AUGUST 25, 2012
According to the IMDb, Snowbeast is actually a remake of the 1977 Jaws ripoff of the same name, but other than a Yeti villain (kind of unavoidable with that title) it's completely different. There's a nearby ski resort, where the first victims are killed, but the main characters almost never set foot in that area, nor is there any sort of "Winter Wonderland" festival or whatever that is at stake after the local police realize that they have an Abominable Snowman problem.
Nor is it as exciting, which is a bummer since the "original" was hardly a roller coaster ride. Despite the ski resort full of potential victims a few miles away, most of the movie takes place in hero John Schneider's cabin, where he, his daughter, and the other two members of his team (wildlife research - the specifics don't matter because this concept's only purpose in the narrative is to give them an excuse to have tranq guns and surveillance equipment) sit around, watching their cameras and occasionally find an excuse to leave for a while. It's like a TV show where they get rid of one set to make a new one and thus keep having the characters return there throughout the season for no real reason (notice how many times the Community team went to Troy and Abed's apartment in season 3 - and how we never saw Jeff's oft-seen S2 apartment as a result). I could see if it were a siege type movie (or something like Abominable), but it's not until the film's 3rd act that Snowbeast attacks the place.
It's also quite slow for a Syfy flick, with less than 10 kills in the whole movie. One is actually kind of shocking (actually two if you don't pay attention to the credits), but they are paced poorly - their order should have been reversed for maximum impact. A dumb plot point also keeps Schneider off-screen for too much of the 3rd act, as they try to make us think he might have been killed. No, he's John Schneider, so unless this is Smallville, we know he'll be OK - stop wasting our time with conversations where his daughter ponders life without him. This also keeps the movie's converging motives at bay, as by the halfway point there's no one left but the nature team. Most of these things work best when people with conflicting motives have to team up: a scientist who wants to study, a hunter who wants to kill, etc. Hell, I don't think the sheriff and Schneider even share a scene.
The sheriff, by the way, is played by Jason London. Granted, he's the better London, but come on! Is this what we've been reduced to for our horror movie sheriffs? William Sadler, Lance Henriksen, Will Patton... these are the guys who should be protecting our movie towns from Yetis and the like. Not Randall Pink Floyd. London is "unfortunately" blessed with looking younger than he is (he's damn near 40), so even though he's technically old enough to be in this position, he just doesn't exude much authority. In fact that's probably why he and Schneider didn't interact much - the audience would probably be confused as to which one of them was in charge.
On the plus side, the monster was depicted via a guy in a suit, with CGI kept to a shocking minimum (his red eye I think was the only glaring effect). Sure, the script's lack of action kept it from being used much, but at least those rare kill scenes looked good. And... uh... actually that's it. The movie was watchable, I guess, but it was just so lackluster and slow-paced that I'm hard-pressed to think of anything specific to single out as a good thing. The dialogue was well-recorded? The snow was appropriately white? I really got nothing here.
In fact I had a sneaking suspicion that this one would be a snoozer from the opening scene, which showed two snowboarders doing their thing for a while before Snowbeast came along. You've seen the sort of sequence a million times, but what sets this one apart is that the guys aren't really doing anything exciting on their boards. They hit a few small jumps, but don't do any tricks while midair, and one guy falls on his ass the one time he attempts something a little more advanced. The whole point of these scenes is to set up the potential threat of the monster ("These guys are in peak physical shape and able to maneuver, but were no match for Snowbeast!"), but these guys are just as likely to have been killed by a random mugger or maybe an angry dog. One also pulls out his phone to show us that there's no service, which is odd considering that they're the obvious opening kill-bait and thus their cell service is of no consequence (and, again, the ski resort isn't a primary location).
I looked at the filmographies of director Brian Brough and screenwriter Brittany Wiscombe after the movie, and wasn't surprised to see that horror wasn't their forte. Most of their films (they seemingly only work together) sound like Hallmark or Lifetime original movies (one is about two sisters trying to save the family candle business!), so I have no idea what possessed them to try horror. Apart from the suit, they seemingly have no idea what fans look for in these things, as they focus on the teenaged daughter's uninteresting drama (she was kicked out of school for fighting another girl over a boy's affections, she's bored in the cabin, she doesn't get along with her dad, zzzzz) instead of anything that could be considered suspense or excitement. Not that character development is bad (in fact it's quite good), but it has to pay off in some way - which this movie fails to do. Hell, as awful as it is, at least Lost World paid off the stupid gymnastics backstory. I'm actually kind of shocked Syfy picked this up to air for one of their Saturday movies - I can't imagine too many viewers made it all the way through.
What say you?