Written by: Joseph Stefano
Directed by: Herb Wallerstein
Starring: Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux, and Robert Logan
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“I must have seen her somewhere. Maybe I‘ll recognize her when I see her face.”
“She doesn‘t have one.”
“She doesn‘t have one.”
Apparently, Grizzly didn’t provide enough “Jaws with claws” action for the world; thus, the world was graced with Snowbeast, a made-for-TV feature looking to capitalize on the newfound nature-run-amok craze. Just switch out the titular grizzly bear for Bigfoot and throw in a dash of snow, and you’ve got all the ingredients for yet another rip-off. Armed with veteran actor Bo Svenson and screenwriter Joseph Stefano, it could also have the ingredients for an underrated gem; does this one roar with unabashed thrills, or does it whimper with mediocrity?
A Colorado ski-resort is gearing up for its annual Winter Carnival. Everything is set, as the festivities are planned, and a record crowd is in attendance. Unfortunately, there’s on uninvited guest roaming around in the woods: a huge, Bigfoot creature with a penchant for chewing up skiers. It’s up to the resort manager (Logan) and his long-time friend (Svenson) to team up and hunt down the beast.
I suppose Snowbeast is about as good as you can expect something like this to be--that is, not very good at all. Obviously produced to cash in on the Jaws craze, this one hits all the necessary plot beats of Spielberg’s film: instead of debating to close a beach, our characters wonder if they ought to cancel the big winter festival. Of course, greed and stubbornness prevail, and only a devastating attack by the beast results in our principal characters embarking on a journey to kill it. Of course, it lacks anything that made Jaws as thrilling as it was, as the characters are laughable (but somehow likeable in a dopey sense), and the direction is unfocused and lethargic. In fact, much of the running time would be better suited for a documentary on skiing, as we’re treated to lengthy takes of both Logan and Svenson’s characters skiing the slopes in search of missing people.
With a movie called Snowbeast, you can hardly be surprised when the characters don’t quite hold up, and this is the case here. When there’s no beast action (and there’s not a whole lot to begin with), we’re treated with a dull subplot with our two main characters, Tony and Gar. The latter used to be a champion skier, but he’s had a bad run for about a decade; even his wife has grown bored of him, and an expected love triangle develops (oddly enough, this an aspect from the Jaws novel that didn’t make it into the film). Really, it just feels like filler to give us something to care about besides the carnage, but Svenson’s good-hearted performance makes Gar such a down-on-his-luck doofus that you can’t help but smile at. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Tony’s slimy and smarmy grandmother, who owns the resort and refuses to close it down.
With characters like this, we can only hope they serve as good fodder to our beast. This doesn’t quite happen, as the snowbeast is rarely seen, but often heard. There’s one action-packed centerpiece where it attacks a lodge packed full of festival attendees, and it’s a fun, chaotic sequence. Otherwise, many of the attacks are unseen and the made-for-television nature of the production makes for a tame experience. Wallerstein tries to make up for these deficiencies with some nice photography and decent atmosphere, plus the production values are surprisingly high. There’s little in the way of stylistic flourishes besides the red-tinted freeze-frame effects that were obviously meant to transition into commercial breaks. Though this sort of adds to the charm, it really can’t completely overcome the film’s perpetual dullness at the script level.
It’s kind of fun for sure, particularly when the beast is around, but Snowbeast is just another forgettable nature-run-amok film that was produced in the wake of Jaws. The movie has fallen into the public domain, which means you might already own it without knowing it. The screenshots here are from Platinum’s “Horror Classics” set, a misnomer if there ever was one, considering the dubious quality of many of the featured films. They say you are the company that you keep, and Snowbeast deserves to sit alongside the silly little creature features you often find on releases like that one. Once you’ve exhausted your supply of those, this one is worth a spin, but barely. Rent it!
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