A Quickie Horror Review: Snowbeast (dir. by Herb Wallerstein)

Since I previously reviewed two classic horror films from Mario Bava, it now seems like the perfect time to watch a film from Herb Wallerstein, called Snowbeast.  Well, no, not really.  In fact, to be honest, Snowbeast seems to exist on a totally different planet from either Black Sabbath or Planet of the Vampires.  The two latter films are classics of cinema that should be seen by everyone, regardless of the season.  Snowbeast, on the other hand, is the epitome of the perfect movie to turn on for background noise.  Snowbeast is fun, unthreatening, likable, and ultimately rather forgettable.  But sometimes, especially when it comes to finding something safe but appropriate to watch during the Halloween season, that is exactly what’s needed.

Snowbeast was originally made in 1977 and wow, does it show.  According to Wikipedia (see, I do to research my claims occasionally), Snowbeast was originally a made-for-tv movie and it has retained a “cult following.”  Well, I don’t know if I quite see the film’s cult appeal though it’s certainly better than any 82-minute tv show has any right to be.  The film has also entered into the public domain, which, of course, means that it’s been released in a few thousand different Mill Creek box sets.  Last time I counted, I actually had four different box sets that featured Snowbeast.  So, if nothing else, I’ll always have Snowbeast.

(Incidentally, the version I watched came from the 50 Chilling Classics box set.  This is the same box set that featured Cathy’s Curse, The Alpha Incident, The Demons of Ludlow, and my beloved Drive-In Massacre.)

Snowbeast takes place at a ski resort.  An unseen monster is killing tourists.  The sheriff (Clint Walker) thinks the monster is a yeti.  Nobody believes him and the owner of the ski resort — Sylvia Sidney, who once starred in films directed by Josef Von Sternberg — is more interested in making money off of vacationers than in protecting the public safety.  Now, if this happened today, I’d imagine there would be an OccupySnowBeast demonstration or something.  However, since this film was made in the 70s, this instead just leads to Walker and Bo Svenson going off into the mountains to track down and kill the snowbeast.

Now, the plot of Snowbeast may sound a little familiar and that’s because it’s basically the exact same plot as Jaws except the water has been replaced with snow-capped mountains and the shark is now a Yeti.  But otherwise, it’s pretty much the exact same story, right down to the greedy businesspeople going, “Shut down the mountain!?  That’ll be bad for tourism!” and the film’s 3 heroes all giving each other knowing looks when the wrong bear is killed and paraded in front of the cheering townspeople.  (That said, I have to say that if you love spotting overreacting extras in crowd scenes, this is the film for you.)

So, Snowbeast doesn’t win any points for originality but I’m willing to cut it some slack.  Even though it’s a bit before my time, I’ll bet that Snowbeast wasn’t the only low-budget B-movie to rip off Jaws in the 70s and you don’t really watch a movie called Snowbeast for the plot anyway.  You watch a movie called Snowbeast because you’re looking for something silly that won’t require too much thought.  And that’s a perfect description of Snowbeast.  It’s a film that’s done well enough that you won’t hate yourself for watching but, at the same time, is so predictable that you can do about a hundred other things while it’s playing without running the risk of missing anything important.  It is literally a movie that you can start watching at any point after it’s started. 

Ironically enough, Snowbeast is actually more effective because it was made for television.  Yes, you don’t get the gore, sex, or profanity that you would typically expect from one of these films but it also means that you don’t get to see the killer Yeti except for one very brief shot.  Otherwise, the Snowbeast of the title is represented by point-of-view shots of the monster about to attack some unsuspecting skier.  As I’ve mentioned in other horror reviews, our imaginations will always come up with something scarier than even the most effective of special effects and Snowbeast‘s low budget origins force us to use our imagination more than the typical monster film would.  As well, the snowy setting is beautiful to look at and if you’re a fan of watching people ski (and ski and ski and ski) this is the film for you.  Seriously.

Review: Thantifaxath – Thantifaxath EP

Thantifaxath are a new black metal band out of Toronto. They released their debut ep this year in cassette format on Dark Descent Records, and I think you will like it.

10,000 Years of Failure / Violently Expanding Nothing

The amount of diversity they’ve managed to cram into a five and a half minute long song (excluding the introduction here merged) is pretty amazing. The track, and most of the ep really, isn’t so much moody as thematic. It’s got a sort of sci-fi horror vibe throughout, apparent right from the bass riff introduction, and the ample mingling of melody in between epic black metal explosions almost gives the song a plot line. Even the choice of album cover, Nicéphore Niépce’s La cour du domaine du Gras (supposedly the first photograph ever taken), resembles something of an extra-terrestrial sighting. If the track title is any indication, this was likely their intent, and they pull it off well. Outer space and black metal are an uncommon mix, and one usually attempted through an emphasis on slow-moving, vast atmospherics. Violently Expanding Nothing (the youtube label “Violently Expanding Emptiness” is wrong; I’m taking the track title from the actual packaging) is, in contrast, gritty and abrasive, and all the more effective because of it.

Freedom is Depression

Thantifaxath definitely lay down their best card first, but the album’s other two tracks (both under five minutes long) carry much of the same appeal. Freedom is Depression, peculiar title aside, continues to give me that sort of b-side horror flick vibe, especially with its low production atmospheric guitars. The main riff following the introduction calls to mind recent Enslaved, and that might be the only clear comparison I can make of this album to anything else in particular. It’s among the most unique black metal I’ve heard in a while, and it makes excellent use of relatively low production value to create an eery, unearthly vibe.

