hammer, The Abominable Snowman is highly recommended to anyone looking for classics from the past.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Abominable (2006)

Abominable (2006)

We’ve hunted it for decades… But now, its decided to hunt us.

Preston Rogers lost his wife in a mountain climbing accident six months ago and has been confined to a wheelchair since. He and his nurse, Otis, head to a mountain cabin for some peace, quiet and relaxation. What they don’t know is that the surrounding woods are home to a giant sasquatch, intent on murdering anything that stands in it’s path. Will they make it out alive or will the monster target the quintet of nubile co-eds who have just moved into a neighbouring cabin?

 

There are a few horror sub-genres that I’d love to see a bit more of an effort made with. Things like Nazi zombies are just too good to throw away on a trickle of films. You can add the Abominable Snowman/Bigfoot/Sasquatch to that list. There have been too few horror films devoted to one of the greatest unexplained mysteries of our time and it’s an idea that is just begging to be done right. Yes there’ve been a few efforts over the years. The lame Snowbeast or more recent efforts like Sasquatch have failed to deliver the goods. So with Bigfoot being as popular as ever (I count around four or five horror films devoted to the big hairy guys since 2002), it was about time that someone finally got it right. And that man is Ryan Schifrin. The film? Well it’s Abominable!

Basically running like a slasher film with a big hairy killer as opposed to a masked killer, Abominable sets out its stall early on with a great opening sequence. Atmospheric, pretty scary and containing just a small taste of the gore to come, the creature stalks a couple on their remote farm. Crunching footsteps break the snow in the darkness and a large, hulking shadow emerges towards the couple. It’s pretty tense stuff and the film continues to deliver the chills later on too. The creature is confined to fleeting glimpses or growling noises in the distance for a lot of the film and, like Jaws, this works brilliantly. You get the impression that the characters are always being watched from the woods and to prove it, there is a red pair of eyes peering through the trees in a couple of scenes. When it is finally revealed in the third act, it’s just a very big man in a hairy suit with an animatronic head. Good old fashioned costumes are a way better match for films like this than CGI effects. His face looks a little bit silly but he’s got a nasty pair of teeth and his strength is second to none, as felt first hand by a co-ed unlucky to get stomped on.

I’ll get to the gore in a moment but let’s just say that this beast is a pretty dab hand at offing teenagers. Jason Vorhees would be proud. He snaps people in two by dragging them through windows, breaks through floors to drag people to their doom and, in the best gore moment of the film, he bites people’s faces’ off! All of these are shown in pretty gruesome ways, particularly the face-biting which had me jumping up and down like the horror fan boy I am.

Getting back to the overall film though, it’s not just an exercise in gore and mayhem. It’s actually a very engaging piece. The film revolves around the character of Preston. Confined to the wheelchair, we see everything that he sees and very little else. Just like Mimic 3: Sentinel, which I recently had the displeasure of watching, the film is slightly voyeuristic and uses the Rear Window mode of storytelling as best as it can. However this one knows when it needs to break free of Preston’s watchful eye and gives us plenty of other scenes to which he has no sight or knowledge of. It’s a good way of building tension. He knows there’s something out there stalking the girls. We know there’s something there too because we see what he sees. But because the film grounds itself in his viewpoint and confines itself to his cabin, there’s no way of communicating this with anyone else – until it’s too late. Perhaps the film gets bogged down too much with his character but it does what it needs to do.

Matt McCoy plays the role well and comes off as a sympathetic and likeable guy. Haley Joel has little to do other than be the ‘final girl’ who looks hot and screams a lot. There are also cameos in here from horror vets like Jeffrey Combs and Dee Wallace-Stone and…..Lance Henriksen no less. I always hammer the guy for starring in bad horror films but this is a decent effort and he looks like he’s actually enjoying himself in a brief role as a hunter who doesn’t believe the stories in Bigfoot until it’s too late. This is Henriksen’s second Bigfoot film in the last couple of years and he’s also got another one coming out soon called Sasquatch Mountain. Does this guy have a monopoly on Bigfoot films or something?

