2011 – A wildlife researcher, his teenage daughter, and a local Mountie will have to draw on all their resources if they hope to defeat a bloodthirsty beast.
Do yourself a favor, people: see Snow Beast. You will either thank me or want to kill me for telling you so. The first clue that this is a must-see film is found in the description above: no “local Mountie” appears at all. Let’s meet our principal cast:
This is Jim, a.k.a. single-dad-who-struggles-with-his-rebellious-teenage-daughter-after-his-wife-left-him-prior-to-the-events-of-the-movie. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Jim is a sneering, condescending asshole whose every word almost visibly drips with sarcasm. He talks down to his daughter, sasses his colleagues, and openly sneers when one of them suggests they’re dealing with a Yeti after he sees the monster in person. When one character falls into the Snow Beast’s lair, which is full of blood, bones and frozen corpses, Jim laughs at him. He’s basically the least sympathetic hero you’ll ever meet.
Jim’s daughter Emily (a.k.a. Emmy) knows that accompanying her father on his research trip to Canada will be “so lame”:
In Canada, Jim and Emmy meet Rob and Marcy, who Jim introduces as “two very important members” of their nature research team. Marcy has a reputation for being a terrible cook, and Rob knows a lot of interesting and obscure facts about things. Their characters are therefore “established.”
Rob is our comic relief – he is awkward and trips over things (but, oddly, he’s the only character who doesn’t fall down when fleeing from the Beast). Marcy is a bit of a bitch: when Jim suggests they leave the area, pointing out that they just found a frozen corpse in the Beast’s lair, she snaps, “You’re overreacting.” She’s also Jim’s love interest, which is awkward because there’s not even a hint of chemistry between the two characters. Halfway through the movie Emmy asks out of the blue, “Are you guys dating?” “Not yet,” Marcy replies. It never amounts to anything.
Speaking of pointless sub-plots, let me introduce you to Ranger Barry and Ranger Gibbons. Ambitious rookie Barry is hot on the trail of a missing snowboarder, making a map and putting push-pins into it. Fat veteran Gibbons complains that his partner is “trying to save the world” (note: saving the world consists of hanging up one missing person sign).
Noting that there have been several disappearances at the nearby ski slope, Barry complains that “the places they’re searching barely intersect where they were last seen.” If this doesn’t make sense to you, it’s okay – it has nothing to do with anything else.
*One of Utah-area actor Dale Thomas’ daughters contacted me and asked me to give proper credit for this role. Gibbons is, in fact, played by Dale Thomas and NOT filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore.
Rounding out the cast is the Snow Beast itself. It’s a menace of the big-guy-in-a-suit variety (which, despite its intrinsic cheese factor, is still vastly superior to some CGI hack-job):
It’s certainly a formidable antagonist, dispatching at least nine people over the course of the film and playing psychological games with its targets, like growling eerily and then popping up after they turn away. It enjoys running quickly across the foreground and background before revealing itself.
The creature’s hunting style is inconsistent: in some cases it will pop up several feet away from its victims and growl, giving them ample time to flee. In others it sweeps in at super speed and take them out in the blink of an eye. There’s an unpleasant scene where the Beast batters one of its female victims before finishing her off – all its other kills are extremely quick. It also makes the strategic blunder of capturing one of the main heroes alive – again, an exception it makes for no one else.
We can tell that the Beast is in the area when the movie employs Beast Vision:
Midway through the film there’s a big speech that Rob gives Emmy about how predators hunt: they get so close that their prey “doesn’t realize it until it’s too late.” He says a predator is “completely silent”: “No warning,” Rob intones… except the Beast is anything but silent, bellowing and rumbling anywhere it goes.
One puzzling sub-plot is why the park rangers are involved at all. They interact with the rest of the cast on exactly two occasions: once when Barry recognizes Rob (“Hey, you’re with that research team, right?”), and again when Marcy tells the rangers about the Beast lurking around their cabin. Accompanied by ominous music, Barry puts another push-pin into his board. You’d think this was building up to the Beast having a pattern of attack or some other important clue, but no. It’s almost as though the script got re-written at the last minute.
Some plot threads are left to dangle awkwardly – for instance, the ski slope (and its hundreds of skiers) vanishes halfway through the film. Why does everyone the Beast chases trip and fall at least once? Why are people constantly wandering into the woods by themselves? Why does no one show any concern when their friends get brutally killed? These are questions we’ll never be able to answer…
… at least, not until Snow Beast 2…