Keep an eye out for these guys. They’re brand new, and I suspect their best is yet to come.

What Horror Lisa Watched Last Night: The Curse of Degrassi

Last night, I watched the classic Degrassi 2008 Halloween special, The Curse of Degrassi.

Why Was I Watching It?

Last night, I was suffering from conflicting emotions.  I was depressed and angry over the fact that I’m probably going to have to go spend a few thousand dollars on a new laptop.  However, I was also all happy and hyper because, after spending a week far away in Houston, Jeff’s back!  So, I was like “Yay!” and “Boo hoo hoo” all at the same time and Jeff finally suggested that maybe it would help me get my mind off the boo hoo part if I watched something silly and stupid.  And, as usual, he was right!  Though, in its defense, Degrassi may often times be kinda silly but it’s rarely stupid.  Except when it is.  Anyway, The Curse of Degrassi is available for free viewing off of Uverse OnDemand, which is how I watched it last night.

What’s It About?

Okay, so like many years ago, there was this very special, two-part episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation in which bullied, picked-on Rick Murray (played by an excellent actor named Ephraim Ellis, and by the way, that’s Jeff’s last name too but they’re not related and believe me, I asked) was competing in some sort of high school quiz-like game show and he ended up getting a bunch of yellow paint and chicken feathers poured on him by school bully Spinner (Shane Kippel).  So, naturally, Rick went home, got a gun, and came back up to school and started shooting people until he himself eventually ended up getting shot and killed.  

Now, four years to the day after Rick’s death, a group of Degrassi students are all up at the school at night, getting things ready for the upcoming Harvest dance.  Group ringleader Holly J. Sinclair ends up getting possessed by Rick’s vengeful spirit and proceeds to kill off the entire cast.  And no, this is not a dream or one of those non-canon fantasy episodes.  Which is cool because, quite frankly, Holly J. annoys me…

What Worked?

To be honest, the entire 22 minute episode workedFor a Canadian teen show, this was actually pretty scary and had some fairly effective (in their own fun way) special effects.  Plus, as much as I complain about the character she plays., actress Charlotte Arnold does a pretty good job playing psychotic, possessed Holly J.  Plus, even among all the mayhem and death, the episode gets across a well-meant and sincere anti-bullying message and if you don’t get a little bit emotional when Rick says, “I’m dead, aren’t I?,” then you have no soul.  That’s right — you’re a freaking zombie.

(Though, at the same time, Rick Murray was kind of a disturbed guy who, let’s not forget, first appeared on the show as an obsessive, abusive stalker who put Terri in a coma when he pushed her down and she hit her head on a rock.  It was his abusive behavior that led to Rick becoming a pariah though Spinner, ultimately, took things too far. By the way, I always loved how Degrassi students all had names like Spinner.)

Plus, you get to see all the Degrassi kids die.

What Didn’t Work?

Seriously, it all worked.  In fact, I’m just going to say that this is the greatest thing ever to come out of Canada.  Okay, maybe not.  But still, I enjoyed it.

“OMG! Just like me!” moments

I always have a lot of “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments whenever I watch any TV show or movie that features silly people falling victim to some unseen supernatural force.  Usually, they’re along the lines of, “WHAT!?  There’s a killer stalking the school and you’re going to stop to make out with your boyfriend in some dark, isolated room that only has one exit!?  OH MY GOD!  JUST LIKE ME!”  Anyway, I had quite a few of those while watching The Curse of Degrassi.  Though my biggest “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment came when Holly J. screamed, “I’M HOLLY J. FREAKIN SINCLAIR!” as that’s the way I usually chose to introduce myself as well.

Lessons Learned:

The world can do without the Harvest Dance.  That, and be nice because otherwise, you might get possessed by Rick Murray.

Until next time, this is Lisa Marie Freakin Bowman saying, “Stay supple!”

6 More Horrific Trailers For October

As if October wasn’t already scary enough, my laptop is slowly dying and, with my luck, it probably won’t even return as a zombie.  Fortunately, it still has enough life in it for me to do at least one more edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) The Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968)

This is apparently an old Hammer film.  I haven’t seen it but the image of a blue Barbara Steele seems to show up in just about every other horror movie guide.

2) Fangs of the Living Dead (1969)

If nothing else, this one has a great title.

3) Eye of the Cat (1969)

Three guesses why I love this trailer.

4) Mark of the Devil (1970)

Remove the art from The Witchfinder General and you probably end up with Mark of the Devil.

5) The Chilling (1989)

I actually have this on DVD but I haven’t watched it yet and this trailer doesn’t exactly inspire a whole lot of hope.  That said, I love how the narrator makes such an effort to sound enthusiastic.  Our next trailer will feature “Oscar nominee” Linda Blair as well…

6) Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

This is a good example of an accidental grindhouse film.  The producers and the director may have been going for something different but the end results are pretty much evident from the trailer. The best thing about this trailer is Ennio Morricone’s score.  (By the way, I would also suggest that all of you people going all cuckoo over the teaser trailer for David Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo compare this relatively entertaining trailer with the actual film it was advertising.)