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Snowbeast was originally made in 1977 and wow, does it show.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.