 

Abominable is the greatest Bigfoot film ever and, although it’s a weak field of competition, it still sits firmly on the top of the pedestal. In fact it’s still way better than 90% of the other horror output I’ve seen recently. It pushes all of the right buttons for a low budget effort – solid writing, great direction, atmospheric, gory and above all entertaining.  It seems like everyone was having fun making it and it shows in the end product – a fun horror film about Bigfoot.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Yeti (2008)

Yeti (2008)

Surviving the crash was only the beginning…

A college football team must find a way to survive the harsh climate of the Himalayas when their plane crash lands. With little hope of rescue, their situation becomes even worse when they find out that they are the only food source for a Yeti!

 

Before I really get started, I must say that I think this the single most ridiculous plot ever invented solely for the purpose of filling the film with teenagers. Why couldn’t it have been a plane full of adults on a routine flight that crashes? Why does it have to be an annoying group of American teenagers? I’ve also got to wonder why are the local mountain rescue team American (since the film is supposed to be set in Nepal)? Given how weakly the film tries to re-create the Himalayas, they could have easily set the film somewhere a little less remote, a little more American and still used the Yeti like Abominable did. I don’t think anyone will buy this as the Himayalas.

The Yeti is definitely a legendary monster that should have been treated a little better in the movies but with a plot like this, there’s no wonder the killer Yeti sub-genre is few and far between. This is the next instalment in the ‘Maneater’ series made for the Sci-Fi Channel, featuring such classics as Shark Swarm, Grizzly Rage, Maneater and Croc. Hell, given how much creative freedom the writers used in coming up with the plot, they might as well have put a giant crocodile up there in the snow for all the difference a Yeti makes.

The first half of the film doesn’t even appear to be about the Yeti anyway. The survivors of the plane crash ponder about waiting for rescue or making an attempt to save themselves. Given that it’s clearly warm enough up there for most of the characters to walk around without face masks or head gear and simply wearing jeans and trainers, then I don’t really think their main problem is freezing to death. The characters are forced to make an Alive-like decision about whether to eat the unlucky ones who didn’t survive the crash. The film doesn’t do a great job of conveying the time scale between the crash and the cannibalism and a few of the characters seem to turn to their old friends for food a little too quickly for my liking.

Whilst the film is in Alive-mode, it’s also in token horror character mode with the straight-laced hero, the token jackass, the vain cheerleader more concerned with her looks, the nerdy stoner (couldn’t really tell what he was!) as well as the obligatory elder character in the form of the coach. Then after the half-way stage the film abandons this story and just throws the Yeti at them. It’s a pretty weird mix of genres and the film would have worked a lot better had the Yeti just been terrorising them from the get-go.

The yeti itself looks terrible. The man-in-a-suit might have worked better if they shot most of the attacks at night but they choose to show the yeti during the day for most of the film. You could buy a better fancy dress costume off eBay! When the poor guy is running in it, he’s clearly struggling to get one foot before the other and its hilarious watching the yeti ‘sprinting’ around the snow. In other scenes the yeti is CGI and does amazing Hulk-like jumps from one spot to another. So why does the guy struggle to put the right foot forward all of the time? It’s almost as though you’re watching two different creatures in action.

The film is surprisingly light on the yeti action for a good two-thirds of the film which doesn’t help. There’s a reasonable cast of characters waiting to get eaten but the film doesn’t space the deaths out, instead confining the carnage to the final third. However when the carnage rolls, I’ll at least say that it’s gory. Limbs get ripped off. Throats are bitten into. Heads are crushed between the yeti’s hands. And one victim has her head squashed into a pulp underneath the yeti’s foot. The film’s highlight comes when the yeti rips off the leg of a victim and then proceeds to batter him to death with it.

