I’m not really sure if the filmmakers of the 1997 slasher horror comedy Jack Frost intended to make the movie the way it was. Maybe it intended to be a creepy thriller about a murdering snowman in the vein of Halloween or Friday the 13th. Word is Renny Harlin, who had made Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger was attached to direct it on a $30 million budget.
But Hollywood is often a place where the best ideas get lost in limbo. It took Martin Scorsese 25 years to do Gangs of New York. And Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to do a movie about the Crusades directed by Paul Verhoeven of Total Recall. Michael Cooney, who wrote and directed the movie, would later write the brilliant thriller Identity, directed by James Mangold, who is helming the fifth Indiana Jones movie and has done some great work like Copland and Logan to name a few.
Identity had a Murderer’s Row of a cast that included John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Alfred Molina, Jason Hawkes, Jake Busey, John C. McGinley and Rebecca DeMornay. Jack Frost had Shannon Elizabeth, two years before she did American Pie, and Christopher Allport, who had been in William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. more than a decade earlier. Scott McDonald, who plays the titular character, had been in many Star Trek shows before.
Cooney admits he was only the director because there wasn’t enough in the budget to hire one. That might explain why most of the cast includes a bunch of actors who haven’t been seen in much of anything. But with a movie like this, you don’t usually expect to see a lot of A-Listers lining up to be killed by a person in a costume made of felt. The movie begins a few days before Christmas as convicted killer Jack Frost (McDonald) is being transported to another prison where he is set to be executed. But the snowy weather is making travel hazardous and the van he’s traveling in collides with a truck with genetic chemicals that Frost is exposed to. It causes his skin to melt off and his bones to disintegrate into the snow.
Or that’s what people think. Frost actually fuses with the snow. This happens near the town of Snowmonton where Frost was arrested by the local sheriff Sam Tiler (Allport) years earlier on a routine traffic stop. Frost was convicted of killing 38 people, but swore to take his revenge on Sam, who just happens to be traveling along the highway when he sees the wreck. But he is told to keep moving along as it’s been contained.
News report indicate that Frost was killed in the accident so Sam is relieved. That is until people around Snowmonton turn up killed. Things get worse when Sam’s son, Ryan (Zack Eginton) is bullied and in a freak accident, the boy dies when a sled is pushed over him by Frost, now a snowman, decapitating the bully. Ryan is blamed for the death by the irate father of the bully, Jake (Jack Lindine). But he too becomes a victim of Frost.
Two government agents Manners (Stephen Mendel) and Stone (Rob LaBelle) show up in town and ask Sam to put the town on a 24-hour curfew as deputies are sent around to round up people at the local community center, where it becomes apparent they are dealing with something out of the ordinary. Frost shows up in his snowman form and begins to kill whoever he can to get to Sam.
It’s a crazy, silly movie, but it does have some crazy charm to it. Maybe it’s because the actors play it all for being serious. It’s obvious from looking at the movie, there wasn’t much props or scenery and they had to do what they could with what they had. Part of the filming took place in Fawnskin, Calif., near Big Bear Lake during the winter when there was a drought where temperatures got as high as 70, leading for foam and cotton to be used and it’s obvious it’s fake. Who know what would’ve happened if Harlin had made the movie. Some things aren’t meant to be.
I think the movie works best because it’s not to be taken seriously. I mean, it’s about a killer snowman. How serious can you take it? Released on the home video market, the movie probably would’ve fallen into obscurity if Elizabeth’s fame didn’t explode after American Pie. That and a family-friendly fantasy comedy also named Jack Frost was released in 1998 starring Michael Keaton probably led to a lot of confusion at Blockbuster Video. That movie wasn’t too well received either mainly because some people found the snowman creepy as well. It also looked an awful lot like George Clooney (who was originally attached before Keaton). The 1998 movie bombed at the box office not even breaking even.
A sequel, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, was released in 2000 with Allport, McDonald and Eileen Seely, who plays Sam’s wife, Anne, all returning. It was set in a tropical resort. The movie is noteworthy for a small role by Doug Jones as one of Frost’s victims. This was before Jones would become more famous for his work with Guillermo Del Toro. The sequel was written with a more comedic tone and has Frost able to spawn off baby snowballs that are also killers.
But there is some real-life tragedy to the short-lived franchise. Allport would die in an ironic twist of fate in an avalance on Jan. 25, 2008 near Mountain High ski resort near Wrightwood, Calif. He had appeared on an episode of the hit show Mad Men and was scheduled to have a recurring role.
What do you think? Please comment.