12/8/09

Jack Frost (1996): He Ain't F**kin' Frosty!

The essential reference guide known as Wikipedia tells us that Jack Frost is “an elfish creature who personifies crisp, cold weather.” That’s not the kind of thing that bothers filmmakers though. In 1998, a movie called Jack Frost was made starring Michael Keaton as a playful snowman brought back to life to reconnect with his kids. Then in 2006, a slightly more accurate (and more annoying) version of Jack Frost was introduced via Martin Short in the film The Santa Clause 3: the Escape Clause. Of course, we’re not here to talk about either of those fellows. For my money, nothing quite says Jack Frost or Christmas quite like the 1996 film about a killer snowman with a taste for revenge.

It’s the week before the holiday and, even though there’s a massive snowstorm going on, serial killer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is being transported to his execution. The truck with Jack in it collides with a truck carrying experimental genetic material. Jack gets hosed down by the genetic goop, and his body becomes fused with the snow causing him to become a giant killer snowman. He can now make good on his promise to Sheriff Sam Tiler (Chris Allport) that he would find a way to get him. Jack starts terrorizing the citizens of Snowmonton, and he’ll have his fun before he melts away.

I’m not sure if people are not getting the joke, but Jack Frost is a film that has been much maligned over the years. Rotten Tomatoes for example gives this film an 8% freshness rating while the sappy 1998 Keaton family film gets double that. If you watch this with the intention of seeing a serious film, then you’re going to be disappointed. If you are looking for a well-made slasher, you will be let down. However, if you want a silly piece of holiday nonsense that brings with it a hefty dose of black comedy, then this is the film for you. I was pretty much laughing the whole way through, and I have to give it up to director Michael Cooney for setting the proper tone throughout. If a film can feature a girl being raped by a snowman via his carrot nose and still have me laughing, then it’s doing something right.

One criticism that’s been leveled at this film is that the special effects are terrible. I won’t argue with that at all. They are, but that was part of Jack Frost’s charm. When Jack grabs hold of one lady to pound her face into a box of Christmas ornaments, his hand is obviously a felt covered glove and the head part of a mannequin. If it had looked better, then it might have looked like the film was taking itself seriously, and I can assure you that it was not. If the effects don’t convince you lines, “I’m the world most pissed off snow cone. “and “I ain’t fucking Frosty.“ should. Jack Frost is and extremely self-aware film, and it boggles my mind that over the years people seem to overlook it. When I read reviews of the film, it gets lambasted for being bad, but just like films such as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, it knows exactly what it is.

Much of the credit for how enjoyable Jack Frost comes off has to go to Christopher Allport as Sheriff Tiler. Allport does a great job as the dippy small town cop, and I enjoyed every moment he was on screen. Allport was a career long character actor, and it’s too bad that he didn’t get many lead roles. I could easily see him being a fine comedic lead. Unfortunately, Allport died in 2008 when he was caught in an avalanche. The irony is not lost on me, but I’m not going to make light of this talented actor’s untimely death. I look forward to getting a chance to check out Allport in the sequel, Jack Frost 2: Return of the Killer Mutant Snowman, and I will definitely be on the lookout for him in some of his roles in films such as Tobe Hooper’s Invaders from Mars and 1979’s Savage Weekend.

The other really great performance is Scott MacDonald as Jack Frost. He has many great moments in the film, and the first of which comes even before he turns into a snowman. The look on his face is priceless in the scene where the genetic material is hurtling toward him, and I love his line, “This is going to hurt.” MacDonald has a long résumé that includes a season on the HBO series Carnivale, but as a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan, I found it most interesting that he played one of the more memorable one episode characters, Tosk.

Jack Frost also features a couple of supporting characters that I have to mention. It’s notable that this is the first film in American Pie sexpot Shannon Elizabeth’s career, and I’m sure she’s proud to be a participant in the first (and probably only) snowman rape scene ever. (Which is capped off when Jack puts his carrot nose back on his face and says, “I guess Christmas came a little early this year.”) Veteran character actor F. William Parker is also very entertaining as the Snowmonton’s deep discounting hardware store owner. Marsha Clark gets more than a few funny lines as police dispatcher Marla, and Paul Clark, who played the Dad in the classic film The Last American Virgin, shows up here as the town Doctor.

Jack Frost is a silly, silly film, but I had a lot of fun watching it. It will surely become a flick that I turn to every holiday season now. Going into a film about a killer snowman, you should have pretty low expectations. The great thing about Jack Frost is that it has low expectations of itself. If you’re on board with the joke, then I think you’ll have a good time, and you’ll definitely never look at carrots quite the same way again.

Bugg Rating

7 comments:

  1. I saw this on VHS back when it came out and thought is was a blast! I’ll never forget the “chilling” rape scene as it is one of the wildest and most ridiculous scenes I have ever seen. Funny movie that is perfect for the whole family!

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  2. Santa's Slay is giving Jack Frost a run for its money these days.

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  3. Essential Christmas viewing, I love this damn flick and watch it every year with all of the other classics!

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  4. You must must MUST check out the sequel. Granted it's been a few years since I've watched these, but I recall 2 mastering that silly tone established in part 2.

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  5. Thanks everyone for the great comments.

    @Matt- I have no problem believing you think this is proper family fare.

    @ The Jaded Viewer- I watched Santa's Slay last year and hated it. Jack Frost is 100% better IMO.

    @ Carl- No doubt it goes on my yearly viewing list.

    @Emily- I will get around to the sequel, but I'm going to have to hold off til next year (because after 2 years I'm running out of Christmas content lol!)

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  6. This is something of a 'classic' from my student days. 'Look Ma, I'm a Picasso!'

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  7. This film is awesome. I'm watching the sequel [which I've never seen] later this week. Great write up.

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