Monday, 3 September 2007

Snowbeast (Herb Wallerstein, 1977)

In the immediate wake of Jaws, a whole bunch of mad-animal-on-the-loose movies burped out of the depths of low-budget movieland. No environment was left unplundered, including, in this cheerfully wretched effort, ski resorts.

The plot follows Jaws fairly devotedly... Monster kills holidaymaker at a crucial point of the tourist season. Business forces behind the resort decide to keep it open. Local law enforcement produce a corpse of something much smaller, and give the all clear. A couple of savvy individuals know what’s up, and decide to track the beast themselves.

But never before has the plot of Jaws been told using quite so much footage of amateur-level skiing.

The scene is set by showing cast members skiing, with cheerful music underscoring the action.

The tension is cranked up by showing cast members skiing, with sinister music underscoring the action.

The race to find the beast is brought to life by showing cast members skiing, with fast paced music underscoring the action.

One of the only truly remarkable things about SnowBeast is how, given quite how much time the cast and crew evidently spent skiing during the shoot, they managed to remain so resolutely mediocre at it; moving at slow speeds and falling over at random intervals.

Our main man in this particular epic is Bo Svenson, who puts in an endearingly wooden performance as Gar, a former skiing champion who hasn’t strapped on the planks for a few years due to fear of failure. Needless to say, he overcomes this phobia at around the mid-point of the flick, enabling the camera to linger on yet more skiing. The Snowbeast itself, you ask? Ah, well, apparently it’s a shaky POV camera. Once or twice it’s a furry arm. And in a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shots, a guy in a furry jacket. But nearly always it’s a shaky POV camera.

There’s hardly any blood on display in SnowBeast, probably due to a general awareness during production that this sucker was likely to go to TV and not many other places, but it has a sort of sweetness that you can’t help warming to. A man covets another man’s wife; she explains the situation, he nods understandingly and they agree to remain ‘friends forever’. It comes across rather like a horror movie written by a particularly soppy eight-year old girl.

SnowBeast may prove somewhat tricky to track down in the UK, but for those who desperately want to experience it, here’s a tip. Simply watch Ski Sunday, but turn the volume down and play the Jaws soundtrack over the top instead.
You’ll get the general idea.

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