If only the rest of the film had shown that much creativity and silliness instead of playing it as straight as possible! The humour would have worked better if it was intentional as opposed to something unintentional like the ridiculous finale where one of the Yeti hangs off a guy who is hanging on to the edge of a cliff. Cliffhanger this ain’t!

 

Yeti is way too cheesy to be taken seriously so I don’t understand why the writers didn’t play up the comedy aspect a little more. The film makes you laugh a lot at how bad it is so surely they could have used that a little more to the film’s advantage. After all someone must have wanted to get some laughs with the ridiculous Yeti costume!

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Snowbeast (1977)

Snowbeast (1977)

An unknown terror stalks a ski resort!

A Colorado ski resort is terrorised by a giant animal, which a group of people in the town believe to be Bigfoot. Skiers are turning up dead but with the town’s festival just around the corner, the supervisor of the resort wants to keep it open otherwise they will lose their only source of income.

 

Jaws On Ice would be a more appropriate title as Snowbeast borrows heavily from Spielberg’s great white classic, simply replacing a killer shark with a large Bigfoot-style creature and switching the action to a ski resort instead of the coast. If the cinematic world didn’t get enough of a huge land animal killing people in the mountains in Grizzly, then they wouldn’t be satisfied with this third rate made-for-TV ‘shocker’ which features as much entertainment in ninety-seven minutes as a quick look at the front cover would provide in a matter of seconds.

Sticking rigidly to the now-all too familiar Jaws template, Snowbeast better have been paying royalties to Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. The ‘monster attacks small town with a big festival/event of some kind approaching in which the town must be kept open to survive economically’ is the sub plot but this one also spews out the rest of the clichés associated with such a film including the killing of a creature everyone thinks is the real culprit but isn’t, the local officials who refuse to believe the stories, the group of random people pitched together to kill the monster and many more. These all seem forced as though the script simply found ways to accommodate them into the script when they’d have been better off leaving them out full stop. It’s the script which is the film’s main problem and seems to have been totally neutered so that it could be shown on TV – one scene was even re-shot as the original was deemed too violent for TV.

Snowbeast is hellish slow as a result, almost as if it got stuck in the snow itself and is in dire need of a helping hand to push it along and get it moving. With the little action on display being grossly underwhelming, the film really need some decent characters to keep the flow going. That’s why few of these Jaws knock-offs ever manage to replicate the same magic – let’s face it, there’s not an awful lot of shark action in the first half of Jaws but the film didn’t need it as the strong characters managed to keep the audiences hooked. The cast is decent enough but with the dodgy script and the even dodgier 70s hairstyles and wardrobes, they’re always up against it.

Snowbeast could have scored some extra bonus points for the creature and the damage it could do but the higher ups clearly wanted this as friendly as possible for TV viewing. You never get a good look at the creature at all during the film. There’s a load of point-of-view shots and a monster glove is used for attack scenes but that’s about it until the finale when you get a good look at the creature’s face. It has to be said that the creature doesn’t look too bad either, no worse than any other man-in-a-suit flick. There’s no tension or suspense, even during the attack scenes. Build up is non-existent as the creature quickly kills and then the screen freezes and turns red, no doubt for a pre-planned ad break. Creature action is in short supply too and even when it’s supposed to lurking in the trees, you never get the feeling that anything unexpected is going to happen.

So much so that the main characters spend most of their screen time on the ski slopes. Copious amounts of skiing footage is spliced into the reel so at times it feels like more of a Winter Olympics documentary than an out-and-out horror-thriller. The heroes of the piece go out searching for victims on their skis a lot and there’s about five minutes footage of just one of these searches! But padding seems to be this film’s speciality as the stupid sub-plots eat up most of the screen time. There’s drama and a little romance as a love triangle develops but it’s played out in yawn-inducing fashion.

 

Snowbeast doesn’t sound particularly thrilling and there is a big reason for that – it’s not! It’s a dull, lifeless film which offers very little and demands too much in the way of the time you’ll waste watching it. Play spot the cliché with it if you want, just put it on ice and don’t bring it near me again.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